Born in Los Angeles, California in 1972, it's quite clear that Beth Hart was born to be a musician.
Beginning to play piano at age four, she later attended L.A.'s High School for the Performing Arts as a vocal and cello major.
From classic female vocalists such as Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, singer songwriters as Carole King to the heavy metal rumblings of Black Sabbath and Rush, Hart naturally soaked up all the musical influences around her.
Often compared to the late rock legend Janis Joplin, whom she portrayed in the theatrical production of 'Love Janis' in 1999, its more due to her ballsy, no holds barred approach to singing rather than being a copyist which draws such comparisons.
Signing to Atlantic's Lava imprint, Hart issued her debut album, 'Immortal', in 1996. Her sophomore album, 'Screamin' For My Supper' released in 1999, saw her influenced by a deep love for the blues stylings of the great Etta James. The album was also notable for spawning top 5 Adult Contemporary Chart hit in "L.A. Song(Out Of This Town)",the success of which spurred on by its inclusion in episode 17 of the final season of mega popular TV show Beverly Hills 90210.
Subsequent albums, such as 2003's 'Leave The Light On' and 2007's hard rockin' '37 Days' continued to exhibit a musical maturity lyrically informed by autobiographical tales.
The live CD/DVD 'Live at Paradiso', released in 2005 demonstrated firmly that not only was Hart an impressive singer/songwriter, but that she was able to deliver the goods live. A stunning example of rock showmanship, it ranked her among the elite of her craft, attracting such admirers as British guitar god Jeff Beck and ex Guns N Roses axeman Slash. Around this same time she also contributed a smoldering performance on the album 'Les Paul & Friends : American Made World Played' accompanied by Journey/Santana legend Neal Schon on "I Wanna Know You".
In 2010 she recorded and released her latest solo release to date, the thought provoking 'My California' . A showcase of vignettes gleaned once again from Hart's personal experiences, including the poignant "Sister Heroine", an ode to her sister whom she lost to drug addiction, it proved that 14 years into her career, at a time when many have peaked, she was just hitting her stride.
Earlier this year she worked for the first time with blues rock guitar titan Joe Bonamassa, providing the background vocals on the track "No Love On The Street", from the guitarist's latest solo album 'Dust Bowl'. Recorded during the same time as the sessions for the duo's brand new release of blues and soul classics,'Don't Explain'' which hopefully will be a catalyst for a long, fruitful working relationship for many years to come.
Releasing an album of cover versions is always a dicey proposition due to obvious comparisons to the originals, yet Hart and Bonamasssa, more than ably assisted by uber producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Joe Bonamassa) have deftly conjured up a sound all their own.
Weaving their own sonic tapestry, Hart's sultry and seductive vocals combine with Bonamassa's mastery of blues rock guitar to breathe new life into such classics such as Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind", Ray Charles' "Sinner's Prayer" as well as unique interpretations of such material as Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus" and Delaney & Bonnie's "Well, Well", resulting in one of the finest releases to grace 2011. A testament of which being the fact that the album has just been nominated for 'Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year' at the 33rd Blues Music Awards, to be held May 10, 2012 in Memphis, TN.
Recently we were able to catch up with Beth at home in Los Angeles to discuss her thoughts on the album, her philosophy regarding her music, what she has in store for the future, and much, much more. Please join us as we have a candid conversation with one of rock's most talented vocalists, Ms. Beth Hart.
Special thanks go to Erin Cook at Jensen Communications for coordinating. and a BIG thanks to Beth Hart for doing this interview with Nightwatcher's House Of Rock... (Beth Hart 'My California photos : Copyright: Greg Watermann / BethHart.com)
Interview and text by Keith Langerman for Nightwatcher's House Of Rock © 2011
NHOR : First I'd like to get into talking about the new album that you've recorded with Joe Bonamassa, 'Don't Explain', which was recently released worldwide via J&R Adventures. Now that it's finished,how do you feel about how the album turned out?
Beth Hart : I feel so fantastic about it. Just as an example, in my past all the records that I've made, I listen to them as I'm recording, through the mixing process you're listening and listening, and might do a few listens after the songs are done, and that's it. But that's it. I don't go back to them after I'm done. But with this record, I've been listening and listening, and I've had it in my hands for several months. I think it's beautiful, and I'm really proud of it. I'm really grateful.
