There will always be rock and roll stories into that formidable art, which is music. Some of those made-up, some other half true and half not, some other times there are stories so true that leave indelible scars for life on the skin of the artists in question.
Beth Hart's skin has gone through a lot of those scars but the American artist is now, happily, going through a fast healing process. Love is, perhaps, the greatest healer of all in Hart's current moment of her life and career. That love that Beth Hart has not been able very often to materialize into songs in her past records until recent times. Better Than Home, her brand new album, represents perhaps, despite the long recording process, the most intimate and positive work she has ever done.
Beth Hart has kindly accepted to talk to Bluebirdreviews about her new record, in this exclusive interview.
GP - Beth, so good to see you again and many congratulations for your new, wonderful album. How much does Better Than Home translate the moment you are living, both artistically and personally?
Beth - Like all my records, I am always talking about what's going on with me and my feeling and my prospectives on things. Sometimes it can get a bit dark, such as, if I am in a dark place, I would write about it. How I go about choosing what songs would go to the record, it is a whole different matter. Whenever I go and make an album, I always have got at least something like 45 songs ready for that record. It has always been like that since the beginning and it will be always be that way. The reason why I do this is because I write in so many different styles, genres-wise, that I am not quite sure until all the work is finished, if I want to do a cohesive album or not and that would happen for different reasons. The first time I did a truly cohesive album was with the album My California. This was a very dark record; musically very soft, so you could really hear all the words and the soft melodies but the language was of somebody discussing demons. That record was exactly as it should have been. I just had relapsed mentally and I was at the hospital for several months, so, of course, that kind of record would have happened as a natural consequence. Whereas, right now, it's not like I am out of the woods with my mind but where I am at, spiritually, is effecting my writing. Making this album with these two producers (Michael Stevens and Rob Mathes), one of which has got a huge amount of faith in God and even has a church, made a huge impression on me. Whereas the other one, although not so big church-wise, he was an amazing, very strong person. He would reach out and hold your hands, when you felt afraid about anything. They were so gentle and patient, encouraged me and one of the things they couldn't stress enough was "It's okay to write what's good in you, Beth". That was very uncomfortable and I did not like them for making me do this. I hated them, I was angry, kicking and screaming all the time, to my manager Dave and my husband Scott, complaining about what was happening. I was in that state in which I was thinking stuff like "This is gonna ruining me " or "I'm gonna die". In brief, it was all very dramatic. Once the album was finished and I heard the music before the final mix, I really lost myself and went back to the hospital. I felt so ashamed and I thought the album was really terrible and I was awful too. I clearly said, at that time, "I cannot be involved in this mix, it's freaking me out too much". So, they had a re-think about the mix and they worked again on it for quite a long time, the longest I ever had to wait for. I did my recording in a week, while it took them almost eleven weeks to complete the mix. When in the end, they turned it in and was definitely completed, the first thing that i said to my manager sitting next to me was "This doesn't suck!". I was so relieved and relaxed in the end about releasing the album and I don't feel afraid or concerned about it anymore. And doing the Promos for the record has been so far, great fun!
GP - Every album of yours is very introspective. But whilst in the past you have often written about your pains and fears, since Bang Bang Boom Boom and continuing so beautifully on this record, love seems to be the recurring pattern. What has changed in you as a songwriter in the last couple of years?
Beth - Some of what we were just discussing, being able to pull from the new well. It first started by working with Joe Bonamassa, on the record Don't Explain we did together. That record inspired me so much. I did not write any of that material, I was just singing this extraordinary, legendary songs done by my heroes. But when I sang on that album, I loved it so much I decided I was going to take a crack and writing more in that direction. I'm talking sonically, musically, of course. So it was all very inspirational and I didn't know that it would bring so much talk of love, writing this kind of music. Which was surprising to me, because I hadn't written much about love in my life prior, for many years. And then on this album, even though musically it's not at all like Bang Bang Boom Boom album, once again, love seems to be winning over in the day. There are just few songs about the immense love I have for my husband, but there are songs of love that I have for my mother, songs of love for my father and songs of love even about the subject of writing! So, I guess, it is really an album that chronicles my feelings towards different things in my life that I love and bring me peace.
GP - One of the key moment for me on Better Than Home is Tell Her You Belong To Me, in which you unveiled an episode of your youth in which a woman wanted to take away your father from your life. Is writing a song so personal able to create closure to that anger you felt?
Beth - I felt so much pain and anger about that for so many years. I drove so many different therapists up the wall talking about the same thing and I just couldn't get over it. Then my husband came into my life with a love that I have not felt at that depth since the relationship that I had with my father. This love I receive from my husband was, and still is, very healing for me but even though, I still was very afraid of my father 'cause he had come back into my life in my twenties, after he'd been gone in all of my growing-up period. I always would be with him at arms length. I am still that way with him now. He is in my life, I love and adore him but I will always be at arms length, because I don't think I could survive, him, turning his back on me again, I think it would just kill me. Nevertheless, he is back into my life and I am very thankful for that. The interesting thing about the song, when I was finished with it, that really surprised me and it also made me feel very proud of myself, was that I have no anger or blame in him in the song, none. The song is all about not giving up on the love that we had when I was little, even if he ran to the moon and never ever looked back once. Nothing can ever chip away, or tarnish, that incredible love I will always have for my father, with my father.
