An Interview with Beth Hart
Grammy award winner Beth Hart talks about her new tour, playing in the UK, collaborations, inspirations and being “nervous for everything”…
What’s the best gig that you’ve been to, or has inspired you the most?
Oh my god, I don’t go to many gigs. I remember going to a Petti Labelle concert when I was 16. That was pretty amazing. I was with my best friend, who was a massive fan of hers, and she was just so genius and amazing and how she talked to the crowd and got the crowd going. I remember at some point she started peeling off her eye lashes and giving them away to people (laughs). She took off like her fur coat and gave that to somebody. She took off her pantyhose and gave that to somebody too. I don’t know what she did but she did some pretty cool stuff and it was pretty inspirational and that voice, she’s from another planet.
“I like that challenge”
What is your favourite part of touring and what is your least favourite part of it?
That’s so funny, I was just talking to my husband about it, sometimes I adore it and the things I adore are getting to play to people, change up the set – we change it up every night. It’s the challenge of that, remembering something that you pull out that you haven’t played for a couple of years, or however many years. Even though we take it through in soundcheck, it’s still like ‘Oh my god, how badly am I going to screw this up?’ but I like that, I like that challenge of that.
I love getting to have different food and getting to be around different people and different cultures and different ways people look at life. It’s really kind of helped me open up my mind and see the world from different perspectives. So, I think that’s a really cool thing, a humbling and cool thing for me. And then my band and crew, they are like family. I don’t have children or anything, so it’s like I get to have that feeling of family, when we’re out here.
So things I don’t like, sometimes I can get lonely. Everybody comes early to set up and to do everything at the gig and then I usually stay at the hotel until around 2:30–3:30 until I get picked up, there’s only so many things that I can do, so I go like swimming, I go to a local pool or gym or something like that but I am alone a lot and that can get a little depressing – kind of like I’m in my own head and that kind of thing. I don’t like that so much and if I ever have like vocal problems or I over sing, you know, and if I have vocal problems, I get really stressed out with that. So those are some of the thing I don’t like.
“Always working on new stuff”
What’s your favourite UK venue so far, and why do you like it so much?
God, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the name of the venues. I’m not very good at remembering that kind of thing but I remember being at the Royal Albert Hall that one time and I thought that that was really beautiful. Oh, and there was another place that was a theatre, it was kind of like a big theatre, but not as large as there [the Royal Albert Hall]. God, I wish I could remember the name of that because that was a great place, I loved that place. I’m so sorry my memory is not great with the names of stuff but we have played quite a few places that I really enjoy in the UK. I find them all pretty cool, pretty nice and great sound, usually really great sound.
Do you have a favourite sound check song?
No, because we are always working on new stuff. So, we don’t really do the same stuff too much but yeah, not really.
Do you have a pre-show ritual? If so what is it?
Just, you know, the boring stuff like, like vocalising and making sure I do some yoga. Meditation is really good, I do that a lot with my bass player Bob and we do TM, transcendental meditation, very relaxing. I think I like it because you really can’t do it wrong, you know, it’s a pretty easy way to meditate. Then I do my make-up and getting my outfit out or whatever I am going to wear and then really working on the set list. I do a little rehearsing backstage as well, I set up the piano backstage and stuff.
“I read into everything way too much”
What is your favourite part about playing live?
Trying to make that soul connection with people and I can’t really describe it other than I just know when it’s connecting. I feel this real sense of human connection with people and it’s a beautiful feeling and when that feeling is not there it is really scary and hard (laughs). So, it’s just because I’m so insecure, I read into everything way too much and all that but when I do feel that connection it’s such a beautiful feeling, I love it so much – I just feel close with everybody, it’s really nice.
How do like to relax on a day off during a tour?
Scotty and I like to go shopping or we love to go to the zoo and we love to go to museums. So, we’ve always done that together, I just adore that. Sometimes I get a massage but really I am the happiest when I get to go to the zoo or when I get to go to the museum. It’s just so wonderfully inspirational, so beautiful.
What would you your advice to young aspiring blues rock and R&B artists be?
Oh god, I think I’m the worst person to ask advice of. I worked so hard at screwing everything up (laughs). I don’t know, maybe, something like, really work hard at finding yourself that if people are really enjoying what you do that it doesn’t make you that good, it doesn’t make you that special, it just happens to be what people are responding to at the times. Like, what’s that old saying, ‘Don’t believe the hype’ and if people aren’t responding to what you are doing or are being very critical or just rejecting you, also don’t think you area that bad either.
“Both of them are very sensitive and nice to me”
It’s really hard to do but I think it’s an important thing for no matter what type of artist you are to trust that the reason why you are given the love of being artistic is just to make you happy – it’s not to make you rich and famous. So don’t judge what you do based on that because that doesn’t matter. How often do things become so popular and, you know, then five years later, ten years later everybody goes that is such a piece of crap, we don’t want to hear it or see it ever again and then other things never really become hits or things like that but then they last forever.
