Still going strong after a two decade career, 2015 was a year that really saw Beth Hart come into her own.
Releasing Better Than Home, which received critical and commerical praise, led her to perform at Amsterdam’s cavernous Heineken Music Hall, and in 2016 she performed her first solo show in London at Union Chapel, which was subsequently named its gig of the year.
Hart worked with producer Oliver Leiber for Fire On The Floor: “Oliver rounded up some amazing musicians,” she says of their work together. “Michael Landau and Waddy Wachtel are legends, so when I found out we had them, I just couldn’t believe it. If you don’t have great musicians, you’re not gonna have a very good record, are you?
“We recorded sixteen songs in three days, but then we spent a long time mixing. Oliver is a brutally hard-working person, but he’s also incredibly sensitive and that combination works so great. He’s strong and focused, but still so vulnerable, and his heart is wide open. I’m so proud of what he did on this record.”
Read the Q&A we did with Hart on the album’s title track below
What are you listening to at the moment?
“At the moment I’ve been listening to a lot of Nina Simone, Howlin’ Wolf, Billie Holiday and Humble Pie. I kinda go through phases of listening to choice music, I listen to a lot of jazz these days, a lot of Dinah Washington who I’m a huge fan of, it changes all the time, but that’s what I’ve been listening to a lot lately.”
What has the process of putting Fire On the Floor together been like in comparison with your previous work, and how are you feeling now it’s complete?
“I made Better Than Home out in New York City and it was a very difficult and painful process. Some personal things were going on with the producer being very ill and it was a very painful record to make. I write a lot and I have a lot of songs when I go in to record, for Better Than Home I had almost 50 songs, so when I was finished with it I had this huge catalogue of stuff I was really excited about but just didn’t happen to make it on Better Than Home because of the direction.
“I write in a lot of different genres; I had a bunch of jazzy and bluesy stuff and kinda alternatives to Jazz and blues that I really wanted to do and I knew because that the experience had been so difficult with Better Than Home, when you fall off a horse they say get back on otherwise you’ll be scared, it was kinda like that, I’ve gotta get back in the studio right away and have a positive one or I might have a really tough time next time I go make a record.
“So we called up a really good and old friend of mine who I had worked with previously when I was much younger, a producer named Oliver Leiber and I sent him all the songs and we chose and worked on what we were gonna do and it was awesome. He put together the best frickin band, unbelievable players and it was a total of 3 days of recording and it was absolutely incredible. Oliver Leiber is really an absolute genius and he is a beautiful person to work with. It was incredible, I’m really happy with the results on the record.”
What was the first gig you ever played, and what’s been the best so far?
“The first gig I consider my recital when I was 4 years old, it was really great, my teacher Mrs Davies didn’t make me play ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’, I had started writing music then she let me play something that I had written and my sister Sharon who has passed away since, she was 10 years older than me, walked me up to the piano and picked me up and put me on the bench and it was such an awesome day and I was so nervous. It’s funny, I’ve never lost that, I still get nervous to this day. My favourite gig; the Kennedy Center Honors when I got to honour Buddy Guy, I loved that.
“Another that was a really special gig for me; after all my drug problems, I lost my record deal and my whole life was crap, I had to start over again, when I was 29 I got to pay a show at the Paradiso In Amsterdam and the audience was so unbelievable, all these people came and they all knew the music, it was such a beautiful feeling, I got to be sober and got to feel what it was like to work again. I think I also didn’t think I deserved it, but through recovery you get to learn to forgive yourself and the audience made me feel like I totally deserved a second chance. My third favourite is the other night I got to play the Hollywood Bowl, I remember I first time I went there was to see Yo-Yo Ma play, I was a cellist growing up, and Yo-Yo Ma is the greatest cellist of all time, I got to play there the other night and oh my God, it was an awesome experience.”
Fire On The Floor, the new album from Beth Hart, is out on 14 October via Provogue.
STREAM “FIRE ON THE FLOOR” NOW AT: THE INDEPENDER.