AMERICAN singer songwriter Beth Hart possesses a voice which is laced with so much power and passion that it evokes the sprit of iconic legends Janis Joplin and Eta James.
As Hart and her band arrive in the UK this week, for a whirlwind four show mini tour, including an intimate gig at the Brook in Southampton, tonight, UK music fans will finally get to see and hear one of rock’s most underrated performers.
Raised in Pasadena, during the 70s, Hart was drawn to the piano and the world of classical music at the age of four.
While her early influences where the likes of Bach and Beethoven, it wasn’t long before her interests turned to Otis Reading and Led Zeppelin. It was the vocal talents of Eta James, that had the most impact on the budding musician, an impact that still remains strong to this day.
“Growing up my older sister and her friends were listening to all different types of music from rock to the Blues and R & B. I liked Billie Holiday, you could really hear so much emotion in her songs, but my biggest influence was, and still is, Eta James. Her voice and the way she delivered the sound was just amazing”
says Hart, down the phone line from her Los Angeles home.
Hart started her musical odyssey, with a local piano teacher.
“I could not read music at the time, and Mrs Davis kept getting me to read, but all I would do is listen to the piece she wanted me to learn. As she played it to me, I would just copy that at the next lesson, so pretty soon she caught on to that, and that was the end of my time with Mrs Davis,” she laughs.
The girl from Pasadena was later established as an emotional and powerful songwriter. From the biographical tones of LA Song (Out of this town) to the full on honesty of Leave the Light on, Hart has turned the negative aspects of her life into messages of hope and inspiration for others.
“My Dad was sent to prison for drug offences when I was five, I then went off the rails, turning to alcohol and drugs at the age of 11, with my sister, who died from the affects of drugs when I was a teenager. I was diagnosed with a form of Bipolar, and have had my battles with drugs and alcohol addiction,”
says Hart It was down to her then roadie and now husband Scott Guetzkow that Hart decided that enough was enough and started the long road to recovery.
“I still have my bad days, like everyone else, but I am stronger these days and have learnt how to deal with them a bit better than I used to. It helps me to write songs that reflect these feelings; it’s a kind of exorcism method for me.”
Teaming up with blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa for her latest album Don’t Explain, Hart has been able to pay her respects to the musicians and singers that have inspired her thought her career. The album is a collection of cover versions from a wide spectrum of artists, including Ray Charles, Tom Waitts and of course Eta James.
“It was great to be able to record some of the songs that have had a huge impact on me as a singer thought my career.”
Although Hart has a strong track record of studio albums, it is her live performances, where she can really let her talent shine, “On stage is where I feel most at home, being able to let myself go is a great feeling. That connection with the audience, the energy they can generate is the most amazing thing in the world; it makes me appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.”
• Beth Hart appears at The Brook tonight. Tickets: 023 8055 5366 or visit thebrook.com.