With her soulful blend of grimy blues rock, touching soul, and her soaring, powerful voice, it's no doubt that Beth Hart will give you chills. She recently stopped by the Baeble office to sing a few songs for us, and listening to her sing - scream - her heart out and put all of her emotions on the line was simply amazing.
It's been a long road for her, though. After making a name for herself with her second album, Screamin' For My Supper, she turned towards a more confessional and vulnerable brand of songwriting, be it to the tender ode to her mother in "Mama This One's For You" or the story of trying to let light in even when life seems too dark ("Leave The Light On").
With the release of her latest album, Fire on The Floor, Hart definitely brings that confessional side to the forefront. On the title track, that fire can't be stopped, singing "love is a fever, and it is burning" and "not even hell can take the heat" over smoky guitars and bluesy piano chords. You better believe she brings the fire to Baeble in our newest NEXT Session.
Well, I got into classical music really, really young and I was just addicted to it and no one in my family was really that into classical music but I can't even really...well, I know that the first thing that hooked me in was Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata, just blew my mind, yeah. I remember exactly I was four and I was playing underneath the den table and they were having a commercial on TV to sell pianos and I heard it and I just started crying. I just never heard anything like that. If I ever leave you, baby You can say I told you so And if I ever hurt you You know I hurt myself as well How is that any way for a woman to carry on? Do you think I want my love gone? Said I love you more than you'll ever know More than you'll ever know When I wasn't making much money You know where my paycheck went You know I brought it home to you, baby And I never spent a red cent How is that any way for a woman to carry on? Do you think I want my my love long gone? Said I love you more than you'll ever know More than you'll ever know Said I'm not trying to be just any kind of woman, no I ain't not I'm just trying to be somebody you can love, trust, and understand I know, I know, I know, that I can be a part of you that no one else can see. But I got to hear you say, I got to hear you say, "It's alright, alright, alright. " I'm only flesh and blood but I could be anything you demand. I could be clean of everything Or just a tiny grain of sand How is that anyway for a woman not carry on? Do you think that I want my love long gone? Said I love you more than you'll ever know Said I love you, I love you, I love you and I love you, baby more than you'll ever know, more than you'll ever know More than you'll ever know Yeah, Jeff Beck is awesome. It's kind of a trippy story. I had somehow connected to a guy named Toots Thielemans, who was an amazing harp player, kind of a legendary guy, he's since passed and he was doing a big record of different jazz songs. So I covered a song I got to write to sing a blues with him. And then I think Jeff kind of heard it and then he wanted to do some writing, but I didn't really...I knew that my brother loved Jeff Beck but I didn't know the name on it so I was growing up listening to Jeff Beck and not knowing it was Jeff Beck. Thank God I didn't really know of it yet because I would been too nervous as I'm nervous for everything and then when I got in the session with him I went, "I never seen anything like that. " I've never seen one play guitar like that. But think any time you work with anyone else, for me personally it's scary. I don't want to let them down. I want to do a good job and show them respect. So for me, it's definitely nerve-wracking but once I get through it, it's beautiful you learn something and get humbled. So that's always a good thing. Love is a lie Sucking you dry Love's not a friend Until the end You can call it a game You can choose your own name When it's stuck in the vein There's no greater pain I've got a bell with no sound I've got a horse with no hound And I know I'm, know I'm Love is a lie Love is a lie Love is a lie And I know I'm going down. Now there was a time Love was blowing my mind Not a tear, not a doubt 'Til I figured it out. Now I'm madder than hell Love is wagging its tail I holler, I cry Love is a lie I've got a bell with no ring I've got a whip with no sting And I know I'm going Love is a lie Love is a lie Love is a lie And I know I'm going You can call it a game But there's no greater pain When it's stuck in the vein I know I'm going down I've got a bell with no sound I've got a horse with no hound And I know I'm going down I don't mind being really vulnerable on stage, it kind of makes me feel better. So I don't mind if I have a heavier record but of course I get so excited and happy when other people responding and saying, "Yeah, we really want to feel good tonight," or "We want some energy. " You know, and the band really reacted too far enough until we turned it in. And they were just like, "Yeah, we can't wait to tour this. So yeah it's been really fun touring it so far. I'm on the road a lot and I love...I really I'm thankful for what I get to do, but I miss being...because when I'm on the road my husband takes care of me constantly. And when I get to get home, he still takes care of me but I like to cook for him and do things for him and be a wife to him, you know. So I miss that. I miss that home, and cooking, and painting and being out in a garden and I could be out there for five, six hours covered in mud at the end of the day and be so happy, you know. So things like that, yeah. It's been a long time on the road without a soul to call my own I'm tired of talking to the cards I miss the flowers in the yard There's no place like home No place like home There's no place I'd rather be than home I'm gonna move out of the street Stack some stones maybe grow some wheat Build a fire for a little heat and have someone curl up at my feet There's no place like home no place like home There's no place I'd rather be than home I'm gonna hang up some pretty things From my suitcase full of dreams Maybe a letter or an old post card Or that paper star stole from a jar There's no place like home No place like home There's no place I'd rather be than home The sweetest words I ever heard Is welcome home It's been a long and dusty road There's a place that's meant for us Full of faith, hope, love and trust I'll keep