Lonely Avenue is a collaboration album between American piano-popster Ben Folds and English muso novelist Nick Hornby. Folds previously worked with Hornby on "That's Me Trying," a song that appeared on the 2004 Folds-produced William Shatner album Has Been.
Levi Johnston, who is the father of American politician Sarah Palin's grandson, is the bone-headed protagonist of this track. The Alaskan first received media attention in August 2008 when Palin was running for the vice-presidency on a family values ticket, and was forced to announce that her daughter Bristol was five months pregnant and that Johnston was the father.
The way the pair collaborated was that Hornby emailed lyrics to Folds, who then wrote the music. The American singer-songwriter told Spinner UK: "There was no consulting. He sent me emails without explanations. I'd play around with them [the lyrics] a little bit, and if I found something in it and was ready to go, which I usually was, I called the band up and went to the studio, which was on hold, and recorded it, Nick got an MP3 the next morning."
The lyrics, "I live to hang out with the boys/Get on my snowboard/Do some fishing/Kill some moose," are based on lines from Johnston's former MySpace page.
Folds told Spinner UK that even though the duo appear to be making fun of Johnston, the song is really about growing up. "The fact that Levi Johnston has become a celebrity was never ever in either one of our heads," he explained. "I find it a little unfortunate because now it looks like some kind of a novelty song or satire. There's no satire, no novelty. It's totally on his side. We were kids too. I just happen to like the guy."
Al Gore got to hear this song and called up Folds to say he loved it.
Folds told Jam! Music
: "I got the lyrics the day after the Republican National Convention. I didn't know who Levi Johnston was. Nick noticed the kid onstage. Now that he's famous, it adds another dimension that I'm not sure is good for the song."