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A Heart-To-Heart With Beth Hart,
Who's 'Screamin' for My Supper'   
on Atlantic by Chuck Taylor 
THE GLORY OF GUTS: When I met with Beth Hart before a recent performance at Town Hall in Manhattan, there were no invitations to fancy back quarters or quaint, atmospheric dressing rooms nor scores of label execs buzzing about the artist to the point of distraction. 

Instead, Hart, a raw, soul-on-her -sleeve embodiment of vulnerability, steps outside of the venue alone, preferring to stand a spell on the sidewalk. First, she offers a tight hug. 

"I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for coming," she says in a way that expels any doubt of sincerity. Then she shows off her first tattoo,  a butterfly, placed on her shoulder. Within minutes, you feel you're catching up with a friend you've known all your life.

Hart is the epitome of the natural woman, bawdy and funny, chatty and free-wheeling with her choice of spiced language. But that's white bread compared to her on stage presence, where the tall, gaunt singer/songwriter struts and squalls out songs with the vim of Mick Jagger.

At other times, she takes her place at the piano or center stage, where she sits without a shred of pretense, legs straddled over the sides of a chair, conjuring a voice so delicate and pained, you wonder if she's going to cry - or if you will.

It's no wonder then that finding acceptance onstage is perceived as a gracious gift for Hart.

"When I'm up there and the crowd is right there with me, it's like being breast-fed by my mother; like feeling so much love from the sexiest, most honest, kindest man; like the best drugs in the world; like God putting his hand on your back and loving you. It is the best," she says.

Hart's bloodletting first single, "L.A. Song," is an invitation to that more vulnerable side. The piano-based ballad tells of confronting pain and heartache at home, then leaving town to find peace and realizing that you can't leave demons by your bedside table. And it's about finally resolving to confront those demons, then returning home with newfound strength.

"Beth Hart is one of the few artists that manages to convey her convictions and emotion through her music. She's just raw and pure," says Scott Shannon, PD/morning show co-host at adult top 40 WPLJ New York, who recently hosted Hart for an on-air interview and live performance.

"We've been doing live performances on WPLJ for eight years now, and I can remember only a handful of artists who have gotten the kind of reaction she did from listeners. And she's the only unknown artist to get that kind of response," he says. "I can't imagine her going long without scoring a hit and becoming a star." 

Hart wrote the autobiographical "L.A. Song" - hauntingly beautiful and expressive of her own personal journey - after recording her first album, "Immortal," on 143/Lava/Atlantic five years ago, then going on the road with her longtime band - and witnessing everything fall apart.

"We came back from the tour, and the whole thing was horrible," says the 27-year-old Hart. "We fought, the record bombed, and we stopped being friends on the road. I was embarrassed in front of my friends and family, who had said, 'It's going to happen.' I felt ashamed and didn't think I deserved another shot with another record. I thought, 'I gotta get out of this place.'

"So I went to Alabama and hung with a group of musicians," she continues. "We partied a lot and tried to conquer our demons, and I wrote. I found a little bit of self-respect and self-love. And that's when I came home."

Despite its situational inspiration, there is, of course, universality in "L.A. Song" for all who are battling forces beyond their control. "I hope people find some hope in it, that they realize they're not the only ones who feel this way," Hart says. "I know what it's like to feel alone and isolated, and it's one of worst feelings in the world. There are so many of us in this world and yet so many lonely people. Sometimes you hear a song that means something, see a painting or a movie, taste a food, anything. You're like, 'Whoa, this tastes really good,' and the guy next to you says, 'Yeah, me too. 'It's that feeling of not being the only one."

Notes Ron Shapiro, executive VP/GM of Atlantic Records, "'L.A. Song' is a brilliantly crafted pop song, it's an autobiographical journey, it's a psychological release, it's a cultural lesson, it's personal heroism. Any song that does all that deserves Atlantic Records to die for it."

Other cuts on Hart's new album, "Screamin' For My Supper," like "Get Your Shit Together," written with Glenn Burtnik and spouted with the whiskey-soaked passion of a woman still at work on "her shit," show a more strident side of the artist: "You've got places to go/You've got people to know/You got plans to get your shit together/Did you take it too far/Did you forget who you are/ Did you stash your soul into the closet forever?"

Again, the song is self-inspired: "I kept saying things like, 'I'm never going to do that,' and then I would," she says. "I kept falling down and falling down again and realized I've got to learn the hard way. You learn to tell the truth because that's all you've got."

Hart says that the track leans to her album's central themes of enlightenment and hope.

"I wasn't making an album for people to hear. I was more making an album to heal and talk about family, friends, God, the demons, my addictions, things that make me the happiest and things that make me the saddest. This was the first time in my life where I was willing to say just what I think and not worry so much about how people will judge me. At that point, I had nothing to lose, so why not tell the truth?" she says.

"When I walked in the room, it was obvious that we had something different in Hart," WPLJ's Shannon attests. "She was so genuine ' you just knew she was going to be someone special."

"There's so much passion in her music," adds Sonja Jackson, music director of modern adult WZZP Sacramento, Calif. "My philosophy is that a good record makes me want to kill someone or fuck someone. When I heard this one, it made me want to you know what. Her song is a story, it relates to me, and I knew it would relate to my female audience. She sounds like she's had a hard life, like she's got stories and lived to tell them."

Hart is currently touring as the warm-up for labelmate Edwin McCain throughout the U.S. and in spots across Europe. Beginning Oct. 19, she will headline the newly launched Hard Rock Cafe tour, visiting U.S. cities where the chain has franchises, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Boston, and Chicago. Proceeds go to VH1's Save the Music. 

It's certainly a step ahead of Hart's early days as a street performer with her former band. And yet, Hart views the future as a constant set of steps on the road to truth, self-love, and recovery.

Asked where she regards her career on a scale of one to 10, she responds, "I'm kind of feeling like a three, because to me, the real road to success is when you've gotten the ability to be completely honest with an audience, to know that I'm strong and healthy, that my crew is happy, and that the crowd wants to hear the music. And afterward, we can talk and hang out. It's not the fucking car, the house or all that other bullshit. It's about bringing some tears and some honesty. I've still got a lot to learn."

by Chuck Taylor - Billboard Magazine

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Beth Hart appears on 143/Lava/Atlantic Records
Distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation  

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143 Records, Lava Records, and Atlantic Records
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Some Beth Hart photos used on this site are
Copyright Atlantic Recording Corporation.  

Other Beth Hart photos used on this site are
courtesy of Linda Bunnell. Copyright JanFan Inc.

This web site was created by Lisa Deuschle.
Copyright 2000 Ishler's Words. All rights reserved.
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Revised: February 17, 2001