I think we pulled off iconic songs in a very respectful and beautiful manner. The process of making this album was so simple, easy and enjoyable to do this with them. It was only four days in the studio. It was so remarkable to be in the caliber of such incredible musicians. The whole experience for me was nothing but positive. Not to be cheesy, but it was like a dream come true.
From being a kid, listening to this music and never dreaming that I would ever sing this type of material. But I've loved listening to it my whole life. To have done it makes me feel really proud, and I have such a really, really good feeling.
NHOR : Seeing as the majority of the songs were originally performed by some very powerful vocalists, such as Etta James, Ray Charles, Bonnie Bramlett, Otis Redding...to name just several, did you feel any pressure to step up your game vocally knowing you ultimately would be compared to the original versions?
BH : Absolutely. Here's the thing. When they told me about this, and said, "Hey, go ahead and choose a bunch of songs that you love that are in a soul vein, whether they be jazzy, bluesy, whatever", I instantly knew what songs I wanted to do. I'm a huge Etta James fan, but not of her albums. Instead, I'm a big fan of all of her live recordings. That's the stuff I listen to from her. That's why I wanted to do a few of Etta's songs.
I knew I wanted to do a Billie Holiday song. I knew I wanted to do "Chocolate Jesus". I love the song, and love Tom Waits. I had those in mind, and I trusted, and knew that they would deliver some songs that would be fantastic as well. I was scared about that, because I knew that it would be stuff that I probably wouldn't be familiar with.
For instance I'd never heard "Sinner's Prayer" before. I'd never heard "For My Friend". Or a few others that they put over my way. So yes, it was intimidating more in the sense that could I do this with these great musicians? Because I knew that they were going to bring a game that was so far beyond. So that was the most intimidating.
But in terms of approaching the material, what gave me some solace was that I knew that each of these singers who originally did the recordings brought their own story to the song. Whether they wrote it or not is irrelevant. They brought some personal story. You can hear it. It's not just great vocals that deliver a performance, it's that truth. That feeling. They could be the greatest writer, but what really makes them the greatest writer is that they write about what they know. So I believe them, and believe their story when I hear it.
So I knew I had to find my own, to attach to each song. So once I made up my mind for that, I believed in myself. I said you can do this girl, but you've got to do it from your place, your story.
NHOR : There's obviously a lot of passion in your vocal delivery throughout all the tracks on this album. Where do you go to draw from in order to conjure up such powerful performances vocally?
BH : The first thing was that it was really important for me to really listen, like I was saying. To seek out where their truth was in each song, and really respect everything that they were doing. Every note, ever nuance, every phrasing, every rhythm. Then I had to go into my own place. I took the material into my piano room, played everything down and searched out what was my own personal thing.
Like for instance, on "I'd Rather Go Blind", I didn't think of it as being a boyfriend, or a man that I loved who was leaving me. I thought about my father. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, and he was gone for just years and years. So that's what I thought about. That was the biggest heartbreak of my life, my father leaving. That's what I drew from on that song.
On "Chocolate Jesus", I didn't take it from that drunken, "Fuck you" place...which I love that Tom Waits did. I took it from more of a sexual place. I thought it would be cool to be a kitty cat, cabaret French style type of thing. That's where I worked that from. And so on, throughout the tracks.
NHOR : The album is comprised entirely of cover versions of soul standards and soul inflected rock compositions, ranging from Ray Charles' "Sinner's Prayer", to Delaney & Bonnie's "Well Well", even Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus". How did you and Joe whittle down the songs included on the album?
BH : It was very easy. They made it so easy with me. The bottom line was they said that if you don't want to sing this stuff, you've gotta choose stuff that you want to sing. Then they happened to really love some of my choices, which I was really happy with. But like when Kevin sent me "Your Heart is as Black as Night", I instantly loved it. But when he sent me "I'll Take Care Of You", it wasn't that I didn't love it, it was that I didn't think I could sing it.
NHOR : You couldn't wrap your head around it...
BH : Right, I couldn't get my head around it. But I knew there was something in my gut that said, "Beth, you're gonna have to figure it out, because this is a great song. It would fit perfectly on this record". So that was the most challenging of the songs. Which is interesting, because it ended up being the first single.
But I flat out initially didn't like "Well, Well". I just didn't like the song. It wasn't until we recorded it together, when Joe was actually singing and I was singing with him...It was that moment that I fell in love with it. I love the song now, but at first I just didn't like it.
NHOR : So how did you approach doing the song if you didn't like it initially?
