Beth Hart is an artist that has seen as many ups and downs in a career as anyone. After winning Star Search (a television talent show that inspired many of today’s shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent and X-Factor) at just 19 years old, Beth finally got her record deal with Atlantic Records a couple of years later. After struggling with addiction and mental health issues though, she lost most everything that was important to her in her life. Not one to give up, she battled through her addictions and bouts with bi-polar disorder to arrive where she is now; Making fantastic music with a renewed spirit and a clear mind. Her new album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, which I reviewed here, is a stunning work of art. She has a new covers album titled Seesaw with Joe Bonamassa coming out on May 20th, and she will support Joe in Europe where they will ultimately film a DVD together. Her journey is an intriguing one, and to say that Beth is a shining example of what someone can become through hard work, surrounding themselves with love and the dedication to want to be a better human being would simply not do her justice. She is much more than that and I think you will see that shine through in her personality. She’s not afraid of who she is or where she’s from. She’s adamant about being helpful to anyone who needs it. I had the chance to speak with Beth and below is our conversation. I truly think you will enjoy it.
You can listen to the entire Beth Hart interview below:
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Today, I’m honored to be joined by Beth Hart. Beth is a solo artist and one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard. First off, thank you so very much for taking the time to speak with us today, and welcome to the Unsung Melody family.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
I want to get started by talking a bit about your new album, which was recently released here in the US. Bang Bang Boom Boom is the title of the record and I was absolutely captivated by it. I’m not just heaping praise here, I was honestly mesmerized. The record seems to be a bit happier in its messages this time around. Tell us a little bit about the record and how life may have affected your lyrical approach.
Yeah, it really is different from my past records and I’m really excited about that. If for no other reason, it’s wonderful to be embarking on a new path, writing-wise and vocals-wise. I’ve been doing a lot of rock and roll, progressive and hard, as well as singer-songwriter stuff for years. I had the opportunity to work with Joe Bonamassa on a record called Don’t Explain. It was a covers record of jazz and blues and soul music. It really was such a great experience and it caught me off guard how much fun I was having and how happy I was doing that music. So, I decided that I would challenge myself to go in that direction as a writer and see what happened. But, I knew that I wanted to do it no matter what. If it took me 10 years to put out a record, I didn’t care. I was going to go in that direction no matter what. So, I did and Bang Bang is the result of that.
It kind of sounds like the experience with Joe kind of awoken your spirit.
The first single is the title track, Bang Bang Boom Boom. It’s a fun, quirky little tune, but the message is quite different. I love the contrasting styles. During the writing and recording of this record, at what point was this song written? I ask because it seems quite a bit different than the rest of the record, yet it certainly doesn’t sound out of place.
Oh, thank you. Bang Bang Boom Boom was a fast write. I wrote it with an old friend of mine. We’ve written plenty in the past, he’s wonderful, Rune Westberg. We were just sitting around a studio one day working on a song that wasn’t really going anywhere and then out of the blue, that (audible piano sounds from Bang Bang Boom Boom) just came out and we’re like, “Oh, this is kind of fun.” The next thing we knew, we were just kind of fiddling with a lyric and then on accident, I didn’t have anything else to say and I said Bang Bang Bang. He said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. What was that?” I said, “I don’t know, I’m just whatever. We’ve got to find a lyric.” He said, “That’s the lyric. Bang Bang Bang!” Later the Boom Boom Boom came. We had so much fun. So we decided to demo it. We demoed it and then I turned it in later to the wonderful Kevin Shirley and we recorded it for the record. So, it was a lot of fun and it was fast.
Someone, I’m not naming names here, but someone had an appearance on Conan recently.
Yes. How fun is that huh? I was so excited. I had just gotten finished doing Madison Square with Jeff (Beck) and I’d come back home after being out on the road for about two and a half months. I was pretty tired. It was my time to take a rest week and my husband came in and said, “Sorry man. No rest. We’ve got Conan tomorrow.” So, we got to do the show. I got to meet him. He is so funny and so charming. It was great.
Spirit of God is an amazing song that really takes us to church. It’s very uplifting. In a day where most seem to shy away from anything spiritually related, you come out confessing. I absolutely love that. Has religion helped you get to this point musically?
