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Ben Harper and his mom on 'Childhood Home' and growing up in Claremont

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp®

Ben and Ellen Harper at the Folk Music Center in Claremont Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Did you know that Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Ben Harper was born and raised in the Inland Empire?

Harper is actually the third generation in a family of musicians who have owned and operated Claremont's Folk Music Center on Yale Street since 1967. This May, Ben Harper celebrated that history by joining his mother Ellen in their first ever collaboration, just in time for Mother's Day.

The album, "Childhood Home," is a collection of 10 original songs written by the pair.

Off-Ramp Producer Kevin Ferguson went inside the Folk Music Center in Claremont and talked with Ben and Ellen Harper. 

On how the album came together:

Ellen Harper: We'd talked about this over the years. And it just hadn't worked out—his schedule, mine, it just hadn't come together. And I was writing song, and doing some demos of them. Ben said 'well what are you going to do with those songs?' I said 'Well, record them with you eventually!'

RELATED: Sheehan's Sketchbook: Claremont's Folk Music Center

Ben Harper: And that's also what lent itself to the record going not only so smoothly but pretty quick. I mean, the whole record was recorded in not too long of a time. That was mainly because we had done not only a good number of years of preproduction—I had been setting songs aside as I'd been talking about doing a record with my mom for fifteen years.

On their history with Claremont:

EH: Ben grew up in Claremont. I grew up on the East Coast. In 1957, we picked up stakes and moved west. They always gathered music. My mother had been involved in folk music for decades. So they immediately started playing and attracted people to them, there was a little group out in Redlands/Riverside and LA... and people just gathered. And the music grew, enormously, very quickly. So they opened up this store.

On growing up in a musical family:

BH: It's always a great, exciting way, to absorb what you love to do. Having seen your parents do it, or being around their energy and their commitment to music. So being around my grandparents' commitment to music any my mom's commitment to music—for me, there was nothing more I could have possibly wanted to do with my life.

EH: I grew up with music, my mother always played. My first recollection of me and music was going up and just putting my hand on the banjo strings to get her attention. Stopping her from playing. And I'll tell you, that works!

"Childhood Home" is out now. For tour dates and more info, check out Ben Harper's website

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