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Beth Hart - Interview
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Beth Hart

Beth Hart has probably just released the album of her career to date. 'Fire on the Floor' should be the album that makes everyone, who isn't already, sit up and listen. We caught up with Beth in L.A. to dig a little deeper...



Mark: Hi Beth, great to talk to you again. Thank you for talking to The Rockpit today. I've just been watching the video for 'Love is a Lie', it's a great song - I didn't think they made them like that anymore!

Beth: (laughs) Oh my God, thank you! I'm having a good time promoting that at the moment on TV and Radio and it feels really good to just do it acoustic, just piano and acoustic guitar, it feels really nice.

Mark: The new album! What can I say, all the good publicity seems to be just rolling in especially here in Australia - the media has fallen in love with 'Fire on the Floor'. Does it feel like this is a big step?

Beth: It's been nice getting a good response to it, I mean I've been doing this a long time so it's great when people really connect but really they either do or they don't - I don't take it too much to heart either way but I do kinda dig it when people are enjoying it. I always feel like you never know, sometimes you can put out work that you feel is really strong and other times you can put out work you think is less strong and people react to it so it's kinda like in the eye of the beholder! But it does make the promo a lot easier when people are reacting in a nice way! (laughs)

Mark: So what's the fan reaction been like? I think the album has been out for about a week now over here and in Europe?

Beth: I'm not sure, the proof is always live, people have said nice things but I haven't played to a live audience yet, I've just been doing TV and radio. Last night we did a show in Germany for television and we played all of the songs off 'Fire on the Floor' and a bunch of other stuff as well. We played for over 90 minutes and it really seems to be going over nicely. So that's really cool. Well when I do the actual shows I think that we'll include maybe 4, 5 songs from the new record. But each night we try something new, play different songs, see what works, what goes down well, mix it up a bit until we find the right mix. Plus different territories react differently to different songs and if I go through a country twice when I come back I might play a few more or a few less songs depending on how the record has been received.

Mark: I love it that you cater to your different audiences and the fact that no two shows are alike so many artists these days stick to a setlist. You also seem to be pretty busy these days, last time we spoke you'd just released live in Amsterdam with Joe (Bonamassa) but since then there's been a collaboration with Jeff Beck, another album with Joe and not one but two solo albums in just over a year.

Beth: Yeah, Jeff was really awesome and his solo album was just so good. And with Joe we just did our third record a couple of months ago in Vegas and that should be out in the New Year.


Mark: Getting back to your own new album, there are so many good songs on there, I just want to talk about them all! Some of the songs that stood out for me were the single, the wonderful title track and 'Coca Cola' which sounded like it was so much fun to do and that's just to start!

Beth: Thank you. You know this record really was a special gift from my label - we'd just finished in New York recording 'Better Than Home' and we hadn't even started mixing and I was really in a bad way, really freaking out mentally and emotionally partly because one of my two producers for the record - Michael Stevens we found out was battling with, and basically dying of cancer. So I asked the label if I could go back in and make a new record when I got back from New York. And they said to me, 'What you don't like 'Better Than Home'?"' and I told them no it wasn't that, I hadn't heard the mix or anything, but I really need to make another record because I was afraid that if I didn't I might not want to go back in the studio at all. Kind of like that 'If you fall off a horse you have to get back on'. So they said yeah and we took a couple of weeks of pre-production meetings and we put together a wonderful band and in three days we did 15 songs and it really helped me love the studio again, so this record has been done a long time.

Mark: Well it does sound like you were not just getting back in the saddle, but actually having fun in there? And it's great to see people like Michael Landau and Waddy Watchell on there.

Beth: Yeah, we were and I'd worked on that song for a long time and that's something I don't normally do but when I finally had the arrangement and I turned it in for 'Better Than Home' and they passed over it, so I really had an itch to get it done. I always think that you should never ever force a producer to do something with a song that they don't think they can do something fantastic with, I think it's a stupid idea to force it, even if you think it's your best song. If the producer doesn't have a really warm feeling for it, it's best to trust them and move on and save it for another album one day. But this time everyone just really responded to it and I thought 'yeah!' I was so glad to see it done.

