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. I
The Blues Magazine once dubbed Beth Hart “the ultimate female rock star”, and there’s 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 it’s 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 Amsterdam’s Heineken Music Hall with 5,500 fans (her largest club show to date). “Oh, that was so good, man,” she reflects. “I love Holland. They’ve 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 Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium – and receiving a nomination from the American Blues Foundation in the category of Contemporary Blues Female Artist. “It’s unbelievable,” she admits. “This last tour, we were playing much bigger houses than I’d ever played in the States – and they were sold-out.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Beth’s 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 Holland’s 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 pair’s performance rapidly became the Hootenanny’s most-watched clip on the BBC’s 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, he’s the greatest ever.”
Just as memorable, also last December, was Beth’s first solo gig at London’s Union Chapel (subsequently voted by fans as the venue’s 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 One’s For You (included on Better Than Home as a bonus track). The audience’s 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 Mother’s 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.”
Beth’s passion for collaboration also continues apace in 2016. On the heels of 2011’s Don’t Explain and 2013’s Grammy-nominated Seesaw, there’ll be another studio hook-up between the singer and blues titan Joe Bonamassa, with sessions set for August. “I’m really interested in us doing stuff from the ’40s and ’50s,” she reveals. “Rock ‘n’ roll, torch songs and jazz songs…”
For now, though, Beth’s focus is Fire On The Floor: a new studio album sure to build on her breakneck momentum.