I always think of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ and that was not a hit song. Then he passed away and then many years went by and then people kind of started playing it a little bit here and there and then it became like this classic, you know. So I always kind of say to people don’t believe the hype, you are never as good as what they say, you are never as bad and remember that you do it just to make you happy and to enjoy it. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
You have played with Jeff Beck and Joe Bonamassa, what do you like to about playing with guitarists like Jeff and Joe?
Well, both of them are very sensitive and nice to me and they are both so talented. It is inspirational to see how humble they both are in what they both do and how hard they work as well. They both put a lot of effort into playing all the time and practicing and working on their craft and I love that. I feel like they don’t take it for granted at all, they really cherish it and that’s a pretty inspirational thing.
Any plans on touring or performing with Joe Bonamassa again?
No, we don’t have any plans to do any touring or anything like that right now. We talked about it a little bit the other day. We did an interview together and we talked about it but there are no real solid plans.
“I drive myself crazy”
Last time you were in the UK, you performed solo-shows. What was that like and are you looking forward to playing the UK again with your entire band?
I enjoy very much playing with my band. Those solo shows right now are something I started doing the last couple of years very little here and there and then when I did the UK ones that was the most extensive stuff that I played by myself and to be honest with you, at the beginning it was just terrifying but then I ended up liking it more than any other way I played live. I can’t really say why, maybe I just feel like the most like I am being myself when I don’t have any showbiz going on at all, you know, when it’s just me sitting at the instrument, like I did as a little girl, and there is no live show or dancing around or any that kind of stuff.
It’s just me sitting there, I guess, being myself as much as I could ever be when it comes to singing and playing. Maybe, but I know it was funny because it was something that made me feel so uncomfortable. I hated my manager for putting me in the position to do it and he really was on to me about it and I was just like ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this, I am going to embarrass myself so bad’ and then after doing a couple of shows, I just fell in love with doing it, I felt, like I said, I felt really honest, I guess.
You are going to play a sold out show at the Royal Albert Hall during this tour. How much are you looking forward to it?
Well, I am trying not to think about it too much because I don’t want to get nervous but then again that’s an impossibility because I’m nervous for everything. I’m really nervous right now talking to you because I have my first show since I have been off for two months. I’m in Portland, I’m in a little place but I am really nervous about it and so I think that’s just kind of how I get quite nervous but Royal Albert Hall, one of the things I keep telling myself is ‘Beth you are singer, you are not an astronaut or someone that has to perform heart surgery on another human being, so if you do a crap job, no one’s going to die, thank god.’ I just keep telling myself that over and over again, so I am not so psyched out and so I won’t take myself so serious because how ridiculous to take myself so serious, it’s just stupid, I drive myself crazy.
“I love Europe”
What songs can we look forward to you playing on tour? Will you be playing songs from the new album Black Coffee with Joe Bonamassa? And what about songs from your recent studio album Fire On The Floor?
I usually like to play different stuff from different records and try to cover all the records if I can. I don’t know how much stuff from the latest Joe record I will be playing because there is a lot of horns and there’s a lot of background singers and there is a lot of stuff that we didn’t have on our first two records and I can’t really pull that off with my band. There might be a few things we do but I don’t think it will be more than one, two, three songs, who knows that could change, off of the Black Coffee record. So, yeah, hopefully that will be ok.
What are you most looking forward to when retuning to the UK?
Oh my god, there’s one hotel we stay at, and forgive me I don’t know the name because I can never remember anything, but it’s just a cool little spot and I don’t know it has a homeliness about it. It’s really warm and people are nice there.
The audiences are really great there [the UK] and I really enjoyed that, you know. So I really love it over there. I love Europe; period. Europe has been so wonderful to me and it’s so, oh my god, all the architecture and all the history and just to the way people think and live is so different. I love being an American, I love being from here [the U.S.] and it’s a beautiful country but god are we a bunch of whack jobs. We got so much to learn and now we got a Mr. Whacko as president who’s making all the whack jobs here think that they are pretty freaking normal. It’s just getting worse. We should be getting better but whatever, what do I know.
Davy Watson will be supporting you in Dublin – will there be a support for the UK dates?
I think there’s going to be support for the UK dates. I know Davy is the bomb and I love him so much. He is one of Jon Nichols’, my guitar player, oldest and best friends but what a great singer and songwriter and musician and producer Davy Watson is. He is just so good, we even use own of his songs to open up our show every night that we play while we are waiting in the wings to come out and I just think he is wonderful, I love him. I wish he was doing the support of all the UK.
Beth Hart’s new album, ‘Live From New York – Front and Center’ a 2-disc DVD/CD set, featuring never before seen bonus material, including an exclusive interview with Beth, is out now.
For more info visit bethhart.com