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Interview: Beth Hart

9 min read

Over the best part of the last 3 decades, singer-songwriter and one of the most talented pianists in the music industry, Beth Hart has solidified her place as the true queen of the blues. She rose to fame in the nineties at the height of the female singer-songwriter movement alongside fellow hit-makers like Alanis Morissette, Lisa Loeb and Jewel but times we much tougher for Hart who suffered tragedy and a long fight with addiction; experiences that have made her into a musician with a high sense of perspective and an artist that is devoted to her craft and to her fans.

With a career dotted with success and achievement over several solo albums and an acclaimed musical partnership with long-time friend and musician Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart is about to release one of the finest records of her career. Better Than Home, which features Hart’s latest single Mechanical Heart, is released over the coming weeks and ahead of touching down at Australia’s Bluesfest to mesmerize punters as well as a show at Sydney’s Metro Theatre tonight, we caught up with Beth to discuss the new record and what fans can expect from these brand new shows. Here is what she had to tell us….

Brendon Veevers: Hi Beth! how are you and where in this great big world does our interview find you?

Beth Hart: Hello, I am right now in London doing promo for my latest record Better Than Home, and I’ve just finished a 3 week tour of the States, and then I pick it up in New Zealand in a week and a half or so.

Beth Hart Better Than HomeBV: You recently released you latest single Mechanical Heart. Can you tell us a little about the track and what inspired you the most during the writing and recording of the song?

BH: This song is a song for my husband and it is about the thing that I find difficult and that I feel sad for him, because he is such an incredible and loving man always- he’s always very stable, and I on the other hand am kind of a basket case, and I’ve got a lot of weird mood swings and I wish sometimes so much that I could be more stable for him and make him feel as wonderful and happy as what he does for me every day. So the positive thing in the song is that even though I’m aware of these weaknesses I vow to bring him everything he deserves and to never stop trying, no matter what.

BV: The song sounds very personal and exposing. Is the track written from personal experiences?

BH: Yes, all of my songs are written from personal experiences, that’s how I write.

BV: Mechanical Heart is the first release from your upcoming album, Better Than Home. Would you say the style and depth of Mechanical Heart is indicative of the rest of the new record?

BH: I think the album overall is a singer/songwriter’s album. I would place it in the category of Americana music, it has tinges of soul and blues and jazz and even old-style country and a few moments of old-style rock. But overall I really just consider it a singer/songwriter record and each song has its own life-force.

BV: Talk to us a little about the creative process behind the new album. Where would you say you drew inspiration from when it came to sitting down and writing these new songs?

BH: Well, life inspires me so I’m always writing. On the road I tend to just come up with ideas that I put onto my iPhone, but in terms of really getting into the bulk of the work and completing it I need to be at home. So I’m always working on material and on this album in particular I had written well over 40 songs that I turned into the producers, who were Michael Stevens and Rob Mathes.

BV: What were you like in the studio during the recording process of Better Than Home? Did you go into the studio with a clear vision of how you wanted the record to sound or did this evolve over time and more spontaneously?

BH: We spent 7 days in the studio recording and mixed it for several weeks afterwards. I worked on the writing of the record over a period of a year and a half, turning in the songs as I finished them and having discussions with the producers of which would be best for us to choose to go into the studio. We chose 12 of the plus 40 songs and then chose 11 from that batch to be used for release.

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BV: How do you feel about recording and releasing songs that come from such deep and emotional places? Is wearing your heart on your sleeve something that you have always been able to do or is it a raw, vulnerable experience for you?

BH: I’ve always written from a vulnerable place and I’ve always been really really open about my struggles as well as my personal belief in things. It’s just kind of my personality, so it’s not uncomfortable to do. But writing about the joy in my life was very uncomfortable for me to do on this record because it was something that I hadn’t done before. So that was a different type of vulnerability than what I had experienced before. And that was not easy, but I’m very happy that I did it.

BV: Better Than Home has been produced by Michael Stevens and Rob Mathes. What drew you to working with Michael and Rob on this new record?

BH: Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens were the musical director and the director of The Kennedy Center Honors. I did the Kennedy Centre Honors with Jeff Beck and after we completed our performance the producer and music producer approached me and said they were interested in making an album with me. And so we took it from there.

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BV: I was very fortunate to meet you backstage at Isle of Wight Festival in 2012 when you played the and you gave me a very warm hug and were so sweet. I held my cool despite being a big Beth Hart fan but there must be some pretty intense fans out there. Have you had any funny/crazy fan encounters over the years that you can tell us about?

BH: No, I mean – I think I’m the crazy one, so everybody else I meet is pretty sane to me.

BV: As someone who has been successful for many years and who has been affected by and a part of the many changes of the music industry over the last 20 years, with reality talent shows and the digital era taking a firm grip of the industry, what are your thoughts on the current landscape of the music industry?

BH: Well I think it’s a shame that people work so hard to make records that basically are being given away for free of course, and that of course is due to downloading. I think that’s a terrible, terrible thing. It would be like, you know, someone who worked really hard to learn how to be a plumber, or someone who worked really hard to learn how to be a teacher, or someone who worked really hard to learn how to be a doctor, and then people expecting them to do their work for free. It’s really unfair, so that’s too bad. But on the other hand I really do love all the technology, it’s so much fun and I love my iPhone, I record all my music onto it – it’s fantastic.

BV: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment of your professional career? Of your many achievements, what stands out for you the most?

BH: I think that my greatest accomplishment has simply been that I’ve never quit.  And that is the thing that I’m most proud of.

I would say what stands out for me the most was when I recorded Live At The Paradiso in Amsterdam, because this was my first performance in front of such a wonderful audience that had come right after I’d gotten sober, and I was very ill when I was messed up on my drugs, so for me to have gotten sober, but then to have got not only a second chance at being alive, but to get a second chance at making music – this was a very spectacular night for me, and bought me a lot of joy, a lot of comfort. I’m so forever grateful to the Dutch audience – they’re so wonderful to me there.

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BV: Despite the success, the journey has been very tough at times and you are very honest and open about the difficulties that you have faced in your personal and professional life. Regardless of the hurdles you always seem to come through the other side a much stronger person and the new music is a true testament of that. When times get tough, what pulls you through?

BH: When times get tough for me my husband is someone that I cling to, always, he’s a wonderful man. God and my prayers, reading the word of God and going to church – this is very powerful. This gives me incredible strength. Sitting at the piano, writing songs – getting out the feelings. Taking medication for my bi-polar has been very helpful for me. Working closely with a very good doctor and doing talk therapy has been very good for me. And also saying positive words out loud – really professing out loud good things and trying to create my world by the words that I speak. So using as positive and as loving language that I can. This is actually something that I’ve started doing quite recently, so I’m very early at it.  But wish me luck.

BV: You are currently on the road, taking the new songs to your fans. How have fans reacted to the new material so far?

BH: Thankfully they have been reacting fantastically. They have been so loving and so sweet – I have just enjoyed every minute of it.

BV: You will be playing Australia very soon as part of Bluesfest and also performing some sideshows while you are down under. What can Australian fans expect from the upcoming shows?

BH: So my shows are always this – I mix different songs from different records that I’ve done so that way in case someone only has maybe one record of mine they may hear a couple of songs that they know quite well and then of course I include several songs of the latest record that I’m performing.

However each night the show does change as I cannot play the same show twice because I get bored way too fast. I also want to keep it fresh for fans that may be coming to show after show after show.

BV: Will you be bringing the band with you or will it be more of a one-woman show?

BH: I will be bringing my band and I can’t wait for everybody to see ‘em.

BV: Thanks so much Beth.

BH: Thank you so much you and God bless you guys

Beth Hart’s new album Better Than Home is out on April 10th in Australia, April 13th in the UK and April 14th in the US.

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