Home > Interviews > Beth Hart – strong musician in good and bad times

Beth Hart – strong musician in good and bad times

text: Silvia Deurwaarder
photo’s: Femke Hansen, Monica Duffels en Henk-Jan Graven

Beth Hart  is an astonishing sing-a-song-writer and also a very open person. It is hard to define what makes her so interesting. When I heard ‘ Leave The Light On’ accidental on the radio it changed my whole musical live.

It is my personal example how she touched many people over the years. Her raw, rich coloured voice makes every live performance unique and full of emotions.

With the hit  ‘LA Song (Out Of This Town)’  in 1999 grows her fan base, especially in candinavia and The Netherlands. ‘Leave The Light On’ (2003) is her most successful album so far. On the Dutch Dauwpop festival there is the change for an agile conversation with this grandiose artist.
I am curious about her inspiration for new songs. On the Dauwpop show she changed old songs and gave them a new atmosphere, like with the song ‘Lifts You Up.’
Beth Hart: I started with a new record the month before I took off this tour. I am working with a new producer, really an amazing guy. I did one song with him years ago called ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ ( song on ‘Leave The Light On’ album – SD) and he is crazy talented.
We got four songs done do far and it is way more old old old school soul. I still have some hard rock stuff, and still a few story-telling-ballades. But there will be more horns, background black-singers, and the whole soul feeling!

 Influences

She is smiling when she says this, sitting on the wooden picknick-bench. With her sunglasses on. I ask her if she found the atmosphere to develop her soul side more. “Yes! Favourite singers like Aretha Franklin are a strong inspiration. It is all about soul and groove.”

That sounds promising, because it took a while to write your last album. It happened before, after the success of ‘ LA Song’ you needed time to write new songs as well.

I needed to create a different live; I think that is the topic for me so far.  In the past many people scared me because they judged my music. Now I try not to make a big deal of it. It is music and I should be entertaining the people, writing and having fun. It is not brain surgery.”

It is not like analysing yourself anymore?

Exactly, it doesn’t matter. I just want to do my show and when it sucked it doesn’t matter, nobody dies. When I do a great show and everybody loved it, it is still over.”

You needed time to no perfectionist, but everybody makes mistakes?
It is funny that you say that, because I am saying that a lot to myself when I think about some of the people in my past. They said things to me that were hurtful. And it kind of get’s me mad. Then I think ‘I said things to people that were hurtful and it is not intentional for him, it was stupid.’”
I don’t want to get personal, but after her ‘welcomes- hug’ I have the feeling it will be an open conversation. So I mention that I  recognize feelings like struggling and having hope in many of her songs, what touches me a lot. Beth Hart has an own interpretation:
” With women specially, we know we live in a men’s world and it is kind of hard to be confident like men. Whey they get older, they get better looking. When we get older, they say it is worse but that is not true. I think it is harder to be secure of yourself if you are a woman in this world. You have to love yourself and that is hard.”

Bravery

You must have a more more confident felling, because you can write songs in the good and the bad times.

No I think my life will always be with a lot of ups and downs. There is a history of mental illness. My brain is sometimes able to see live for what it is. On other times my brain is not seeing things normal.

You never know when a relapse of your brain comes. Because of that I prepare myself: to know that sometimes I be sane and getting along with people and be able to work. I go to mental hospitals, I can function on the outside..”

Then she is silent for a while, moves her cigarettes on the table, looks up and continues:
“It is like ‘real’ for me since I was a kid. It is a part of me. It is ok, everybody has their difficulties to deal with.  At least I have the doctors and supportive friends. I take good medication and I do better…
Last year I had a total relapse and I went to the mental hospital for a month. It is scary in there because everybody is really gone: see things that aren’t there.. I am not schizophrenic, but one blowing… but it mix with good song writing you know!
She can laugh about it, but it makes me silent because  – like many others – I recognize her dark periods. It is very brave of her to accept that part of herself. That is a long and difficult process, referring to own experiences.
It is amazing you say that! For so many years people have been telling the doctors in hospitals they going to, other explanations. I kept saying ‘ No that is because I did drugs or drank.’ Too much alcohol so my mind is not working. 
They said ‘ No you use drugs and alcohol to try to make your brain feel better, because it is hard.’  And this past year I said what you just said, I finally ingested and came to believe that yes there is a disorder, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”
It is just bad luck and feeling guilty is not the best solution.
It is manageable as long as I let everybody around me know what I have, so they can understand me. I ask God; help me to remember the love for myself and take the medicine. And expect that sometimes things are very good and sometimes are very hard. That is live, we all go trough it.”

It is open hearted that you dare to talk about it.

“It would be selfish and insane if I kept it to myself. In the career I am in, I am very fortuned to be able to do an interview with you, because someone is a fan out there reading the article saying ‘she is dealing with this too and I am not a bad person.”

37 Days

To create some air in the conversation we change the subject to her ‘ 37 Days’ album. Between the last two albums there happened a lot: new band members and a better platform to create something new. She recorded recently ‘Californication’ (2011) with studio musicians, but uses the same band members live on stage.

The band and I have been writing a lot all those years, but we toured so much. We didn’t make the record earlier, because we wanted to do something different. Not hire a producer, go into the studio and make an album. We wanted to rehearse our asses of for months and months. So that when we made the record we would do it all live.

Singning, playing, guitars and drums: everything in the same time. Not taking track after track. Doing vocals and the rest later. We made the record in 1,5 week. Then we went mixing, added background singing and arrangements.  After all it took 37 days to make it.” 

That proved the good teamwork and made you proud as a band?
Definitely, it was total teamwork. Every person in my band was responsible for making that record. In terms of the song writing: I will write my own things about how I feel. Sometimes I hear interesting stories and l write about what they feel.  Only put it in the first person.
If you put the story like it is you happening it, than it is more thoughtful. Instead of ‘ I talked to Mary today and she is in a lot of pain and this is what is going with…’  Sometimes maybe, but when someone is hearing I and Me it is stronger.”
So it is not all a biography but little elements, you just translate the emotions on stage?
It is so amazing when I listen to a lot of people I see how much alike we all are. Our fears, dreams… it is all similar and I love that. The most special thing about anybody is not the unique but what’s similar we all connected to.”

Dauwpop
For the first time there a long tour planned in Germany during the summer. The Dauwpop festival is a short break in the schedule.
Germany is been amazing for us on this tour, because I was very scared. I was worried because the economy is suffering and it is very hard to take my whole band on the road. It was just Jon Nichols (guitarist) and me on this whole tour. I knew it worked in Denmark because they prefer the more songwriter/ acoustic songs. Germany I know, like Holland, likes rock.
I was so scared and it was a better reaction. I was so happy. Especially because it is so expensive to bring the whole band. When we would have a hit somewhere, or a real amazing under crowd following like in The Netherlands I can effort the band. Otherwise it is good to know that we can do a good show just acoustic. We had such a good time there!
Unfortunately Beth Hart and her crew need to pack their bags and travel further. She takes the time for a last personal message and a quick photo shoot. Then finally the sunglasses go off.
So welcome. I want to say that how you are as a journalist is so wonderful. Because you are very kind and I found out that some journalists can be a little hard on you and you don’t get a good interview that way. All artists, like anybody, are sensitive.
Everybody is sensitive. When I have to meet someone for the first time and acts like ‘ blabla,’ I have the feeling I don’t want to talk to him. But when it is like you, when the person is save, than I talk to you. Thank you, awesome interview!”


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