GP - St. Theresa shows a different side of your songwriting style. The song is inspired by the movie Dead Man Walking but the point of view expressed in the lyrics is just the one of the prisoner. Is the song more about devotion or rather forgiveness?
Beth - The song is all about unconditional love. And where there is unconditional love, you don't need to forgive, because there is nothing to forgive. There is no blame, it is pure acceptance and a celebration for the light you may not be able to see it's there but you have faith that it is there. And that is what I liked so much about that woman; what he had done were atrocious acts, so much so that people decided they would put him on death row and he would be killed. And still there was this one person, who believed that there was a light in him and she loved him unconditionally. When I saw that movie, I thought that was the most incredible thing I have ever heard or seen in my life. The way that Susan Sarandon portraited it was truly phenomenal.
GP - 2014 has been a very successful year for you. I can still remember that triumphant gig at the Royal Albert Hall here in London and the incredible "welcome" you received in Georgia by media and fans. What did those moments mean for you?
Beth - I was absolutely terrified to play at the Royal Albert Hall. I remember saying to myself, before we even did the show, "If I ever get to play here again, I'll get to enjoy it; tonight, I'll be merely able to get through it". And that is exactly what happened; the whole time I was up on stage, instead of really being into music, the whole time I was in my own head, in my own fears, freaking out and hoping that nobody would be able to notice it. That is the way it goes for me. Usually, by the second time around I come to any venue or place, my fear subsides and I get really to enjoy it. Same thing happened in Paris, at this lovely place called The Olympia. The first time I played there, I invited my mother, I flew her out from the United States and that was the worst idea I could have ever come up with. I was terrified. But the second time I've got to play there, I loved every minute of it.
Georgia, instead, was funny. There it is, this country, Georgia, filled with such warmth and this big amount of touchy-feeling-kissy-kissy kind of people and, don't get me wrong, I loved that. But there were also a lot of young people at that show whilst usually people coming to my shows are around my age range or even older. So I thought for a second "My Goodness, I don't want to get too close to them, otherwise they can feel I could be their mother!". But it was so wonderful, I had such a good time and myself and my band loved every moment of it. They treated us to this most wonderful dinner they especially prepared for us at this amazing place that must have been a thousand years old. Those are the great moments you get in a career and you never forget them, they stay with you forever and you get to appreciate them a lot.
GP - As Long As I Have A Song is about having that great gift, which is songwriting. Is there any particular moment or mindset that inspires you the most in writing a new song?
Beth - The greatest difficulty for me in the whole songwriting process is to get to the truth. I have many layers of denial that keep me protected from feelings and from seeing it. And that is really a shame, because, although denial may protect us from feelings too heavily at the same time also keeps us from really healing. Because we all know that, in order to heal, you have to face the truth. So, it is a kind of a battle but the beautiful thing is that I know I have a sanctuary of protection. My piano room is a very sacred place for me, so when I go there, I know that I have all the time in the world to take and allow the message to come through and do the work, the digging. And if I can't find it, instead of judging it, I trust it will be found, it just didn't mean to be found at that time, so I can move on to something else. Unfortunately though, there are times that i go through writer blocks and those are terrible times for me. I feel abandoned by God, I feel unloved by God, I feel like he is punishing me and I get very sad, angry, scared and I often want a drink. What I am learning, as I am getting older now, in those times to try and trust in that wonderful saying about being patient, because patience is a virtue. Be patient and wait, wait for the right moment to come. It is much harder for me to do it this way but I try my very best.
GP - You always come across to be very spontaneous and gentile with everybody and you never seem to lose your temper in any situation. Is there really anything on earth that put you off ever?
Beth - Absolutely! And I have a terrible temper! Especially when my brain chemistry ain't working and I feel particularly afraid. If anyone come on to me, I can be very attacking. So this is part of the reason why I tend to not leave the house too much when I feel in that sort of mood. For example, when I am at home and I am not making music for people, I don't like to leave the house because I would feel very uncomfortable being outside. If I had to, I would ask my husband to come with me. When I am on the road, though, I feel stronger, because I have the music with me, which keeps me that way. And I know that my manager, my husband, my band, they would all be with me and protect me. So I don't feel as afraid, I just feel at times sorry for Scott, my husband, 'cause he has seen me few times having a bit of hard time and I wouldn't have known what to do if he would have not been with me and still be. That is true love.
GP - After all these years, it is great to see you well and your life fulfilled as a woman and an artist. You may be living in the Ugliest House On The Block but do you still Leave The Light On, before going to sleep at night?
Beth - Thank you. The Light is now definitely off at night but sure as hell, it stays bright and vivid inside of me. And hey, I have gotta tell ya, we both a new house, therefore no more Ugly Houses for us with cracks on the wall. And we are loving it!
About Our Author: Giovanni "Gio" Pilato is an Italian music writer, who has been living in UK since 2002. With an enormous passion for music, and life in general, his interest in the communications began at 11 years old. He worked briefly for local radios in his youth and did a one-off radio show on 2007 on the glorious BBC 6Music Radio station in England. Gio started his freelance journalist career in 2012, with Italian artists, and is now mainly focusing on Worldwide Blues Artists. To follow Gio Pilato and his all cool radio show, Visit: (RTL 102.5 Cool (Webradio)): http://www.rtl.it/Cool