BH : I just said learn it and do it. I was thinking that I was just doing a background part anyway. But in the mix they ended up pushing up my background part more. Which was weird, ya know? But hey, who doesn't like that? (Laughs) Who doesn't like to be out front? I'm not going to call and argue with them. (Laughs)
NHOR : Well at least they didn't hear your part and decide to bring it down in the mix....
BH : Exactly. (Laughs) But that's when I really dug it. And who doesn't want to sing with Joe? He's just fucking great. So that was really cool.
NHOR : How did you hook up with Joe anyway? You were also on "No Love On The Street" from 'Dust Bowl'....
BH : Yeah, but I actually did that while we were doing this album. I just laid down a quick background vocal that day, which was the first day. How I met Joe was this : I was playing a small, and I emphasize small, show in London, and Joe was there. I didn't get to meet him afterwards. I remember thinking, "Wow, why did he come to the show?" My husband was saying, " He's got a radio show every Sunday in England, and he's been playing one of your songs every week. It's like the theme song of the show". A song called "Face Forward" off an old record I did, '37 Days'. I was like, "Oh wow! That's cool!"
Then a few months went by, and I met him briefly in a bar in a hotel I always stay at in Holland. I said hello, and he was really sweet. Then it was only a few months later that I got the call asking me if I wanted to do this record. Honest to God, the first thing out of my mouth was "Yes!", but I assumed I was doing background vocals. So, when they said, "No, we want you to sing vocals on the record", Oh my God, my stomach dropped. I got very nervous and excited at the same time.
NHOR : The album was produced by Kevin Shirley, who has been doing a lot of stellar work with Joe and other artists, including Led Zeppelin,Black Country Communion, The Black Crowes, Aerosmith and many others. What was it like working with Kevin?
BH : It was just really easy. There was no prep. I was on the road a lot, Joe was on the road a lot, so all the choices of songs was done over the phone. I had everything flown to me, so I was able to do a lot of listening at night, driving back from gigs. I got home, I think we were here for a week, we went to the Village , met up, everyone said hello, and we started tracking that day. We did three songs that day. We did three songs the next day.
Then about five weeks went by, and we didn't see each other, then we came in for two more days. We recorded two songs one of the days, and four songs the next day. And we were done. Everything went quickly because of the fact that everyone had so much respect for each other, and for the material. The only thing that took a moment to work out were the arrangements. But it happened so naturally.
For instance, it was like Go! Then it was just like a live show. I'm singing, they're playing, and we're going through the songs two or three times, then Kevin might say, "This time, take a round, and come back to the verse, instead of putting the verse there". We'd go in, play it through a few times, then Kevin would say, "You're done. Let's go on to the next song". So it just went really smooth. It was wonderful. There wasn't any dictatorship, or any of that kind of stuff that makes that inner child that wants to come out and play go away. Then you wonder why the act is so much better live on stage, because they get to be free.
I find that with Kevin, he trusts and believes that you're good enough to be yourself. He doesn't try to reign you in. Which is one of the things which always frustrated me so much with the Etta James albums. It always sounded like a producer was saying, "Oh, don't sound so black". Reign it in, so you can get on radio or something. I don't fucking know. But you listen to the live things, and it's extraordinary. Just extraordinary singing.
So I think one of the great gifts Kevin has, that more producers could learn from, is to back off. Let people be. Especially when they're young. So many young artists, they have so much talent, they get signed, then they make them into something else. You've got a miserable artist, who sounds cookie cutter like everybody else.
NHOR : Exactly...Since you mentioned that, you were involved in that type of competition, and even won 'Star Search'. With that in mind, what is your take on shows such as 'American Idol'?
BH : I don't like it. I did 'Star Search'. It's a long story, but I did it as a bet with a friend of mine. I was broke, I auditioned for it, and I got a call back right away. I said I didn't want to do it. Because I was getting $100 dollars to go and audition. Then they ended up going, "No, we want you to do the show". (Laughs) I was like, "Well, I don't want to do your show". The producer called me into his office, and he asked me, "What's it going to take to get you to do the show?" I was like "What the heck do you want me to do the show for?" They said, "You're young, you're doing something cool, and it might make our ratings go up. Because our ratings really suck, and we're considered a really cheesy show".
