Beth Hart

IT’S A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF ART IMITATING life. The energy and passion radiating from Beth Hart is so strong that if she didn’t have her music as an outlet, she would probably explode. Thankfully, the explosion comes out in a performance that many have likened to the almighty Janis Joplin.

The Los Angeles-bred singer/songwriter spoke to POLLSTAR from the road, not knowing or really caring where she was. But you could hear the smile on her face. She absolutely loves the road. “Oh, God, it’s so much better than L.A. Anything’s better than L.A.,” she laughed.

Those feelings provided the material for her first radio single, “L.A. Song (Out Of This Town),” off her sophomore Lava/143/Atlantic Records release, Screamin’ For My Supper. Much of the music on that album came from the experiences of her failed debut – an episode Hart described as “hell.”

Radio wouldn’t play any tracks from her first release, Immortal. “It was that time of the Paula Coles and the Sheryl Crows … and it was like female time of real soft singing and Jewel and Lilith Fair, and then the rest of it was male hard, hard, hard rock,” Hart said. “So I think we kinda got caught in the middle.”

Following a brutal tour, Hart’s band dispersed. She relocated to Alabama to get away from L.A. “because I thought it was a piece of shit,” she said. “I just got stoned out of my mind and definitely thought that I was gonna get dropped for the next record. And I was in a lot of pain at the time because my band had broken up. So I was basically writing this record out of feeling – not writing it for a record at all.”

When she made her way back to L.A. and was told she’d get a chance at another album, she resisted. She wasn’t happy with the way Immortal was produced and wanted to do the next project her way. With more control, a new attitude, and flowers, candles, wine and friends all around, Hart went back into the studio. This time, “we had the greatest time of our lives – ever,” she said.

“We were lucky enough to find out what really makes us feel good and really makes us feel almost like we’re not in our bodies – that’s music. And whenever we’re playing music, it’s almost like God’s got us right in his hands and he’s saying, ‘Man, I love you so much. I’m so proud of you and you’re doing what I want you to be doing because it’s supposed to make you happy.'”

The first album was a necessary, humbling experience. “I think it taught me that just because I had spent years trying to get a deal, it didn’t mean that … now I was gonna become successful. In fact, what it meant was now, I was just going to start really paying dues.”

Her new philosophy went into effect: no egos, no expectations and no rock-star attitudes. “If you want to be here today and gone tomorrow, then do that. But if you want a career, you’ve got to know that you’re just a human being and you’re gonna do good work and you’re gonna do shitty work but at least you’re doing the work. And if you get an opportunity to get out there and get to meet people and get your word out there to people, then you have a responsibility to be impeccable with your word. And that takes a lot of work. But what a gracious gift that is to get to do that.”

Hart fully appreciates that gift, especially since she’s been working for it in clubs since age 15. She spent years playing the chitlin’ circuit in South Central L.A. – which she described as singing for your supper.

Beth Hart

Her life changed when the Seattle sound broke. “All the music I had been writing didn’t fit the radio at all and I hated ‘80s music on the radio. I hated it beyond hate, OK – even more than PMS.”

She was floored by bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and The Screaming Trees. “It was like, ‘What is this music that’s honest and they’re not all phony with the makeup and the hair? It’s just great music.’ And that’s what made me decide to get a band together.”

After what Hart described as a horrible independent album and terrible management, she and her band took to the streets, playing on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. That’s when veteran artist manager David Wolff saw a man drop $100 in her guitar case.

When Wolff approached her about management, Hart said, “F*ck you. I’m not interested in you. I’m not interested in the record business. I think you guys are full of shit. I don’t trust you at all.”

Luckily, her guitar player convinced Hart to give the manager a shot. As it turned out, she credits Wolff with changing her life. “He’s never told me what to wear, what to play, what people to work with. All he’s done is allow me to grow and love me, and kick ass at the label and at the agency, and get us the best gigs he can. And he’s like my dad. I mean, I really, really love him.”

With head firmly on straight and everything traveling down the right track, Hart can finally concentrate on her goal: making her album and tour a full-entertainment experience. She said if the performance is just right, it’s like seeing a good movie.

“You don’t want to laugh the whole time. You want to maybe cry, you want to get a little scared, you want to maybe get a little horny. And then, all of the sudden, you want to get angry,” she explained. “And then when you leave, you’re like, ‘F*ckin-A! I just went on a serious ride.'”