Posted November, 2015
Photo by Greg Watermann
To say that Beth Hart is one of the most amazing new female singer/songwriters of the new millennia would be an understatement.
Literally discovered in the 90’s while performing on the streets of L.A. by David Wolf (who became her close friend and manager). He managed to land her a record deal with Atlantic in a matter of weeks.
Her talent has landed her on TV (both performing as well as her songs being used on shows) and even in front of our current president (along with the iconic Jeff Beck).
Because of her openness about her battles with booze, drugs, bad relationships and being bi-polar, Beth Hart has inspired many to fight the good fight against their own personal demons.
I was first turned on to her work four years ago by way of a duet album she recorded with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, entitled “Don’t Explain”, in 2011. She won me over with her treatment of the Etta James hit, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, making permanent and me an instant fan. A couple of years later, I had the thrill of conducting my first interview with this incredible artist.
I was recently afforded yet another opportunity to chat with her about her latest CD, “Better Than Home” (an album I absolutely love, by the way), prefaced my first question about it by stating that I felt that it was quite an introspective album from her, then asking if that was an accurate observation.
“Yes, I would say so. I mean, I typically tend to be pretty vulnerable and open in my writing, anyway. But this record, in particular, went a little deeper there. I turned in a lot of songs to Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens. A lot! These are the ones that they felt the strongest about recording. I think that the chose a collection that just happened to be on a super personal level that they thought would work together for a record.”
I shared with Beth that my favorite cut from the disc is “Tell Them To Hold On” and asked her to share her story behind it.
“Thank you. I love that song! I started writing that a few years ago – several years ago, actually. What inspired me was that I went into the hospital and I really
Photo by Greg Watermann
wasn’t doing that well. As I started to come around and feel better, I saw a lot of people there with me that hadn’t started feeling better, yet. I felt so much compassion for them because I had just been through the same thing. So, I was kinda, in part, thinking, ‘I swear to God, it gets better, guys! Just hang on in there! No matter how bad or dark or scary it gets, it always gets better! It’s so worth holding on because it just gets better.’ I think that’s where that came from.”
When I told Beth that I thought that God’s hand was on her when she wrote that song, she said:
“Thank you. I’d like to think that because I really feel like it’s such a spiritual experience writing. It’s such a healing and wonderful experience. I’ve always felt like God and the angels kinda help me out there, you know? Kinda show me the way. I need to believe that, you know?”
Realizing that artists don’t like to pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s like picking a favorite child, I asked Ms. Hart which song she would point people to as a calling card for “Better Than Home”.
“It would be, ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me’. It was by far the most challenging. It took the longest time to write it. I didn’t know what it was about in the beginning of writing it even though I had lyrics and I had all of the melody. I had all the music done first, which is what I usually do, anyway. But, I had a lot of lyrics and I couldn’t figure out what were the right lyrics. I pondered over it a couple of years. Then, finally, I realized why I was struggling with the lyric because I finally realized who it was about. It was about my dad. That’s why I was afraid to talk about those feelings. Once I figured out what it was about, then I said, ‘Okay, now let’s get this song done!’ I just love it. I love this song so much! I dedicate the album to my dad. I never dedicated a record to my dad before.”
The title song is truly soul stirring. Beth shared with me the story behind it and how it impacted fans.
“I’m close with a few of my fans and, when I say that, I mean that they’ve become really good friends of mine and they’re usually people who deal with similar things from difficulty in childhood or mental difficulties. So, yeah, they’re always a part because I know they’re my sounding board. I get to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, this is how I’m feeling,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been going through the same thing, lately! This is what I’m doing to get better and this is what I’m doing that’s making me feel better.’ It’s a fantastic thing – especially when I’m writing a song about that.
Photo by Greg Watermann
“For me, ‘Better Than Home’ came from a childhood place of having dreams about things being better; things being different; me taking a different course in my life; the way that I looked at myself and the way that I looked at my own family and the way that I looked at life and creating a new family. I like to think that having a band and, then, also getting married and my manager, David, is like my father. He’s like a father figure to me. I like at that as my new family that I created later in life.
“But it’s really standing before God and what I see as spiritual healing and something that looks over me and guiding me and having the courage to say, ‘This is what I want for my life.’ I think it’s hard when you have such low self esteem to say, ‘This is what I really want for my life’ because you feel like you don’t deserve it.
“So, ‘Better Than Home’ is getting to that place where you realize, despite my insecurities, despite my warped thinking, I absolutely deserve to have everything that I’ve ever wanted: love and health and being able to be responsible for myself and letting go of feeling sorry for myself. All those kinds of things. Music and experiencing life like when you wake up and you go outside and you’re, like, ‘Wow! I’m alive! I’m really lucky and I’m really thankful!’ Those kinds of things.