So I went on the show, thinking I'd do a couple of the shows, maybe win a couple of times and be out of there. But I ended up winning the whole time. I did some originals, and some covers, and I ended up winning the show. Which was great because I won a lot of money, but the show really hurt me. I couldn't get a record deal for a long time. It was almost like three years went by, and no one would touch me. Because it was considered a very uncool deal. You don't really become your own artist in that view. You become a 'Star Search' artist.
But then you look at 'American Idol' which is a whole different day and age, and people have had fantastic careers that they've gone on to have. That's wonderful. Whatever it takes. It's such a tough business right now, you've got to get yourself out there.
NHOR : What are your personal favorites on this album, and why?
BH : "Don't Explain". It reminds me of my mother. She always loved Billie Holiday. Her big thing was whenever I came home from school, she'd be taking a bubble bath, and that's when we'd sit together and listen to Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and all that kind of music.So that really reminds me of my mother. When I first heard "Don't Explain"...the first time, I thought that the chord changes against the melody , which is such a supreme melody, it's just sick, isn't it?
NHOR : It's extremely sultry and sensual....
BH : Oh...It's incredible. Just as a song alone, it's one of the great songs. Even by Billie. She didn't write that many songs, she wrote "Don't Explain", "God Bless The Child"...I'm sure she wrote others that never were heard, but I just love it. I love her. It reminds me of my mother, so it's a big favorite, that song.
NHOR : So you had a background in this type of music obviously from an early age...
BH : Yes. I love it, and I'm very thankful that I got that.
NHOR : Would you say that may have been the catalyst for you wanting to become a vocalist?
BH : It was weird, because I started out as a pianist and a cellist. I really wanted to play classical music. I wanted to be an opera singer. That was the stuff that I was listening to when I was young, young, young. That's what I wanted to do. Then I discovered drugs, and Zeppelin, Rush and Black Sabbath. I'm a huge Sabbath fan. But what I really think shifted me as a songwriter was when I discovered people like Carole King, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones.
NHOR : The singer/songwriters....
BH : Yes. That really started me looking at the genius of a lyric. It's not just these incredible orchestras, Beethoven and all this great music and melodies, but it's these lyrics. Along with the Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and stuff like that were great lyrics. It being so based on the lyric.
But then, what really made me want to shake it, and get out there and perform was when I got into Otis Redding, and Janis Joplin. Bette Midler. Seeing these people perform their ass off. So much emotion, and that was it for me. Joe Turner. I'm a huge Joe Turner fan. And of how he would just get people to move. Then Cab Calloway. It was like they were taking people to church and making people inspired, you know? That's the stuff that really made me want to be a performer I think. It's all of it. There's such great music out there, man.
NHOR : What constitutes a great performance for you?
BH : To me, what really moves me the most is when you have an amazing band, a great vocalist, but they share personal stories. They make you laugh. They jump around with energy, then they'll break it way down to where it's quiet and you can hear a pin drop.
One of the greatest performers ever, to me, and we just did a show with him not too long ago, is Buddy Guy. I remember the first time I saw him live...It was in San Francisco, at the Fillmore, and I was 22, 23 years old. He was playing the upstairs room there. I came around the corner, because I was hearing this crazy singer and guitar player. I looked down on the stage, and I said, "How can that teenager play guitar and sing like that?" They said, "That's no teenager, he's in his mid 60's". (Laughs) I said, "No way!" They said, "That's Buddy Guy". That was the first time I'd ever seen him.
Recently we did a show opening for him in Norway, and I've gotta tell you man, here he is singing his ass off, jumping around onstage, playing his guitar with his teeth, going crazy...Then all of a sudden, all of the music comes way down, he drops the mic, and he starts singing to the audience. It was a festival, and you could hear him everywhere, even without a mic. That's the shit right there. All those dynamics, the energy, talking to them, getting them to know this is for y'all. This isn't about me. It's about moving you guys. I work for you. I love performers like that.
NHOR : A lot of times with Buddy's vocals they're so intense you can feel them deep within your soul....
BH : Yeah! He blows me away. He is absolutely incredible.
NHOR : The album has somewhat of a unique album cover. How did that come about and how do you feel that ties in to the album title, "Don''t Explain"?
BH : Yeah. It wouldn't have been with what I would go with. But Joe chose an artist. I think I look really weird on the record. (Laughs) But I don't care.Who cares. It's about the music. But I do think it kind of catches your eye. It's kind of different, ya know? Which is nice. Maybe that's why Joe went with that. He wanted something that would stand out a little bit.