trudging up the road But someday I'll be going home There's no place like home No place like home There's no place I'd rather be than home There's no place I'd rather be than home Home, home, home Home So what I do, is I just I'm writing all the time and I'm writing in a million different directions musically so if I'm writing a jazz song then there's going to be a different narrative this is going to come up. It seems like I'm always writing the music first, before the lyric comes so when the music...I get it going and I say, okay what...it makes me either think of a memory, or a dream, a hope I have, or something confessional, something painful, or something joyous. It just kind of dictates to me what it is. So then whenever it's time to make a record, I just turn in a ton of stuff. And basically, the producers say, "This is what I want to produce for you, this is what I want to produce for you, this is what i want..." And I'm totally cool with whatever they choose because I wouldn't turn a song in if I didn't love it. So like this record Fire On The Floor is very different from Better Than Home. Better Than Home is a very confessional record, this record I think it's got a little bit more anger a little more rawness I think it's because of that making better than home and the pain of that. But then there's also some really sweet things on it too. I always, always hope pretty much the same thing for every record. I just hope that whoever does hear it gets something out of it that makes them feel better, some kind of healing in some way because I mean that's what it does for me so I would want that for somebody else, yeah. Love is a fever And is burning me alive It can't be tamed or satisfied There is no mercy For the fallen nor for the weak Love is a nasty word to speak I don't wanna love him anymore He's nothing like the man I loved before. But the pain gets real comfortable When it's all ya got Ashes and smoke they can't compete Not even hell can take the heat And I be sliding off of my seat For his flame His love is like fire on the floor It's got me running for the door But I'll be crawling back for more Of his fire on the floor It don't matter what ya say You can't survive it, there ain't no way So tonight I'm gonna stay And play with his fire On the floor wanna play with his fire On the floor child, child This kinda love Don't need no bed or satin sheets Nothing soft, nothing soft or sweet to drink Love is a lesson, you were born to never learn And your soul will beg to burn I don't wanna love him anymore He's nothing like the man I loved before. And there's a sign above the door Saying no way out. Ashes and smoke they can't compete Not even hell can take the heat And I've been knocked off of my seat by his flame His love is like fire on the floor It's got me running for the door But I keep crawling back for more Of his fire on the floor It don't matter what ya say You can't survive it, there ain't no way So tonight I'm gonna stay And play with his fire On the floor I'm gonna play with his fire On the floor I'm gonna play with his fire On the floor I love it. I love doing songs in this kind of environment, I didn't know that we wouldn't have monitors today, but this room is so live and all those hard walls and ceilings so it's just perfect. I thought it was even better for me to be able to feel comfortable singing in a room like this than having a monitor so that was really cool. And then also you guy, it's so small so it becomes so intimate in a whole different way and I love it and one of my favorite things to do is to play acoustic with John Nichols, he's just like the love of my life. So it was great today, I had such a fun time.
Beth Hart is on fire. Right now, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter is riding a creative tidal wave, firing out acclaimed albums, hooking up with the biggest names in music and rocking the house each night with that celebrated burnt-honey voice. In 2016, the headline news is Beths latest album, Fire On The Floor, a release that even this fiercely self-critical artist describes as pretty frickin good. But lets not forget the backstory that brought her here
The Blues Magazine once dubbed Beth Hart the ultimate female rock star, and theres no doubt that her two-decade career is the ultimate thrill-ride. Born in Los Angeles, she released a fistful of hit albums through the 90s, then reignited in the post-millennium as both a solo artist and the head-turning vocalist for guitar heroes like Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck and Slash. Extraordinary, wrote The Times of her once-a-generation voice box, while The Guardian praised her daring, brooding and angry performances.
But its in recent times that Beth has truly blossomed. In April 2015, she released Better Than Home, a critical and commercial smash that topped the iTunes Blues Chart and was crowned #4 Best Blues Album Of The Year by Mojo magazine. The release also reached #1 in the Dutch charts and helped Beth to fill Amsterdams Heineken Music Hall with 5,500 fans (her largest club show to date). Oh, that was so good, man, she reflects. I love Holland. Theyve been really good to me.
The US market has embraced her, too, with Beth packing ever-larger venues in major cities on the Better Than Home tour including Nashvilles iconic Ryman Auditorium and receiving a nomination from the American Blues Foundation in the category of Contemporary Blues Female Artist. Its unbelievable, she admits. This last tour, we were playing much bigger houses than Id ever played in the States and they were sold-out.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Beths rocketing UK profile has never been higher. Recent years have seen auspicious headline sets at the Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican (not to mention the historic Hampton Court Palace with Joe Bonamassa), and in December 2015, she chalked up another first with a spot on Jools Hollands legendary annual Hootenanny.
Bringing in the New Year with a soulful take on Tell Her You Belong To Me and Nutbush City Limits alongside long-time collaborator Jeff Beck, it spoke volumes that the pairs performance rapidly became the Hootenannys most-watched clip on the BBCs official YouTube channel (even overtaking heavyweights like Tom Jones and Paul Weller). Every time Jeff performs, he just kills it, gushes Beth, who also joins the veteran guitarist for her first-ever appearance at the Hollywood Bowl this year. To me, hes the greatest ever.