“What I did, though, when I wrote it, was I made it about the road so, that way, I wouldn’t have to explain that personal thing that I add to the song but I could use the road as an example. What the road means to me is just getting out of your house. It doesn’t necessarily have to be singing and doing a show. It just means getting out of where you’re hiding from and experiencing life again. And THAT is better than home – better than hiding.”
I discovered Beth Hart from her first duet album with guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. She’s also worked with the legendary Jeff Beck and others. A Boomerocity reader who knew I was going to be chatting with Beth wanted to know whom else she would like to work with sometime.
“You know? I would really, really love to do something with Tom Waits. I don’t know him and I’m sure he doesn’t know who the frick I am but I adore him! I adore his writing. I adore his whole vibe. He is so vulnerable and, then, the next minute he’s absolutely hysterical. He’s got such a broad sense of being able to find art in every form of emotion and the way he does it is so brilliant. I would love to even be a fly on the wall in his room when he’s working. That would be amazing. It’s always been him. Whenever I get that question, I always say Tom Waits.”
In my interview with Joe Bonamassa last month, I told him that I was going to be chatting with Beth and asked him for a comment about her, to which he said, “I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention. There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”
When I shared those comments with Ms. Hart, her response was bubbly and from deep within her heart.
“Oh, my god! That is so amazing! Oh, my god! I love him! He’s so sweet! This is how I feel about Joe: I think that Joe is one of the most extraordinary people
Photo by Greg Watermann
because, like Jeff Beck, he really works at his craft. He doesn’t just assume that he has all this talent and that’s all he needs. He works at it. He’s on the road. He’s practicing at home. He’s making records. He’s writing songs. He’s covering songs in a brilliant way. And he’s got a HUGE vocabulary.
“I think it’s, obviously, a great talent there, but it’s like Jeff. Jeff’s got a great talent but he works his ass off at it. He doesn’t take it for granted in any way. He’s striving to always learn and takes on new challenges. I mean, you can see what he’s done with his career. He’s someone who’s never had Pop success; tons of radio play Pop stations and look at his career! It’s phenomenal and it’s because he works at it. He puts it out there. He never takes it for granted. That’s something that really inspired me when I met him was that I saw his work ethic and his total commitment – not only being an artist but really being someone that gets out there and works the shit out of it. That inspired me so much!
“Also, he’s incredibly humble and the easiest person to work with. He really inspires the people around him by allowing them to be themselves and showing them that respect and that love. He focuses on his side of the street. I think what that does is you work with people and you let them see that they’re there because you believe in them and you love them and you’re focusing on your thing and you know that they’re going to focus on their thing. And, when you bring it together, it makes it this amazing chemistry. You get the best out of people. That’s another thing I really saw from him and made it a conscious effort to do that in my life, as well. I love his flavors and his styles on things.
“Obviously, as a player and as a singer - love him as a singer! I love his voice. I love how he doesn’t push and do that whole showboating bullshit thing. He really has faith in the material and he allows those songs to be played and to be sung for the sake of the song instead of for the sake of showboating and showboating is bullshit. We know that, you know? That only goes so far. After three or four songs, you’re done. You’ve seen the showboating. It’s over. With him, you don’t get that. You can watch him for two hours and it’s always special and it’s always something that is humble and comes from a real place of love for music instead of having to show you how amazing he is. His amazement is in how respects the music and at it from that place.”
In addition to what she had shared earlier, Beth shared what else is on her radar for the next year.
Photo by Greg Watermann
“Well, you know, what I decided is doing nine months on the road a year is just too much. It’s getting in the way of my relationships with family, with friends, with being able to be a wife to my husband, and it’s getting in the way of writing. Even thought I work with my husband on the road, it’s still all about the Beth Hart Show. At home, I want to be able to cook for him and go to the beach and ride bikes with him.
“I was telling this to my manager recently. I was saying as a writer, I’m not going to write about airplanes and hotels. Who gives a shit about that? I gotta write about real life and in order to write about real life, I have to be connected to real life.
“So, I think what’s on the focus for me is, like, seven months out of the year on the road, living a real life and being able to write from that place. Being really healthy. Really balanced. I’m forty-three, now. This is the time where you’ve really got to take care of yourself if you want to live to be old and I want to live to be old! I want to have a long life. I want to be able to be there to take care of my husband when he gets really old the way he’s taken such amazing care of me through all my difficulties. So, I’m kinda reprioritizing things and I think it’s a good thing! I feel really good about that.”
If Beth’s future is as full of life as she sounded during our call, then, happily, we should be hearing from this beautiful and amazingly talented woman for many years to come . . . and that’s a wonderful thing.