NHOR : Throughout your career you have been compared to another blues and soul based vocalist, that being Janis Joplin. You even appeared in the theatrical version of "Love, Janis". Are there any particular elements of Janis' life that you personally identify with?
BH : Definitely the addiction. The part of feeling like a really unattractive woman. Kind of being made fun of in school. I learned a lot about her. I feel like I had a lot in common personally, more than anything. Not so much the music. I've always had people tell me how much I remind them of Janis. Personally I don't see it. But I guess when I'm rocking, and I'm singing harder, there is some of that maybe.
But I love her. I'm a huge fan of her. But definitely in her personal life. She had a dual personality. One, being very super confident to the point of being cocky, and also though being extraordinarily insecure. I definitely connect with that in my personality. I bounce back and forth between the two. Definitely the drugs and the feeling so unattractive that you say frick it, I'm not even going to wear makeup. I did that all throughout my 20's. I said fuck it, I'm not even going to care. I'm not even going to compete. I'd rather do this and pretend that I don't care. And every woman wants to be beautiful. So when they say they don't care? They do. (Laughs)
NHOR : I would say that the comparison between you and Janis stems from you both having balls, musically speaking. That real raw, aggressive, style.....
BH : Awww, thank you so much.
NHOR : You've recorded and performed with some really fantastic guitarists, from Jeff Beck, Slash, Neal Schon, and now this album with Joe. What is it about the dynamic between heavy rock guitar and blues based vocals which attracts you?
BH : The music is such great music because it came from people who were so suppressed and thrown out of the loop. I think that's why blues and gospel are so great, because people who were slaves, and people who were close to that whole thing had to find something that brought them up. That made them feel like survivors, like they could kick all that shit's ass and still hold their head up high. When they sing songs of loss and being broken down, you believe it. It's not I'm feeling sorry for myself, it's feeling sorry because I freakin' deserve it .(Laughs) I earned this song. How can you say no to that? It's like saying no to a Van Gogh painting. You believe it. It's absolutely believable. That tree looks nothing like a real tree, but somehow you believe more in his tree than you do the one out in front of your house.
So to be a part of that type of music, it makes you feel free. Free to express yourself in one of the highest regards. Also, with hard rock & roll, especially with growl, like death metal, black metal stuff, that stuff ...I just love it! They can just go off. The drummers, the bass players, they're out of their minds. The singers are just "Rawwwwwr", and there's just so much passion. I love it, it's great.
NHOR : I know you and Joe are definitely busy with your own separate projects. You recently did a date at the Echoplex where Joe joined you onstage for songs from the album. But has there been any discussion of doing any further live dates together, maybe even a brief tour to showcase the songs on the album?
BH : Oh God, I've been so much up his butt about that it's not funny. (Laughs) We're definitely going to be doing another record. It's already booked. It's booked a year from January. So not this coming January, but the following January we're making another one of these records.
So in the meantime, Joe is a workhorse, he's working all the time. I've got a new record that I'm doing with Kevin Shirley in May, and right now I'm still promoting my latest record. So we're both doing a lot of touring. But, I do think Joe and I will at least do some spot dates, maybe even a small tour.
But I have a feeling if there is a tour, like an eight week tour, like he just recently finished doing with Black Country Communion, we may do something like that in support of the next record. That's what I would assume would happen. I'm pushing this record, 'Don't Explain' actually on my next tour. I'm hiring a Hammond guy from Europe who's going to meet us out there to promote 'Don't Explain'. I'm going to do it on my own. Would I love to be promoting the shit out of it with Joe? Fuck yeah, but until he says "Yes", my hands are tied.
NHOR : A lot of vocalists have a ritual that they go through before they go onstage. Do you have anything that you do before you go onstage?
BH : Yeah I do. I kind of do an all day thing. I get a lot of sleep, so when I wake up I do some yoga, and some meditation. Then throughout the day I warm up really lightly. I've learned throughout the years that doing these huge 30 minute warmups before a set is totally unnecessary. So I lightly warm up throughout the day. A little here, a little there. I really believe in getting a good workout before the show. Because I think when you warm up your whole body, get your muscles and lungs really expanded, that's going to help a lot onstage. Obviously a lot of water, and tea is always a good thing. I try to avoid sugar or caffeine of any kind. Then just getting into a place of knowing what my job is. That's going out there and working for them. Hopefully make them laugh, have fun, dance, to make music and be part of the show. That's kind of it.
