Five minutes with Ben Harper


Double Grammy-winning American muso Ben Harper spent four days R&R in Queenstown after triumphant stadium shows in Auckland and Christchurch with rockers Pearl Jam.

Harper arrived with his movie actress wife Laura Dern and their two kids and was hosted by Queenstown concierge company Touch of Spice. Before flying back to the United States this morning, he gave writer Russell Blackstock a spirited five minutes at the airport…

MS: Is this your first visit to Queenstown?

Harper: It is. But I intend it to be the first of many. I split the time between trying to be a tourist and trying to blend in. It’s awesome here.

MS: It would be nice for us to have a picture of you with Laura and the kids?

Harper: I’m sure it would. But I think they’ve got enough on their plate.

MS: Fair enough. What did you all get up to while here?

Harper: We did the Shotover Jet and took a helicopter trip to some remote regions that are harder to get to on foot.

MS: Fancy doing a gig in Queenstown sometime?

Harper: If it’s possible, yeah. But I’d almost rather not draw any attention to the fact that I was here and just be here to celebrate the beauty of my surroundings.

MS: We’re told you took a trip out to movie star Sam Neill’s vineyard Two Paddocks to sample the wine?

Harper: I did. That’s some of the best wine I’ve ever had.

MS: Was Sam at home and did you get to say hello?

Harper: I’m happy to talk about myself all day but I’m afraid I don’t talk about other people’s business.

MS: You were only asked if Sam was in, Ben.

Harper: And I only responded in kind to your question.

MS: Right-o. Take it your South Island show with Pearl Jam was a big success then? People are still talking about it on the radio here days later.

Harper: The fact people are doing that says it all. Working with those guys has been the musical time of my life, that’s for sure. It was great to have joined forces with them.

MS: We hear you are going to a gala dinner soon at the White House honouring Bruce Springsteen?

Harper: Yip. As soon as I get back to the States I’m pretty much straight on a plane to Washington DC for that one.

MS: Will President Obama be there and have you met him before?

Harper: Oh yeah, he’ll be there and yeah, I’ve met him before. He’s a great man with an extraordinary mind. I’m a supporter.

MS: What do you have lined up musically after that?

Harper: I’m shooting a video for one of my songs called Lay There And Hate Me. I’m also going to put out a live record then I’m going to do some work with Ringo Starr.

MS: Must be quite an honour to be asked to work with a former Beatle?

Harper: Ringo has requested the presence of myself and my band Relentless7 to back him up and we’re going to do it. Come to think of it, I’m about to meet the President then work with a Beatle. If it gets better than that, I’d like to see it.