“Harry said, ‘Can you bring that acoustic you had on your first few records?’ I had given that guitar to my daughter... She fell on the floor”: Ben Harper borrowed his '50s-era Martin back from his One Direction fan daughter to use on a Harry Styles album

Ben Harper (left) and Harry Styles perform onstage
(Image credit: Syspeo.c/Alpaca/Andia/Universal Images Group, Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images)

Ben Harper has never been one to walk a straight line, artistically, so it makes plenty of sense that Harry Styles – looking to move further and further away from the bubblegum pop of his stadium-conquering boy band, One Direction – turned to the former to contribute to his 2022 Grammy-winner, Harry's House.  

Possessed with a keen ear for detail, Styles not only asked Harper to contribute to the eclectic album, but to do so with a specific guitar. Only problem was, Harper had given the guitar in question – a '50s-era mahogany Martin 00-18 – to his daughter, who happens to be a huge fan of Styles, and One Direction.

Speaking to GP in a recent interview, Harper said, “Harry called to see if I could go in there and contribute guitar on a song for Harry’s House that was not going down without a fight called Boyfriends. Different guitar players had thrown ideas at it, but nothing stuck. He called me up to come have a take, like Steely Dan–style, where they’d call up players to take a swing at a solo. So I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ [laughs]

“What was cool about Harry is he said, ‘Hey, by the way, you know that acoustic guitar you had on your first few records. It sounds like a Martin.’ That’s why he’s where he is – because he really knows. ‘Can you bring that guitar?’ I told him absolutely, but I had given that guitar to my daughter, and she had taken it to school with her in New York.”

In keeping with the relative secrecy that typically comes with projects of this commercial scale at their development stage, Harper didn't exactly want to spread word of his involvement, even to his daughter.  

“I had been playing Harry Styles when he was in One Direction and giving her tacks to put up their posters,” Harper – who did end up making the final cut of Boyfriends – explained to GP. “But I didn’t tell her why I wanted her guitar, because I didn’t know if I was going to make the track. But she grilled me, and when I told her it was big, she intuitively knew, because that’s her guy. She fell on the floor.”

To pick up the new issue of Guitar Player – which features a lengthy discussion with Harper about the inspirations and gear that helped form his new album, Wide Open Light – head on over to Magazines Direct

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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