NHOR : What music inspires you to stretch yourself musically and vocally?
BH : All of it. The jazz, the blues, the rock, the hard rock, the singer/songwriters. Even country music. All of it. We play a lot of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline on the road. It just makes me feel good. It reminds me of the United States when I'm missing home. Edith Piaf and Nina Simone, I listen to a lot to when I'm on the plane. It's just all so inspirational, isn't it?
NHOR : One can draw inspiration from all genres of music, as long as it's good. One shouldn't shut themselves off from anything, as it really limits development as a musician....
BH : Yeah, and you know some of my favorite stuff to listen to in my car are all the Mexican stations. Any Mexican music. I just love it. It's so passionate, and they're always such great singers.
NHOR : In terms of songwriting, where do you draw your inspiration from, and has that changed at all throughout your years as an artist?
BH : It hasn't. It basically remains the same thing that it usually takes. And I'll tell ya, it's kind of bummer actually. I kind of have to be in a place where I'm so broken down. Which I kind of discovered later in life is a good thing, because it makes my ego go away. Because if my ego's up, then I'll go, "Oh, I'm going to go write a song today". I'll work on it for a couple of weeks, and it gets so involved to where it's no longer a song that anyone can relate to. So it never gets used.
When my ego's out of the way, and I'm in that broken, humbled place...maybe by a tragedy that I'll hear about on television, or some amazing survivor that I'll meet and talk to after the show, who's been through child abuse, or has just survived cancer. These are very inspirational, very humbling stories.
I've got bi-polar disorder. I've been on medication for the past three years, which has helped the fluctuation of my moods so much, but it also doesn't allow me to get to a dark place where I can write quickly. When I write quick, the song comes in a few minutes, and then I'll know it's a song that's going to end up on a record. Or end up in a show. Those usually mean that I need to be in that darker mood type of place.
So now what I do, and this is totally with the ok from my doctors, is that I'll slow down my medication, bring it a lot lower, so that I can bring on that type of mood swing. But I can't take it too far, because it's too dangerous.
NHOR : So do you feel that when you're happy that you don't write as well?
BH :To an extent. If I'm happy in the way of being really excited, almost like a nervous excited. For instance, I was getting ready to do the record with Joe, and that really lit some fires in terms of writing. It was a nervous energy of excitement. So some negative feeling of some kind has got to be there, whether it be excitement, nervousness or just that bottom end, bye bye I want to die type feeling. That's what it takes.
NHOR : So you have this thing then...Where you can sit there for hours trying to get inspiration for a song, nothing will come, then all of a sudden, bam! it hits, and you have it written in a matter of minutes...
BH : Totally and absolutely. And those are the songs that people end up liking the most. And I believe that it was because I didn't write them. I really do. I know it sounds weird...like I'm some spiritual weirdo. (Laughs)
NHOR : No, not at all, I understand completely....
BH : You know what I mean? Like something comes over and whispers in your ear, "This is the song", then all you have to do is quickly figure it out?
NHOR : Absolutely. From my own personal experience, I can sit for hours thinking I'm going to write something for hours, and it's like nothing will come, then it will strike and it's done in a matter of minutes, like it's not you that's writing it...
BH : No, it's not, is it! I am so glad you understand that. Let me ask you something. When you're trying, and nothing's coming, do you ever get that panic, that you're a total piece of shit writer, and that it will never come again?
NHOR : Absolutely, like I'm a hack or something...
BH : Yeah! Me too! And I think, "That's it. It's over!" I have dried my well, no longer will God visit the room, it's done. (Laughs)
NHOR : Like there is a finite amount of songs you're allocated, and you've tapped that, and there aren't any more...
BH : Totally. That's it. Yep. It's so depressing. (Laughs)
NHOR : What is the process that you go through when you compose? Do you come up with a melody first, then lyrics? Or is it the other way around?
BH : I usually get chords and melodies. That's usually what comes first. Then the lyric will usually mirror and reflect off what the chords and melodies are. Also, the lyric will bounce off what the rhythms are. When I say lyrics, I mean kind of gibberish, kind of talking in tongues. I'll hear different vowels, or consonants coming through, just as gibberish. Then I'll say, "Alright what story is this?" That's when I'll dive into the lyrics.
