Beth Hart has been a staple in my home for many years that I was over the moon when I was invited to talk to her about her latest album ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ and her international tour, which includes a few Canadian stops. Our 25-minute conversation took us to many places; back to the 90’s, remembering our youth, and touching upon the struggles of bi-polar disorder and the joy of Mothers.
Like many in the Entertainment industry, the story of Beth Hart is one of extreme highs and extreme lows. Beth’s voice when she sings, clocks stop, hearts dance, and neck-hair tingles, it’s that compelling. The second is her rollercoaster story: in the late 90s, she was on the cusp of a promising music career, signed to a major U.S. label, national television bookings, hit singles, and great press, but her career careened off the tracks at its peak due to her drug and alcohol addiction. The April 2, 2013 North American release of Bang Bang Boom Boom (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group) has triggered a new found happiness for Beth and, as a fan, I can’t help but wish her nothing but prosperity.
Interview with Beth Hart in her Words
I’m so excited to see you in Toronto on June 30th, have you played in Canada before?
It’s been so many years since I’ve been to Canada. I used to tour there a bit when I first started out with Atlantic in the mid nineties. I toured there for ‘Immortal’ and the second album ‘Screamin For My Supper’. I’m looking forward to it.
Your look and your music have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Tell me a little about the road to where you are now?
I think what happened, especially with the look change, is that Joe Bonamassa asked me to do a record with him which I assumed that I’d be doing background singing. He tells me to choose all my favourite soul, blues and jazz songs. I hadn’t really done that type of music up until then. I was mostly singing rock and roll and a lot of famous songwriter stuff. I loved that, but I was getting to a place where I was writing the same shit all of the time and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t was to just write to put a record out. When he asked me to do the record, it was a cover record and I didn’t have to write anything. I just got to do the stuff I listened to as a kid.
During that record, I felt so feminine. I always felt more masculine in music, but with this kind of music, I felt more connected to Billy Holiday and Dinah Washington and a lot of my favourite singers of that time. When we did the record, I loved it so much that I knew I wanted to go into that direction more as a writer. So I started writing and I got on to the record ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ and I did it with the same producer as the record that I did with Joe Bonamassa. It was so amazing and I was excited that I was working on a record that I hadn’t done. When we did the shoot for the record, I started thinking of old world 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, so I called the lady who was doing the shoot and asked her what she thought of 40’s pinup mixed with some 20 and 30’s looks. She said “Ya, let’s go for it.” It was so much fun, and I literally had to learn how to walk in heels and wondered how I was going to do a show in heels? I’ve been in those heels ever since.
I love your latest album Bang Bang Boom Boom but there has to be a deeper meaning to this title.
It’s just about the heart banging and booming. You’re excited. Whether it be for love, for life, for doing blues or a really exciting time. We didn’t know that they would be interested as using as a single, so we thought maybe it’ll be a good title for the record since it’s kind of about being in love with a crazy maniac, and you’re a crazy maniac, and you guys are gonna be Bonnie and Clyde and go out and shake the storm.
I read that you’re coming out happier than you’ve ever been with this album.
Ya well, it’s interesting because that record came out in the US and Europe quite a while go. I’ve already released another record called ‘SeeSaw’ that received a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Record. I’ve also been working on another record which I go in this August to make. This record is not like the ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ record or the aesthetic of the record. I bounce all over the place man, I’ve got multiple personalities….a lot of them.
I enjoy co-writing because I can learn a lot and it’s beautiful to kinda get with someone where you can open up and share experiences. You learn a lot about how to articulate a song.
But, I way prefer to write alone. I have a piano room with all of my instruments and paintings on the wall. I get up in the morning and I stay in there all day. I fast on those days. I take trips to smoke outside because I’m not allowed to smoke in the house. I just spin the whole day. It’s a great way to work out my stuff. If I’m happy, it’s a great place to work. Especially, when I’m struggling with my head. The past couple of weeks, I’ve had a real bad bout of depression. Every day I’d say to myself “Go to the piano room and work it out. Work your shit out.” Even if the songs don’t ever make it to a record, it’s a beautiful experience to kind of figure it out. My biggest struggle as an artist is telling the truth. It’s a means to survive. If I can’t get to the truth as a writer, it doesn’t mean shit. It’s a cool place to practice getting there, it’s kinda like therapy. This last bit of work is much heavier and it’s not so happy go lucky.
You’ve played with some amazing artists over the years, but tell me about your recent duet with Jeff Beck in front of an audience that included the Obamas.
Buddy Guy is amazing. What an amazing honour that was. Greatest highlight of my whole career. I met Jeff though, many years ago. He heard a little tune I did with a great harmonica player, who is upwards in his 80’s, named Tips Fellman. Jeff heard the song that I done with him and he asked to get together to write. So my first experience with Jeff was a song writing session. Then, he saw a DVD of mine called ‘Live at the Paradiso’ and he really liked the way I performed. He asked me to be a singer during a tour of the United States, which I did. But ever since then, we’ve been really close. We go up and stay at the house with he and his wife. We finished doing a whole lot of shows in Australia. He’s been really good to me and has given me so much encouragement. I get really down on myself and he’s always there to pick me back up. For him to ask me to do that in front of the President. It changed my life and reopened up my career for me.
Many performers of the past decade are here one day and gone the next. Is it sheer tenacity that brought you back in the sun from the rain or something or someone else?I
It’s as simple as you don’t quit no matter what. No matter what, you don’t give up. Why I never give up on the music is that I can’t.
As a passionate artist, whether you’re making money, getting accolade, or whether you’re getting nothing, you love the work and you do it no matter what. It’s just one of things that if you stay long enough in the game, it comes back around, and then it goes away. It’s cyclical. That’s how I think just to keep myself going. The success of it all is when you get up in the morning and you got something you really look forward to, no matter how depressed, or nuts, or angry you may be, you know you’ve got something to look forward to. I like to say to myself, you’ll have times when something special will happen in your career and you just have to make the most of it.
What does the future hold for Beth Hart?
I hope I got myself a nice long future. I hope I get old. I’d really like to improve and bring more happiness and love, to my husband, by being more stable. It’s something that I’m working on. The chemical stuff is one thing but there are personality disorders that go along with it. You develop these as a means to survive. My husband is such an amazing man and he deserves so much happiness. I want to be able to give that to him. Of course, keep working on telling the truth. That’s my mantra for the music. Tell the truth, work your ass off, and keep going there. I want to take care of my Mom. I love my mother. Just try and keep it simple. I’ve got four things I have to do and the rest I leave to the wind.
- Pray in the morning and night.
- Eat right
- Keep in contact with my doctor twice a week.
If I do those things, everything else seems to work out.
If you could give one piece of advice to younger female performers what would be it?
Make sure you’re doing it because you love it. Never do it for the fame or money. Never ever allow fame or money put a value on you. If you make a shit load of money, don’t think you’re the shit. If you make no money, don’t think that it’s cause you’re not good enough and your work is not valid. It has nothing to do with it. It’s a business, and it’s separate from the art. One thing you can always hold on to is the gift of the art. Do it because you love it and for no other reason.
Beth Hart is playing at The Mod Club, in Toronto, Ontario on June 30th. She will make her way to the Ottawa Blues Festival and Quebec Festival before heading overseas to complete her tour. Hope to see you there!