I think that it has. I know since I was a young girl, my mother had taken me to a Catholic church a bit, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea because I’m a pretty wild, outgoing kid. Here I was told that I had to be pretty quiet. So, I wasn’t really interested in going. But, as a kid, I had a lot of struggles mentally. So, I remember that I would just talk to God all day. Just for little things, to help me get through. This was at a really young age, like six or seven. One day I stumbled, well, we belonged to a country club and one of the back houses they rented out for weddings or different functions. Usually, it was empty and there was a piano in there. I would always go up and play. Then one day, I stumbled into a Baptist church that was in there. That just changed me. I was about six and the preacher said come on in child. Everyone was dancing, and singing, and raising up their hands and having the best time. They were so loving to me and then he prayed over me afterwards. It was just an extraordinary thing. Yeah, so Spirit of God, that song is about that experience as a little girl, but it’s played a huge part. I’m not someone who goes to church every Sunday. I like to sneak in there when there’s nobody in there and try to play on their organ or piano if they let me. I love being inside of a church. It doesn’t matter what kind of a church it is. I just like being inside a church, the feeling of it.
One song in particular that really reached out, grabbed me and simply would not let go, was Everything Must Change. It seems very personal, but if you would, I’d love to know more about the process and the meaning of that song to you.
That song means a lot to me. The story I’m going to tell you may not be the most joyous story, but it’s an honest story of that song. I spent quite a bit of time in and out of hospitals for bi-polar disorder, off and on my entire life. That song was written about the last time I was in. That time, I was in there for an extended period. I remembered when I went in. I always have a good time in there, because I’m always manic at first. So, I’m bouncing off the walls. Then after a while, my brain settles down and I’m just able to really see the reality of where I am. On that day, I realized what a difficult disease, of any type of mental illness is. How it just seemingly wants to steal your soul. Then, I thought about the hope in that, it doesn’t stay that way all the time. Sometimes you get a break from it. Sometimes if you take your medication you really get a break from it. So, even though we know the joyous things must go and fade away, and hopefully new joyous things come into our lives. But so does, thankfully, pain has its time and its ending. So, that was the thing that I thought about that day. With myself there and with all the people in there. That it’s okay. This will pass. We will be better. We may come back, but we will also be well again and that is life with it’s ups and downs and I think it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t think it’s such a tragedy. There’s something about the downs that teach me how to appreciate when I am joyous and free. Ya know?
I think most families have an individual who struggles with certain things like addiction. I know in my family, that is my aunt. She’s been told that one more drink could kill her, yet she seems to continually find a way to put herself into intensive care, what seems like monthly. Your story is one that has given me hope. Hope that one day something would simply click for her and things can change. She’s in her mid-50’s now, but I hope and pray for a change every day. So, not only do I want to say congratulations on your recovery, but thank you for inspiring hope in me, and I’m sure others as well. If you could say one thing to an individual that struggles with addiction, what would you tell them?
Probably #1, I would say some form of prayer. It doesn’t have to necessarily be, you can call it God like I do, or you could call it nature. Have some form of power that you believe is looking over you and that loves you and that will help you. You just have to let it help you. That’s one.
#2 I would say go to meetings. Get involved with some type of recovery group and be willing to go. I don’t know anyone who likes them in the beginning, but you go until suddenly you love to go and you get it and you feel a part of. There’s something very powerful about working with people who’ve been through the same thing you’re going through and have managed to get free from it. If you spend enough time with people like that, they will show you how they did it and you take from it what you will use and there’s something amazingly powerful about that. It’s funny, we see on the news a lot how difficult, how tragic the world is, and all these terrible things, but we don’t see enough about how many people there really are that really do want to help. Just for the sake of seeing you happy and seeing you free. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing. That’s what has helped me so much in sobriety. It’s still a struggle. I’m not perfect. It’s not about that, but there is a daily reprieve that is waiting there. But, just be willing to have people show you the way and then some form of power that you know will support you and look over you. That’s what has worked for me.
I thank you so much for taking the time to go through that.