The lyric is by far the toughest thing for me, because to me it's the most important. It's kind of like the melody is some sexy woman you see from across the room. You really want to be with her. You go over, grab her, you have sex with her...But then, if she doesn't have anything to say, you probably won't call her back.
NHOR : There has to be substance there...
BH : Exactly. Something to keep you coming back. (Laughs)
NHOR : You also had your most recent studio album, 'My California' released in Europe in 2010. So far that album hasn't as yet been released here in the U.S. Are there any plans to release it here, and if so, when?
BH : You know, I haven't released '37 Days' here either. That was a really great rock record that I made with my band here in Los Angeles, and it did really well in Europe for us. But you know, I don't have a record deal in the United States. Maybe that will change one day.
But where all my support comes from is Europe, and now Brazil believe it or not. Japan looks like it may open up, some irons are in the fire there. But I so wish that I could be releasing and promoting things here in the States. I know I have a small base here. I do think it's enough where I could do a little bit of touring. I do spot dates here and there. But it's nothing really, and it makes me sad. Sometimes I wish I could just get myself some good promotion behind me here. But it's just not in the cards for me right now. We'll just see what happens.
NHOR : On your website, there is a veritable laundry list of unreleased tracks which have never appeared on any album obviously.These are fantastic songs. Do you have any plans to release any of those in any form anytime soon?
BH : Only if I were to get some kind of promotion, or deal here. I have talked to my manager here about us possibly doing our own thing. Where we put it out via the Internet or something. Doing something like that. But I'm just not sure, ya know?
NHOR : You' had a well publicized battle with various substances earlier in your career. To what do you attribute yourself being able to get clean, and how do you get through situations now, whereas before you might have turned to heroin, or a drink? How do reconcile the stressors in your life now?
BH : I think the number one thing is that I've done a lot of therapy work, both 12 Step and with private therapists. A lot of writing and discovering the part of my personality that caused me to be so self destructive. I became aware that there were certain childhood factors which rendered in that really weren't my fault. So I was able to have some forgiveness for myself there. Because addicts basically hate themselves, and feel they're the worst people on the planet.
But I was able to find some forgiveness there, as well as confront those people who I felt did damage me. Not just face to face, but internally find forgiveness and understanding for them. Actually that's probably the major first thing, learning how to face the stuff, forgive myself and others, and really forgive. Where you have compassion and understanding of why they do what they do. Instead of going, "Oh, I'm going to forgive, because that's a good thing to do". Really feeling it, and working on it, and learning how to do that. I can really thank 12 Step and good psychiatrists for that.
Another was realizing that I definitely am of an alcoholic mind. Meaning that I can't mess around with drugs and alcohol, because if I do I immediately want to abuse them to the point that I get sick again and I hurt other people.
NHOR : There's nothing in regards of moderation for you...
BH : There is none. Practicing meditation and praying to God everyday, thanking him so much for my sobriety, and all the lovely experiences in my life that I get to remember, and this beautiful day. Really saying that, even if I don't feel that way at the time. If I wake up in a place of anger or bitterness, saying those things anyway. Like a faking it until you make it type of thing.
Everyone around me knows that not only I'm an alcoholic, but I've got bi-polar disorder. I'm really open about that. Even at the risk of people twisting it, making fun of it, or even not wanting to work with me because of it. Knowing that it's worth all of those risks. Because I get to stay in a place of health and awareness of what a dangerous thing both of those disorders are. But that they are both completely manageable if I do the simple steps that I was taught to do to manage them. But there's no way I could have done them on my own. It's just way too involved.
NHOR : Do you feel a deep passion for helping people with the same disorders now that you've come through that yourself?
BH : It naturally does. Given that I've been given this small platform where I can write music, sing for people and be interviewed. So I always take those opportunities to be open about those things. Because I really believe that there are people who come across the writings, or an interview, or a television thing, and go, "Hey I've got alcoholism. She's doing good. Maybe I can do good". Or maybe it's someone whose child is bi-polar and has been in and out of psych wards, and they'll say, "Hey my kid has a possible future here". Unfortunately, with mental illness the big things are a) They don't think they have it, or b) They don't believe in taking medication. But if you find the right medication it can change, and give you your life.
NHOR : It can be a difficult thing, finding the right balance of medications which will work sometimes as well...