Mark: That's a cool insight. I loved 'Fat Man' that you did with Glenn from Styx too, that was a really cool one!

Beth: Yeah! He and I had done that one together years ago! About four and a half years I think. We'd been working on another song for a couple of days and we just started that one the day he left and we never got round to finishing it, so that was the one song more than anything that I was excited to get to do. So I really went crazy on the lyrics and I wrote some new parts like the bridge and stuff, and I just think it came out really, really great. But that was another song I turned in for 'Bang Bang Boom Boom' and it was passed over, I turned it in for 'Better Than Home' it was passed over so I love that. I love when you have something that you love that much but no one is responding to it so you just keep that faith that one day it's gonna find a home on an album!

Mark: That's great, I think it's the song on there that I currently love the most, I'm just so glad that you keep a hold of them for us and don't let go of them! I'm now wondering what other gems are out there waiting to find their 'home'! You're back in Australia next year for Bluesfest.

Beth: Yeah, the last couple of years when we came through Australia we played the Byron Bay Bluesfest and we did a couple of our own shows but last time we opened up for Jeff and at one of the shows he had me singing during his set, but I haven't had a lot of radio at the moment over there and to book shows and make pay was looking hard so this year I think we're just through to Byron Bay.

Mark: Before that you have a winter tour through the UK and Europe, is that going to be the first real showcase for the new material?

Beth: Yeah I take a short break then we play Europe for six weeks.

Mark: Are you happy how the word is spreading and you get to play more and more places across the globe?

Beth: Yeah absolutely, I guess we are at a stage where there are territories that we are playing now where we get to every year like Europe, the US and Canada, then we get to Australia once in a while and we're starting to play places like Israel and even India. So it's been a slow go, one place at a time, but if we get radio it opens it up quicker, but it's one place at a time, and it's great when it's based on word of mouth and playing shows.

Mark: I think this album will see you very busy! Just to close with a couple of quick questions we traditionally ask every new interviewee: If you could have been a 'fly on the wall' in the studio for the recording of any great album, just to see how the magic happened, what would it have been for you and why?

Beth: Oh God I think it would be any Leonard Cohen record, 'Mule Variations' by Tom Waits and a live one 'Blues in the Night - the early show' by Etta James. She's probably in her early to mid-forties when she did it, with a tiny audience, 80 maybe 100 people and it's by far in my little opinion her very best recording she ever did, it slays her studio albums. But there are just so many records I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall for!

Mark: I'll have to check that one out. And final one, what is the meaning of life?

Beth: Gratitude I think. I think that anytime that you can open your eyes and see all that you have and all that you've been blessed with it's the greatest way to connect you with god, just being grateful rather than always wanting more, wanting to be different, wanting to be better. And trust me when I say this it's not like I live like that, it's something I try to do to remind myself how blessed I am. It's just gratitude.

Mark: That's a wonderful answer. And I actually think you've just released my favourite Beth Hart album, for me they just keep getting better and better.

Beth: Really? Thank you.

Mark: I honestly do, I mean I love them all, but for me the fact that people have stopped comparing you to other people means a lot. Now everyone knows Beth Hart and people aren't comparing you to voices from the past, and as a singer-songwriter I think this is the album where you really and truly have your own voice, so thank you for that.

Beth: That's just the best compliment, it really is. I remember a Miles Davis quote where he says 'It takes a lifetime to become yourself as an artist' and to me as an artist it's all about trying to tell the truth and at times for me that has been a really great challenge both as a person and as an artist, but I do really feel I'm getting there now. I mean just being able to access that artistry and not have denial in my way, and that's a really cool think that I'm starting to really enjoy a lot more these days. So thank you so much.

Mark: I think it shines through for me. Thank you so much Beth, take care of yourself!

Beth: Thank you so much, you too.


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Interview by Mark Rockpit on October 21st 2016