Ben Harper on Albums on the Hill and Playing in Colorado

What’s left to be said about Ben Harper, the genre-blending, Grammy-winning, rock and blues monstrosity? Not a lot, apparently. Despite playing what is bound to be a career-high show at Red Rocks on Tuesday, Harper was less than verbose in our pre-show interview. Still, he managed to name-drop a slew of amazing musicians and gave numerous shout-outs to Colorado’s main music mover, Andy Schneidkraut. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the most to-the-point Q & A with Ben Harper you’re ever likely to read. 

Oakland L. Childers: You’ve come a long way in popularity since we saw you playing alone outside Albums on the Hill in Boulder years ago. How do you think your music has evolved over that same time frame?

Ben Harper: Music evolves through experiencing life full-on — accepting, understanding and forgiving who you’ve been to better know who you are and who you can become. Life has always had a way of informing me through sound rhythm and melody. Also, since the Andy [Schneidkraut] / Albums on the Hill days, I have had the chance to write songs and play with extraordinary artists ranging from Solomon Burke, Taj Mahal, Ringo Starr, Rickie Lee Jones, Natalie Maines and Charlie Musselwhite, just to name a few, and that has also played an immeasurable role in the evolution of my own music.

Along those same lines, it’s a big change from standing on the street with a guitar to selling out Red Rocks. How do you approach playing live differently now that you are so popular?

It’s actually the exact same thing as out in front of Albums on the Hill, but a few more people and a bit louder.

You’ve been doing a lot of collaborative work in the last few years, including working with your mom. Considering your trajectory, starting out working essentially alone, is that something you’ve always wanted for your music, or is it just something that happened randomly?

I think the collaborations I have been a part of have grown out of being a part of a community of musicians.

You’ve done a number of different styles of music from folk to driving rock and blues, but I wouldn’t say you are particularly “known” for writing in any particular style. What would you say is your preferred genre to play?

I’d like to be my own genre … but then again, who wouldn’t?

You get a lot of love here in Colorado. Does this area hold any special feelings for you?

Colorado has always been one of the favorite places for myself and the Innocent Criminals to play. Whether it’s on the sidewalk in front of Albums on the Hill, Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Fox Theatre in Boulder, or Red Rocks, it’s an all-around incredible state for live music.

Is there anything special folks can expect from the Red Rocks show (aside from the fact that it’s just a rad place to see a great musician)?

As a band, we are currently plotting ways to make the Red Rocks Show one for the ages!
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Oakland Childers has been a music journalist since he was sixteen.