Absolutely. My pleasure. I don’t want my experiences to go in vain, so by sharing my stuff, hopefully it can maybe give someone else some hope. Someone going, “Hey, I’ve got her same story and she’s doing better. Maybe I can be doing better too.” It’s a good thing.
We touched upon Joe Bonamassa earlier. I hear that there might be a DVD coming and I know that the new album Seesaw drops May 20th.
Yeah. I’m excited about that.
I heard the one song and then I saw the video that I think Kevin had put together and, wow what a note that you hit in the middle of that video.
(Laughter) The scream one? My husband and I laugh every time we see it. It’s funny. Oh gosh.
I heard that you may be doing a few dates with Joe here in the States?
We’re not going to be doing a few dates in the States, for now anyway. We are starting a small tour together at the end of June in Europe, because we’re going to to do a live DVD at the Carre Theatre in Holland. So, I’m looking forward to that, but somehow I’m going to twist his arm enough to get him to tour with me here, because he’s just so fantastic and I love him. Every time I’m in the same room with him, I’m happy. So hopefully, we’ll get to do something here.
It seems like forever since you actually toured the States, but I know that you’ve got a few dates soon in Austin and Nashville, and some different cities. How eager are you to get out there and prove yourself here again?
Oh my gosh! It’s the most amazing opportunity. I’m starting my first tour here in the United States in over 10 years. It’s coming up in a couple days and I have been so eager. Especially these last couple of years, I’ve been wanting to get going back in the States, because before that, I was beyond reluctant because I felt ashamed. I felt like I didn’t deserve it, because I pretty much had blown everything down back in the late 90’s with my addictions and some of my problems. So, I just felt ashamed and through a lot of work, finally I was able to come up out of that and really by coincidence, right when I came up out of that, the next thing I knew I was getting offered a deal here in the States to release a record. So, it was really wild. Just shifting my belief in myself that I could play here again and this time do it in a healthy and a positive manner. Just the next thing I knew, it was like, “Okay, here’s the opportunity to do it.” So, I’m thrilled beyond. It’s wonderful.
One of the hardest things in life, for me at least, was to change my whole mentality to try and think positive. You’ve always heard, think positive and positive things will happen. I always thought, whatever. That’s malarkey, but it’s honestly true. You set out to do what you want to do and just go for it. Recently, you performed with another, lesser known guitarist. Some guy named Jeff Beck. I don’t know if anyone has ever heard of him, ya know?
I love him so much. Yeah, Mr. Jeff Beck. What a treat he is. He’s wonderful.
The one performance that I want to speak of is when I saw Buddy Guy in concert a couple months after the performance you guys did at the Kennedy Centers Honors. You sang I’d Rather Go Blind, which you originally released on the record with Joe Bonamassa that we talked about earlier. How much of an honor was it for you, to basically stand there and belt out for Buddy Guy?
Absolute highest honor of my whole life experience in music, without a doubt. When Jeff first asked me to do it, I was nervous, but I immediately said to myself, “Put those nerves away. This is not about you. This about Buddy Guy and you focus in on doing the song that you hopefully are going to really move him and make him feel proud that you are up there honoring him.” I knew that one of his favorite singers of all time was Etta James and one of her fabulous songs was I’d Rather Go Blind. So, just then I thought, what better song to try to perform for him than that one? So, we got to work, then it was time. We showed up there. I remember walking out on the stage (Oh my God!) and I see the president there and his wife, Led Zeppelin and all these great artists that I have so looked up to all my life, but then of course, there’s Buddy. I don’t think there’s anyone that loves the blues who doesn’t idolize Mr. Buddy Guy. So, I was so proud and filled with gratitude and grace and love. It was just spectacular. What a great moment. Great moment for me.
He is still so full of life. He is so awesome. I love Buddy.
Isn’t he just unbelievable? I love his quote. He says, “You play the blues because you’ve got ’em. Then when you play ’em, you lose ’em.” Isn’t that the coolest way to put it!
That’s awesome. I read where you had a really sinking feeling after winning Star Search as a 19-year old. A “where do you go from here” moment, if you will. Coming from a television competition, which is obviously a very popular thing on television now, do you feel that the pressures are inevitably worth the risk or would you warn people against such things?
