After an acoustic album in 2020, Ben Harper, whose modesty is matched only by his talent, returns with “Bloodline Maintenance”, his 17th studio album. On this occasion, he confides in CNEWS on his musical education, his relationship to success and his future desires.
You grew up in a music store and started playing the guitar very young, what are your first artistic memories?
As a child, I didn’t make so much music. But I was totally fascinated by the instruments and the musicians. Then I took piano lessons, drum lessons. Writing came much later. In my grandparents’ store, it was a very particular environment. There were instruments you couldn’t see anywhere else. And the musicians who came to play all had extremely different lives, full of adventures. It taught me a lot!
Did you immediately consider music as a profession?
I’ve never been very comfortable with talking about music as my profession, to tell the truth. But today I think I deserved to consider it as such. It would be a bit of a sacrilege not to do it since I only do that with my life!
One thing is certain, I have dedicated my life to music.
After I thinks that there is a difference between feeling professional, assuming oneself as such, and the need to define oneself as such. One thing is certain, it is that I have dedicated my life to music.
What is your relationship to success in general?
Success is globally defined by others, who feel you are celebrated or not. They project that feeling onto you. But recognition is something very different. And I feel very privileged to be recognized for my music. You imagine ? In a world full of extraordinary music, being recognized for your sound, for your creations. I never took that feeling for granted, not for a second. I may have been able begin to do it when I was tired, but I quickly get back on the straight and narrow (laughs).
This new album is your 17e studio album, you thought of doing the same?
No, clearly not. I knew I had a lot to say, but I never would have imagined this. To have lived long enough to look back and see that number of albums is extraordinary. Every time I make a record, I wonder if I’ll be able to make a new one afterwards. It’s a real challenge to make an album. You have to have real conversations with yourself to get there. It’s even very hard to finish a single song you’re proud of! There are real phases of doubt. But when an album is finished, it’s such a relief. It is both a huge relief and a torment for the future. Todayhope there will be an 18th, a 19th… And I absolutely want to make a reggae album.
Do ideas come to you quickly when you compose or do you need a lot of time?
Both. Yesterday Jhad a flash when I was at the park with my kids, came home and finished a song. But it doesn’t always happen that way, not at all.
Do you consider this album as a new start?
This question is a trap for me, because I have the impression that at each scrapbook i say it’s a new beginning! But to be honest, and not to repeat myself, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no previous album that doesn’thas seemed to be as much areset“. In that sense, we can speak of a new beginning, yes. What’s more, this album comes after an acoustic album. From my point of view, it looks different.
The title “we need to talking about it» addresses the question of the wounds of slavery, is this a subject you have wanted to talk about for a long time?
Yes, I tried to write this title for years and finally succeeded. There is a very fragile aspect in the songs involved. This requires a special composition, and above all compassion.
Would you qualify your music as committed?
I think the term is appropriate. One thing is sure, cis that I am committed to what I do, I hold my positions. I think a lot about what I put on paper, I don’t take things lightly.
You have mentioned your desire to leave the United States several times, in particular under the presidency of Donald Trump, what is your state of mind today?
He did not changed. I would like to live in Europe, in the very near future! Go there once and for all.
I would like to live in Europe, to go there once and for all.
He has a year, your worst regret was not having played with Lauryn Hill. VSalways is?
Yes, I had the opportunity to participate in the album The Education of Lauryn Hill, but I couldn’t because of a concert, and still today, I tell me I should have canceled it. I think this kind of opportunity only comes once. But I don’t cancel dates so it wasn’t really a debate, it had to be like that. at thetime, we couldn’t send the titles over the Internet, it would have been too complicated.
What advice would you give to a young musician who wants to get started in 2022?
First of all : learn who to listen to and who not to to listen. Second: work until you can perform live. Third: always find a way to overcome the obstacles you put yourself. I think the Beatles documentary is very important in that sense. To me, they are at the highest level of art, in modern times. But there were times when their music was mediocre. Just moments! But they got past that. And anyone can do it. There is only one step between genius and mediocrity. We can all be mediocre, so it’s quite worrying, mat the same time time we can also exceed that. Even if we don’t all have John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney to rely on. Hence the first tip: know who to listen to and who not to listen to.
How do you see the future of your career, at the moment T?
I have do music all my life, so I can’t imagine it without. Ever since I was 23 or 24, I’m 52 now, I’ve released an album every year and a half or so. I wouldn’t recognize myself without creativity. Fortunately, I currently feel in a rather dynamic phase, I have the impression that the field of possibilities is quite vast for the future. It gives me a shot of energy, I feel like a new road is opening up to me and I can’t wait to see what it has to offer me. If I can make music all my life, I’ll be the happiest.
“Bloodline Maintenance”, Ben Harper, available July 22, 2022. On tour in France from July 20.