Beth Hart believes she is basking in a golden period of success. On War In My Mind, her first new album album in three years, the 47-year-old singer songwriter paired up with super producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) for what might be her finest work to date.
To celebrate the new record, Hart sat down to talk Lana Del Rey, getting married, and following serial killers on Twitter in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
For me the whole reason why I do music is it helps me to get through stuff. It would be nice if the music was needed by anyone to make them feel better, like it has made me be able to get through stuff, that’s all.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Oh god that’s a hard one because there are so many man! I really love Saint Petersburg, Russia. That’s killer there. Paris is great and of course New York.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
It’s impossible; there are so many people. Strangers, family, friends, my husband, the people I’ve worked with in the business. My pains, struggles, bi-polar, alcoholism, god, the devil. Everything! Everything affects it. If I really had to choose one person, it would probably be my Dad. Because that was the greatest pain in my life, losing him when I was little. Not to death or anything, he went to the can for a while and then when he got out, he had this whack-job wife who wouldn’t let him have anything to do with me.
So I think in a way, the reason why I went to the piano in the first place when I was really little is I knew something was happening with my parents and I was so close to my dad. So maybe in some way the reason why I made music to begin with was like, my prayers to god to bring him back.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Alright, so it’s my personality that every time I eat, it’s always the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! So, the latest thing that was the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life was today. Me and my husband went for a bike ride to Huntington Beach, and they’ve got this killer little pizzeria joint there that has this amazing clams and linguini. It’s called Pizza D’Oro. It’s phenomenal! But everything I eat, I don’t know what it is, I just think it’s the most amazing thing ever!
What album do you know every word to?
The one that leaps to mind is one that I studied for so many years and I still study to this day. It’s an Etta James live album called Blues In The Night: The Early Show and she’s performing live with the most ridiculous band in front of about 50 people. It’s so good!
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
I have attended a lot of concerts and I love them all for so many reasons but if I had to choose one it would probably be Patti LaBelle. When I was sixteen, I went with my best friend Ron Williams, who’s an amazing singer, and worshipped Patti. We went and saw her and baby! She came out on that stage, she took off her eyelashes and gave them to people. She took off her pantyhose and gave them to people. She took her little mink stole and gave it to people. She was incredible! Her voice, ridiculous! It was inspirational, it was so humbling, it was so beautiful, it was like seeing god perform!
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Oh boy…depressing, vulnerable…kind of soulful but hopeful.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
The best outfit to perform in, in my little opinion, is whatever makes you feel good that day. So sometimes, I want to go out there and wear six-inch heels, and then other days I want to look like a dude! I want to be barefoot, have jeans on, no make-up, wear a ripped up shirt. It’s whatever makes you feel comfortable, that’s the most important thing.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
There is this one serial killer guy who I really enjoy following a lot, I try to pay as much attention to him as possible… (laughs) I’m just kidding! Oh man, I couldn’t say.
What’s your most frequently played song in the bus on tour?
Well everyone’s kind of doing their own thing you know? I have a lot of artists that I love. Starting way back to Beethoven, all the way through to the Benny Goodman era and Frank Sinatra. Basically, through every generation I have so many artists that I love. But then I also love a lot of modern artists. I listen to a lot of Lana Del Rey. I love her, she’s an in-cre-di-ble poet!
I listen to a lot of old stuff as well, a lot of Aretha Franklin, Sam Cook, Dinah Washington, Billie Holliday, a lot of jazz stuff. Because it reminds me so much of my mother growing up, when she played a lot of that. Also if you listen to a lot of the old jazz stuff the lyrics are so ridiculous on a whole other level! They’re just from another time. I listen to a lot of Leonard Cohen as well, another fantastic lyricist.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
Oh, it probably had something to do with plants because I’m really into gardening and studying horticulture. I just planted some Palms and Giant White Birds of Paradise yesterday so I’m sure I Googled stuff to make sure that I was putting them in the right spot, gave them the right amount of water and the right food, that kind of stuff.
What album makes for the perfect gift?
Well, whatever that person wants! Whatever that person enjoys. What I think is great music, another person could hear and go “Wow, you have such crap taste in music”. And they would be right! Because art is like beauty isn’t it, it’s in the eye of the beholder. To me, a perfect gift would be something by Leonard Cohen. But if I gave that to some kid on the street they’d look at me like I was high out of my mind. They don’t want to hear that!
Do you have a favorite hotel you enjoy staying at when you tour?
Anything that’s nice and has a pool. That’s one of my favorite things about the music business, you never know what you’re going to get you know? You don’t know how you’re going to write that year, you don’t know when the records going to come out, you don’t know how people are going to react to it, you don’t know what kind of hotel you’re going to get tonight when you’re on the road, you don’t know what kind of venue you’re going to be playing. You don’t know anything, it’s always constantly changing and morphing.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
Well, my favorite tattoo is the last one I got. I wanted to cover some old stuff that I had that had bad memories attached to it. I was on drugs at the time and the tattoo artist I was dating did these tattoos. My Scotty said, “You can get a cover for that” and they ended up doing this huge cover that was like half a sleeve! It was killer! It’s just really positive and beautiful.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Scotty married me! That’s the nicest thing. Other than that, my parents for not only giving me life but also trying to do the best they could and they’re amazing people. My pastor Kim, she’s amazing. She visits me, takes care of me and loves me. So many people have done so many acts of great love and kindness for me and my life and god knows I didn’t deserve any of it. But I would choose Scott for marrying me.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
I’d go back to myself and say it’s going to be really hard and it’s going to be really wonderful and then it’s going to be really hard and then it’s going to be really wonderful and it’s not because you’re a piece of sh*t, it’s not because others are a piece of sh*t, it’s because that’s life. So try not to take it personal. Just roll with it, it’s going to go up and down always. When it doesn’t go up and down anymore that means you’re dead so just take the ride and go for it.
What’s the last show you went to?
The last memorable one I went to was Amy Winehouse in Denmark. That was un-freaking-believable. One of the greatest singers of all time. All time. I was blown away. I loved her and when she died it felt like my sister died all over again. It was unbelievably heartbreaking. What a talent, way too big of a talent to have even played in this time, she should have been born in the ’20s when people actually appreciated talent like that. She was amazing.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
I love The Exorcist. It’s the bomb, I love it. Every time it’s on, I can’t resist watching and I always get scared and I have to leave the lights on.
What would you cook if Kanye were coming to your house for dinner?
I bet you’ve asked this question to a million people and I bet you every freaking time, they say the same freaking thing! They’d be making him some humble pie! But I actually think he is a freaking genius and I actually do think he has a lot of good ideas that are coming from a really good place. I don’t think that he actually thinks that he’s the greatest thing in the world. I think he’s just a really good guy, that’s my vibe. Maybe I am a little more lenient because I have a soft spot in my heart when I see people acting in ways that makes everybody else cringe and go “Oh my god! How can they do that?” I have a soft spot in my heart for that because I have a lifetime of behavior that makes me cringe when I look back over my own, so maybe that’s why I give a little more room. I just don’t think he’s a bad guy.