That’s a great question. At the time when I did that show, if you were a singer on that show, you were considered unauthentic. If you were a comic, it was totally acceptable and a cool thing to do. I was so broke and a buddy of mine paid me $50 to go audition. So, I said absolutely. I’m going to go audition. Never thinking that they would have me on the show. Never in a million years. The kind of music I was doing, my style was very different from what the show was. So, I thought, I’m never gonna get it, but I’ll take that $50 to take that audition. Anyway, I did the audition and I got the gig and I told them that I didn’t want to do it because of that same thing that we were just discussing. Then the producer told me it was cool. I could do my own music and dress how I wanted. I asked him if I could bring my own producer out. Anyway, I’m so glad I did because I had the best time in the world doing that show. It also took away any fear later on in my life when it came to television, which is an important part of doing the music business. You want to do television. It’s a great way to get to people, but it can be nerve-wracking if you’re not used to it. Doing that show really made me fall in love with television. The crew and everybody that works on the shows are just so on it. Just nice people. I’ve never had a bad experience since then on television either. But, it did hurt my career because I couldn’t get a record deal. I did an independent record, but I couldn’t get like a big record deal to help push me out there and let people know that I existed or to let people know that I had an original record for them. That went for a couple years and finally I got my deal with Atlantic. I think it was all worth it. I had a great time. Today, I don’t so much watch those shows, but I think it’s a great way. It’s a competitive business. So, it’s a great way to let people know that you exist. Television, what is a more powerful medium than that?
My big concern with them nowadays is you see all these 15 year old kids on the television that have probably never played a show in their life and they are bypassing the life experiences that will give you what it takes to be an artist. That’s kind of my issue with those shows.
I hear what you’re saying. I figure, if you’re going to do music, in terms of the level of you wanting to get it out to people…It’s one thing to do music for yourself and do it at home or your family and that’s awesome. But, if you want to take music out to the public, no matter what, your career is going to beat you up. Nobody has that perfect career. That being beat up is a great way, like I think that’s what you were suggesting, of getting those calluses and really being able to have more things to write from and to be inspired from by it being so difficult and becoming strong. Being able to work through that. So, whether you do a TV show or not or you get some fame out of that or whatever, there’s always going to be pitfalls in every career. So no matter what, as long as you stick to it, you’re going to grow as an artist. That might take you a couple of years, it might take you 20 years, but it’s all good. Each of us all have our own special journey. I figure take every opportunity that comes your way. Especially when you are unknown and trying to get something going. After that, maybe then it’s important to think about things, but I think in the beginning, you just take whatever comes your way. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. That’s how I feel.
Just go for the break. I gotcha. I can deal with that. I see where you’re coming from. You performed on Off-Broadway in the past. Do you think the theatre is something you would ever consider again?
Absolutely! God is that a good time, but a lot of hard work. I don’t know how they do it. Eight shows a week and I did not know what I was getting myself into doing all those shows, but I was young when I did it and I had a really good time. I think that anytime where there’s a live situation where you know this is it, there’s no taking it back, you’ve got to do it. There is something fantastic about the electricity in that, but I just had a ball.
Alright, I always end on a random question. For your random question today, I’ll ask a simple one. Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms and why? (Laughter)
They’re both so good, but I’d probably have to choose Lucky Charms, because I love the different colors and the little figures inside of it and it tastes really good. Plus, it’s lucky. So, hey, I need all the luck I can get. I pick Lucky Charms.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Beth. Hopefully it wasn’t too painful.
It wasn’t painful at all. It was wonderful. You are a sweetheart. Thank you so much for the interview.
The site and myself wish you absolutely nothing but the best and I hope we can get caught up at a show at some point in the near future.
Oh God, I would just love that. That would be great.
I appreciate your time and you be safe in all your adventures and bring it on home. I can’t wait to see you on TV again soon.
Preview or purchase Bang Bang Boom Boom below:
Check out the video to Bang Bang Boom Boom below:
See Beth’s performance with Jeff Beck in honor of Buddy Guy below:
Check out Beth’s performance on Conan below: