Beth Hart is a powerhouse. Armed with an amazing voice and loads of musical talent, she is back on tour in the U.S. after over a decade. This tour is a personal victory for Hart. She has been working to re-establish her career in the U.S. for some time. In the late 90’s she was living the dream. Major label support, a hit single, great press, choice tours and national TV bookings. However addiction and an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder sent her career into a tailspin. She hit rock bottom. Hart has turned her life around since. Healthy, happy, married and clean for the past ten years, she is ready to hit the ground running.
Beth Hart is playing at the Ohio River Throwdown Saturday featuring Tedeschi Trucks Bands, The Ridges (Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg), Carolina Chocolate Drops and Los Lobos.
Do not miss seeing Hart on Saturday, her voice is one like you have never heard. It will knock the breath out you upon first note. I got the chance to speak to this amazing woman recently about her comeback. One I have been patiently waiting over a decade for.
CincyMusic.com: I fell in love with your song, “L.A. Song” back in the late 90’s and have been following you ever since. I have been checking your website religiously since looking out for tour dates and this is your first time back touring in the states! What kept you away so long?
Beth Hart: It’s kind of a combination of things. One of the things was that I started my career over in a place that I felt comfortable and that I felt welcome. I started it back in Holland and over the past ten years have slowly building it up there. I really felt afraid to come back here and tour. Everything that happened to me in the late 90’s was so traumatic. I felt very ashamed and very embarrassed. And I think when you go through a traumatic experience; it’s very natural to have PTSD. I think that was the case for me, I kept thinking that if I started working in the states again, what if it happens again. What if I get screwed up on drugs again and start starving myself and all that crap. And it stayed that way for years… for years I felt that way. Then about 3 years ago, something shifted. I remember getting a little pissed at myself and saying, “What are you doing? Why are you so afraid? Everything is going to be ok. I mean at the very worst, if it did happen again, well so what. I mean, fuck it. This is life. Shit happens, sometimes we get over our stuff and sometimes we struggle with it. But it’s not like we are God or Superman, you are just a woman and you struggle with addiction and just go for it (touring).” Also, I’ve been married now for a bunch of years and that gave me strength. I also take medicine now for my bi-polar disorder this really helps with some of the paranoia and the obsessive compulsiveness. I have a lot of support. So I just decided I wanted to get something going. But just because I said that didn’t mean that people would pop out of the woodwork and be like, “Hey come out on tour with us!” But…it kind of did happen that way. My record company in Europe decided to open up a label in the U.S. right around the time I was feeling this. The next thing I knew we were releasing, Bang Bank Boom Boom and we did our first tour in the States and now we are onto another one. This time I am opening for The Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepard. So it’s really exciting, I think more than anything the most exciting part for me is not having this terror that I would assume I would have and having a real sense of forgiveness for myself. That’s the most wonderful part for me. It took a lot of hard work, but I got there.
CM: Buddy Guy asked you to sing on his album, Rhythm & Blues. How did that transpire?
BH: Oh my God, it was so cool. I was at The Crossroads festival with Jeff (Beck) and afterwards I was hanging with Buddy’s assistant. I went backstage with her and I popped my head in to his dressing room and said something along the lines of, “Good Evening Sir. It’s really wonderful to see you and it was a wonderful night”. A few minutes later his producer came running up to me and asked if I would want to do a song with Buddy for the record. I said, yes of course!
CM: What’s it like on tour? I’ve seen you perform live (on YouTube) and you really seem to give it your all.
BH: I’ve had a lot of years to learn about my voice and I’ve never really had vocal problems, more so mental problems. I received a lot of vocal training when I was young. Anytime I’ve canceled shows, it’s been for mental reasons. I did reach a point in my career that I said to myself that I am only allowed to cancel if I have laryngitis or a terrible flu. I also work out a lot and eat right. I take really good care of myself so I can have the energy to do the shows. I’m in my early 40’s now and that is one thing I am really happy that I’ve always done, even on the drugs and alcohol, I have always managed to work out. That is something that has kept my heart strong and given me the energy to get up on that stage. However, I did always smoke. I would quit now and then, the longest being a year and a half. Then I had a doctor that said I had emphysema and I couldn’t breathe for like 3 months. So I just quit smoking, started praying and I really made a commitment to myself to not only not smoke but also to do breathing exercises. A week later, I was running, then soon after I went back to the doctor and he said that I did not have emphysema anymore. It was so amazing. I have received miracles like that in my life before and I just really feel like I get second chances and I can’t take advantage of that anymore. I need to really appreciate and be respectful. I have been really blessed. I do think I have had many more miracles and love in my life than hate, fear and illness.
CM: I read that when you were very young, you awoke in the middle of the night and began playing Beethoven on the piano by ear?
BH: Yeah, I was 4, I played it by ear, it was just a little bit but enough for my parents to put me into piano lessons, with Mrs. Davis. My first recital (also at the age of 4) I did was actually of one of the songs that I written. I started out on piano and cello, no singing. I wanted to be a classical musician. I didn’t start singing until I was about 7. I went to see the musical Annie with my mom and I just loved it. Around that time Grease came out too. I learned both of those records like the back of my hand. I would just sing in front of my mom, I just really liked performing and making my mom happy. I didn’t think about singing though until a bit later when I decided I wanted to be an opera singer. I started taking lessons at about 14 with Rhonda Dillon, who was a wonderful singer. I loved to go watch her sing. One day she told me that she thought I did my own thing to much and maybe classical music wasn’t for me.
CM: Any advice for a musician just getting started?
BH: Geez, I’m not very good at giving advice. But if I had to say anything, I would say do not get into this business thinking you are going to make it or you are going to make money. The majority of us don’t. And it has nothing to do with your talent. It’s really important to remember that. If you get out and you play for people it should be because you want to bring people joy. If your aim is to make money or to be a star, this is not the right business for you. Work with others, be humble and challenge yourself. And just make yourself happy. If more comes from that, that’s fucking awesome!
Ohio River Throwdown
Riverbend Music Center
Saturday September 14th