Summer 1999, I think. We were 15, 16 years old maybe. No cellphone and a pretty awful collection of clothes. Bored as hell in our small town lost in the middle of the mountains. Afternoons spent lying in the grass telling each other endless stories. Evenings lost smoking cigarettes and joints sat on the roof under the stars, or sprawled on a single bed under the fake plastic stars glued to the ceiling that every nineties kid had, swearing to each other that we will be friends forever.
Hours and hours living in a dream world, not carefree anymore but not totally lucid either. Together because it was better than alone, I guess. And an album playing on repeat on our old stereo: Welcome to the Cruel World – define “being a teenager” in five words, huh.
There was something calming in Ben Harper’s voice, as if he was this reassuring hand on our shoulder whose stroke was whispering “it’s gonna be okay”, as if the tearful melancholy contained in “Waiting on an Angel” or “Walk Away” was directly speaking to the teenagers we were: soft and bitter, hopelessly romantic but definitely not naïve anymore, scared of the future but full of dreams – acid hidden inside our chubby baby cheeks.
It’s this exact same effect that Ben Harper’s presence and voice had on me a couple of weeks ago when we filmed him and Charlie Musselwhite in this tiny guitar workshop near Pigalle – probably similar to the one Ben grew up in. The memory of being clueless as fuck, of not knowing what would happen, but that everything was possible, came back in a snap, twenty years later, as soon as him and Charlie walked in and started playing and singing. And instead of fear or anxiety, instead of diving into nostalgia, I texted the girls that I’m still best friends with and felt like, yeah, everything was, indeed, gonna be okay.