Ben Harper Says He 'Grew Creatively' After Working with Harry Styles: 'It Was a Singing Lesson' (Exclusive)

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The artist, whose latest album 'Wide Open Light' is available Friday, played guitar for the pop icon on 'Harry's House'

<p>Michael Halsband;Kevin Mazur/Getty</p> Ben Harper; Harry Styles

Ben Harper isn't afraid to keep learning.

The three-time Grammy-award-winning musician — who released his album Wide Open Light on Friday while gearing up for a tour with The Chicks in August — was also summoned to record with the likes of pop legend Harry Styles.

"What an exciting call to get,” Harper, 53, tells PEOPLE of being asked to work on Harry's House. "Because I was a fan before I got that call. [Harry] called me and said there was a song they were trying to get on the record and they hadn't found its voice yet. They said, 'We'd love to have you come in and give it a go.'"

<p>Courtesy of Ben Harper / Shore Fire</p> Ben Harper's Wide Open Light

Courtesy of Ben Harper / Shore Fire

Ben Harper's Wide Open Light

Harper immediately made sure he had the right equipment for the job — he needed a special guitar, one he used early in his career to play acoustic songs, and one which he had since gifted to his oldest daughter, Harris.

"He had asked for a specific guitar, which I loved. He knew my music well enough to request a specific sound from a specific instrument," Harper explains, praising the "Watermelon Sugar" singer.

Related: Harry Styles Honored with Banner at MSG After Wrapping 15-Date Residency: &#39;That&#39;s Insane&#39;

The only problem was, Harper needed to retrieve the guitar from his daughter — and he had to do so without tipping her off as to who he was set to be collaborating with.

"She takes it everywhere she goes," Harper says of his daughter and the prized instrument, "so then I was afraid. I was like, 'What am I going to do? Am I going to fly to get it from her? How am I going to pull this off?'"

Thankfully, Harris was home on holiday break and was happy (if a little suspicious) to lend her father the guitar.

"My daughter reads me so well. When I went to pick it up, she said, 'Dad, what are you doing? Who are you recording with?'" Harper recalls. "She had an instinct, but I couldn't tell her at that point, in the event that it didn't end up on the record!"

<p>Michael Halsband</p> Ben Harper

Michael Halsband

Ben Harper

Harper grew up surrounded by his family's Folk Music Center store in Southern California, giving him a front-row seat to countless musical experts.

"That's been my masterclass," he says, "and that's carried over into my adult life in being able to say, ‘Watch Harry.’ Not only watching other artists, but working with them hands-on — that's how I've always grown creatively."

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In fact, working with Styles began as hands-on as it could get: the experience kicked off with lunch. To this day, Harper calls the session with Styles one of the most enjoyable he's ever been a part of.

"I got there and he said, 'Let's eat.' We ordered food, we sat, we talked, we laughed. The entryway to a good session is through the stomach. If you stop, you break bread, you get to understand where the other person is, where they're coming from, where they're going. That kind of set the stage. And then we went in and spent the day recording," Harper recalls. "When I watched Harry track his vocals, it was a singing lesson in its own way."

Related: Ben Harper Recalls Hearing &#39;American Idol&#39; &#39;s Alejandro Aranda Play Guitar Years Before Their Duet

Harper's guitar playing is featured on Styles' "Boyfriends" track off Harry’s House — a song Harper calls "masterful," and a fact Harper's daughter very much enjoys.

<p>Evil Vince</p> Ben Harper

Evil Vince

Ben Harper

"My kids were massive fans, and we would sing at the top of our lungs at school drop-offs and pickups. I mean, he was a big part of our sonic landscape. So, when I'm dropping off the guitar and she says, 'All right, Dad, spill it. Who was it?' And I looked at her and she looked at me. And I shook my head up and down — 'Yes.' She fell on the floor.”

Harper's self-proclaimed sonic landscape is diverse, with his latest album Wide Open Light representing what he says is an intentional, stripped-back sound.

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"It took that process to arrive at a record that sounds like this and is acoustic based and structured around the songs themselves more than what goes on top of them or underneath them," he explains. "It was exciting that I was patient enough to set these songs aside, hoping that they would represent a body of work that has this kind of movement, kind of an openness. That leans towards the title. I'm hoping it represents light — wide open light."

Check out the new video for Harper's single "Yard Sale" with Jack Johnson above — live from Harper's kitchen!

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