Charlie Musselwhite on 'Get Up!,' Working with Ben Harper: 'The Magic Was Definitely There'
The collaborative album comes over a decade after the pair first played together at a John Lee Hooker studio session.
Charlie Musselwhite recalls that John Lee Hooker played matchmaker of sorts for he and Ben Harper, which led to this year's collaborative album, "Get Up!"
"I don't remember the year, but it was one of those times...John Lee Hooker would always call me out, 'Man, if you ain't busy, come sit in with me," Musselwhite tells Billboard. "So I was playing with John and Ben opened for us. It was like meeting somebody you already knew; we didn't have to get to know each other, you know what I mean? Our paths kept crossing and we kept talking about doing something together. We'd do some things here and there, and one time we did a record backing up John Lee."
That was on a remake of "Burning Hell" from Hooker's "The Best of Friends" album in 1998.
"That was our first time in the studio together," Musselwhite says. "We were already friends but we hadn't ever recorded or played together. That (session) was where we really locked in; even John Lee said, 'Man, you guys ought to record more together.' We already knew he was right."
Musselwhite says "Get Up!," recorded last year in Los Angeles and produced by Harper, was one of the smoothest studio experiences he's had during his lengthy career.
"Every tune was, like, one or two takes," he recalls. "I don't think anything was three takes. It just had a real natural flow to it, one tune after another, and no overdubs except for some girl singers. Otherwise everything happened just like you hear it in the studio; on the last tune, 'All That Matters Now,' you can hear me laughing and talking 'cause I didn't even know we were recording. I just thought we were jamming. So it was like that -- a real relaxed atmosphere and a lot of fun for everybody, and the magic was definitely there. The music just poured out."
In fact, there were two additional songs recorded for "Get Up!" that didn't make it on the release, so Musselwhite is hoping that means a head-start on another collaboration with Harper. Meanwhile, Musselwhite is logging plenty of miles on the road, both on his own and with Harper -- the latter of which, he notes, is exposing him to a new and younger audience.
"It's going to be real interesting to see how that unfolds and where it takes me," he notes. He plans on making a new album of his own, a follow-up to 2010's "The Well.
"I've always got some ideas floating around," Musselwhite says. "I haven't had time to really nail anything down, but there's always something brewing on the back burner that I'll finish up when I get the time."