Just as memorable, also last December, was Beths first solo gig at Londons Union Chapel (subsequently voted by fans as the venues gig of the year). It was the most terrifying experience of my entire life, she admits. I got up there and I was so frickin scared. But then, halfway through the show, I just started to enjoy it. By the end, I felt so connected to the audience, and I really felt like they did that show with me. It was like we were all the band.
A highlight of that Union Chapel show was a heartfelt rendition of Mama This Ones For You (included on Better Than Home as a bonus track). The audiences reaction lit a lightbulb, and in early 2016, the singer announced a contest inviting fans to submit footage of themselves with their mothers, for inclusion in a special Mama video released for Mothers Day. I cried when I saw the edited version for the first time, Beth recalls. I love my own mom more than anything in the world, and I found it so touching and beautiful.
Beths passion for collaboration also continues apace in 2016. On the heels of 2011s Dont Explain and 2013s Grammy-nominated Seesaw, therell be another studio hook-up between the singer and blues titan Joe Bonamassa, with sessions set for August. Im really interested in us doing stuff from the 40s and 50s, she reveals. Rock 'n roll, torch songs and jazz songs
For now, though, Beths focus is Fire On The Floor: a new studio album sure to build on her breakneck momentum. As the singer explains, this latest record gave her an emotional release following the bitter-sweet sessions for Better Than Home. If theres a theme that ties these twelve songs together, its a sense of escapism following the hardest of times. We were still in the mixing stages for that album and I knew I had to make another record. Making Better Than Home was so painful, because one of the producers, Michael Stevens, was dying of cancer. It was a very emotional record to write and to make. I wanted the songs for Fire On The Floor to get born real quick.
Beths first call was to the acclaimed producer Oliver Leiber, who called a session at his home studio in Toluca Lake and drafted a crack studio band that included Michael Landau (guitar), Waddy Wachtel (guitar), Brian Allen (bass), Rick Marotta (drums), Jim Cox (piano), Dean Parks (acoustic guitar) and Ivan Neville (B3 and organ). Oliver rounded up some amazing musicians, nods Beth. Michael Landau and Waddy Wachtel are legends, so when I found out we had them, I just couldnt believe it. If you dont have great musicians, youre not gonna have a very good record, are you?
We recorded sixteen songs in three days, continues Beth of the quick fire LA sessions, but then we spent a long time mixing. Oliver is a brutally hard-working person, but hes also incredibly sensitive and that combination works so great. Hes strong and focused, but still so vulnerable, and his heart is wide open. Im so proud of what he did on this record.
Take a spin of Fire On The Floor and youll see exactly why. These twelve new songs run the gamut of genre, reflecting Beths eclectic teenage influences, which took in everything from gospel, soul and classical to the seismic rock of Soundgarden. As a writer, she nods, I feel really stifled if Im trying to write in the same style. I just cant do that. Growing up as a kid, I was raised all over the place stylistically, loving so many different genres.
As such, youll find everything from the spring-heeled soul of Lets Get Together to the brittle rock of Fat Man. I love that song, she says of the latter. Thats actually a co-write with a wonderful songwriter named Glen Burtnik, who I started writing with when I was about 24. We wrote that seven years ago just a basic skeleton but then I got super-inspired and wrote out the lyric. It feels good to sing it. Thats whats so great about rock 'n roll. Its just such a fantastic way to let out your angst.
Likewise, the title track: I love Fire On The Floor. Its just smoldering. I think its gonna be a fantastic piece to perform live. Its filled with passion. Its about when someone you know is so bad for you, but you cant help it. Then theres No Place Like Home. I love that song. Its about how, like, you spend a lot of time on the road, and you start to realize all the great things about being home. Kinda the opposite to the song Better Than Home.
Other upbeat highlights include the salsa-tinged Baby Shot Me Down and the jazz-inflected Coca Cola, with a vocal that reminds you why Beth was recently voted as the 20th best blues singer of all-time in The Blues. Vocally, that one takes me back to a Billie Holiday kinda singing, she reflects. I love that kind of vibe, like a light, fun sexiness.
By contrast, there are some songs that Beth had to wrench from the emotional depths. Picture In A Frame is a big one for me, she says. When I started writing it, I was thinking about being in love with my husband. But when I was done, I could see that I really connected it with Michael Stevens, and it was my way of saying to him, yknow, 'I just want you to be better.
Despite all the emotionally bare moments, for Beth, this record represents a catharsis. I think Better Than Home is one of the best records Ive ever done, she says, but it was a brutal experience. Fire On The Floor has more energy and I think, overall, its just got more balls. And I think I really needed that, just to balance out that heavier mood on Better Than Home.
Fire On The Floor is the album that Beth Hart needed to make. Likewise, its a record that you need to hear. Im so pleased with it, she concludes. I recently had to organize the sequence of the record, and while I was doing that, I was thinking to myself, 'Yknow, this is pretty frickin good!