BH : Absolutely. The saddest thing for me with mental illness is that there are so many doctors prescribing drugs that are dangerous, and it's really not their fault because the medications that are available for this disease are still not good enough. You have to find a combination that will work. All these medications are poison, and are bad for your body, so you have to so much extra exercise, diet and sleep. Doing things that are good for you because you're putting in a poison every day.
NHOR : But it's the lesser of two evils....
BH : It's the lesser of two evils, exactly. But finding that right medication for you is nearly impossible. I had to go through every medication that they have out there. None of them worked for me. Then finally I found what worked for me. It's caused some problems. I have insulin resistance disease now because one of the meds I take can cause that. But I stopped eating all sugar, bread and stuff like that, and it helps to keep my blood sugar more even. If I didn't take that medication I wouldn't have this problem at all, but as you said it's the lesser of two evils.
NHOR : So do you feel like it's a constant battle at all times?
BH : I don't look at it as a battle. I look at it as a separate job. It's my job, number one, to let every record company guy, every promoter, every agent, my manager, everyone I work with know this is what I have, and it's first on my list of priorities. You can't overwork me. I won't let you. I need at least 10 hours of sleep a night. I can't do more than two or three shows in a row. I can be on the road for about six to seven weeks, then I need to come home and rest up for a minimum of two to three weeks.
A lot of great opportunities, the people who work with me have to be willing to say no for me, and I can't take them, because the next thing you know I'm manic even on medication. Things like that. But it's worth it, because otherwise I can't have a marriage, I can't do anything. I'm an impossible person to talk to.
NHOR : Where would you like to take your music in the future?
BH : I want to take it to exactly where it is. That is, just keep doing it. I'm aware of the fact that you can't do anything creative if you're expecting money or applause. You just can't do it for that. First of all, if those things happen it's not a reflection on whether the work is good or not.
I think so many people judge themselves on whether they're getting the money or the applause. It's like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So I've got to keep that in mind always when I work. I really love touring, I really love writing and I really love recording. That's what I've been doing for years, and I hope to God that I get to keep doing it for years. It's just fun, challenging and wonderful. Would I like to be able to tour the whole world? Yeah! That would be great. So maybe that dream will happen, maybe it won't. I think that every day it's important that I keep my eye on seeing that I'm still able to do what I love to do, and be able to pay my rent, and buy food. (Laughs)
NHOR : Are you satisfied with how your career has progressed thus far?
BH : I think at this age...I'm going to be 40 in January. So I think I'm at an age where you really have to start looking at all those things. All those demons start to come up in the 40's of, "Hey, how much of it all did I screw up? Where did I do good?" And you start looking back at all those things.
So the last few years I've had a chance going through so much therapy to go over all that stuff. If I could do it all over again and change my whole drug thing that happened. I blew a really great career for myself in the United States. Because it was going incredible. I was with Atlantic Records, I had a big hit, and my drugs just took all of that away. I scared the shit out of basically every label here. I threatened to kill one of the guys at the label.
NHOR : They tend to kind of not like that kind of stuff for some reason....
BH : Yeah, they tend to stay away from you after that. (Laughs) So I take responsibility for that. Sometimes it still comes up and it irritates me that it went down. But if that didn't go down, I wouldn't have gone to get well. I would have ended up dying if all those things didn't crash. So did my career go as I thought it would? No. Not like I dreamed of as a kid. But then other things did. My dream as a kid was to write, record and tour for the rest of my life. And so far that has happened consistently, thank God. So, yes and no to that answer. It's been a little bit of both.
NHOR : What advice would you have for someone who is just starting out in the business?
BH : To remember that it really is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do not judge or question your abilities, and your creativity based on if someone's going to sign or publish you. Or put your painting up in a hotel or a museum. You can't do that.
You've got to do it because you love it. Know that it's a gift to make you happy, to challenge you, to take you through all the incredible things about being alive. It can't be about the money or the fame. If those things come, wonderful. Bathe in it, buy a big ass house for your mom. But you can't judge your worth based on that.
For more information on Beth Hart go to this location : www.bethhart.com/
"Sinner's Prayer" from Hart and Bonamassa 'Don't Explain' 2011
"Don't Explain from Hart and Bonamassa 'Don't Explain' 2011
Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa "I'll Take Care Of You" live at The Echoplex 2011
The Beth Hart Band "Am I The One" Live At The Paradiso 2005
Jeff Beck with Beth Hart "Going Down" U.S. Tour 2006
Neal Schon and Beth Hart "I Wanna Know You" Les Paul & Friends' 2005