Following her performance at London’s BluesFest at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2014, Grammy nominated singer-songriter Beth Hart will embark on a seven date UK tour in May 2015.
The dates are: Bristol Colston Hall (Friday 1 May), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (Sunday 3 May), Glasgow O2 ABC (Wednesday 6 May), London Barbican (Friday 8 May), Leeds O2 Academy (Saturday 9 May), Cambridge Corn Exchange (Monday 11 May), and Nottingham Rock City (Wednesday 13 May).
It has been said that when Beth Hart sings “clocks stop, hearts dance and neck-hair tingles” Her life story is just as compelling. “There was definitely difficult stuff,” the singer reflected “But there was incredible stuff as well. I wouldn’t change any of it, because you bring your experiences to the music.”
Picture the scene: It’s midnight in the mid 70s, and in a slumbering Los Angeles family home, four year-old Beth Hart is about to cause her first musical disturbance, as the lady herself takes up the story.
“There was this commercial for pianos on TV, and the music was Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, which was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. So in the middle of the night, I got up and played part of that song on the piano. My mother, father and all the other kids came out and they gave me so much love and attention, I knew right away this little ham had to have it. So I always knew I wanted to do it. I just knew.”
“I thought I’d be a classical pianist or cellist, go to Juilliard. When I did start singing, I took opera lessons and my teacher was wonderful, but one day she goes, ‘Beth, I don’t think classical is for you, because you like to do your own thing with the music’. That’s when I started putting singing to my own music.”
Hart’s back catalogue is eclectic, her formative tastes even more so, taking in jazz, rock, blues, gospel and grunge. “Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald: I’m fascinated by them,” she says, “But then when I heard Robert Plant and Chris Cornell, I couldn’t get over their power. But then, Rickie Lee Jones and James Taylor, their voices were so lovely and soft.”
Paying her dues playing an acoustic guitar around LA clubs, in 1993 a $50 bet with a friend led her onto a television talent show. “And I won,” she reveals. “I won a lot of money, over $100,000. Instead of being happy the night I won, I went into total depression, I was so afraid of the pressure. But boy, I took that money. I lived in a basement, and my piano was full of roaches, so I got new furniture, moved into a great apartment. I was on cloud nine. I did a lot of drugs. I spent that money in less than six months.”
Regardless, her voice had been heard and by no less than Atlantic Records. Signing with the label, she followed what had been her debut in She also recorded her first two albums, Beth Hart and the Ocean of Souls by working with top producers on 1996’s Immortal, and scored international hits with cuts like ‘Am I The One’, but today, she contends it was on 1999’s Screamin’ For My Supper, home to the smash hit ‘LA Song (Out Of This Town)’ – that she found her voice. “I think that record is where I became a real writer,” she says.
But that Atlantic deal turned sour. Hart’s heady cocktail of drugs pitched against a non-medicated bipolar disorder saw to that. It was only the intervention of Scott Guetzkow – her road manager – that pulled her back from the brink. “I went into five different hospitals that year, not including rehabs,” she says. “It was so bad that I remember talking to my psychologist and he said, ‘I don’t think you can handle being in this business.” Around the turn of the millennium, she ditched her “drug of choice” (Klonopin) drove to Vegas, married Guetzkow and never looked back. Though her feet stayed on the ground, the musical highs returned. In 2003, she shot back with a third album, Leave The Light On that Billboard described as: “One of the year’s most affecting albums”, then in 2005 came Live At Paradiso captured in performance in Amsterdam, Holland. In 2007 she scored a European hit with ‘Good As It Gets’ from her 37 Days album and in 2010 My California found her singing with new sensitivity about deeply personal themes, in particular the loss of her beloved sister, Sharon, on ‘Sister Heroine’.
While the buzz grew, that voice had caught some famous ears, and to date, she counts some of rock’s most iconic guitarists amongst her collaborators. Her earliest A list hook-up was alongside British veteran Jeff Beck. “I didn’t know a guitar could sound that way” she recalls, while she enjoyed fizzing chemistry with ex-Guns N’ Roses legend Slash, who guested on ‘Sister Heroine’ and co-wrote ‘Mother Maria’ for the Download To Donate For Haiti charity album. “As you can imagine,” she admits, “I was quite nervous. His personality is the absolute opposite to mine. I’m pretty high-strung when I’m working, and he’s very mellow.”
It was a chance meeting with the blues star Joe Bonamassa in a hotel lobby that changed her trajectory, resulting in an invitation to sing on the Kevin Shirley produced soul-rock covers album that became 2011’s Don’t Explain. “I said, ‘are you kidding me?” she laughs of her response. “We made a big list of covers over the phone, but we only recorded for four days. We instantly clicked.” With cuts like ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’ hijacking BBC Radio 2’s playlists in the UK, and Classic Rock including the release in its Top Albums of 2011, Don’t Explain proved to be Hart’s tipping-point, resulting in the way Bang Bang Boom her next album, turned out. There were 11 original songs recorded live by Kevin Shirley, an album where the singer was finally able to admit she might actually be happy. “Often on old records, I wrote about pain and fear,” she says. “I didn’t write so much about love. I always felt like I didn’t understand it or wasn’t worthy. This is the first album where I have, and it’s such a beautiful feeling. I feel like I’ve gotten to fit into a new pair of shoes, y’know, and I can walk a different walk. Every album is special to me. But with this one, there’s a real specialness about it, because I’m at a different age and in a new headspace.” Reuniting with Bonamassa they played a short European together after recording Seesaw that was to be nominated for a Grammy award, she herself being nominated for a Blues Music Award as Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist.
Beth Hart is currently working on a new solo album that is set to be released early 2015, followed by a world tour, that includes those seven UK dates in May. Tickets are on sale now via the 24 hour ticket box office: 0844 871 8819, or can be booked from www.alt-tickets.co.uk/beth-hart-tickets.