Beth Hart Talks "Bang Bang Boom Boom"
Mon, 04 Mar 2013 06:55:39
Bang Bang Boom Boom is glorious rebirth for Beth Hart. At the same time, it shows that much hasn't changed for the singer and songwriter. She can still pen a heartbreaking and hypnotic tune, but she does so here with a soulful, blues elegance that's utterly invigorating. In fact, Hart breathes life into pop music with a reverence for the past. Bang Bang Boom Boom might make you feel like you're in a film noir jazz club at points, and then it'll rapturously pull you back into the 21st century. In other words, it's Hart at her very best ever.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Beth Hart opens up about Bang Bang Boom Boom [Out April 2] and so much more.
Did you approach Bang Bang Boom Boom with one vision or vibe?
I knew something had to shift in me musically after I recorded My California. I spilled everything I felt at that time, and I felt pretty dry. I said to my manager, "I don't know what I'm going to do. Let's not do anything for a while and see what happens". Then, Joe Bonamassa came into my life unexpectedly and asked if I would do a soul covers record with him called Don't Explain. We chose a bunch of material and had fun with it. I went back to a lot of stuff I'd listened to as a really young kid like Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, and Etta James. I love that music so much, but I hadn't done much writing in that arena as much as the rock, blues rock, or pop in the past. This really inspired me. I knew it was what I wanted to be doing as a songwriter. I wrote a lot of material. I got to explore on my own, which was really fun and challenging. When it came to make the record, I knew I wanted to embrace that time in the music. I turned in about 40 songs to the producer Kevin Shirley. We spent six days recording everything.
Was there a thematic thread?
In the past, the lyrical approach has either come from anger or shame and disappointment. I've written some songs that were more light-hearted. However, my general past makeup has been hard-knocking in yourself. When I was doing the music for this record, I noticed that the music was inspiring lyrics that were much more positive and exciting. "Spirit of God" is a good example. Then, "Bang Bang Boom Boom" is that cheeky 1940s gangster period of love, glamour, and all that craziness going on. In terms of a lyrical repertoire, I was finally breaking away with what I had to say lyrically. I didn't even notice until the record was almost done. The lyrics were a shift, and it made me feel good. I'd been able to move into a place where I felt challenged and excited by music. I hadn't been that excited by it in a long time. Some of those stories came from a different, positive place. There's some sad material, but it's not like some of my past records.
What's the story behind "Every Must Change"?
No matter how sick you are, there's hope there. I used metaphors in there. There's a willingness to be honest with where you are and where you've come from. Instead of being disappointed, ashamed or afraid within your own weaknesses, it's about seeing the beauty that everything does change no matter what. Things may get bad, but they'll always change. That's a natural law of how things are. That gave my hope. Change is always inevitable. No matter how hard it gets, it will also get that good. You just have to give it time to recognize it when they come.
What song from the record resonates with you the most right now?
Right now, I'd say "Baddest Blues" and "Spirit of God". For "Baddest Blues", I was trying to explore the heart of Billie Holiday who reminds me a lot of my own mother. They went through such hardships, but they always held themselves so gallantly. They never quit on live, when they sure had every reason to ignore it, turn their backs, and say, "Forget it. I'm done". Those two women archetypes have shown me that no matter what happens with your heart you can still hold yourself like a lady and go out, find, and feel love again. You're no longer a victim to it. You hold your own power and choices. That was important song for me musically more than anything. Lyrically, it was cool to explore that and put myself in my mom's shoes with some of what I started going through growing up. "Spirit of God" is a really fun story. I went to a bunch of catholic churches as a young kid, but I hated it. It was always boring. I belonged to a country club. Upstairs, they'd rent out one of the back houses for church gatherings or weddings. Usually, there was nothing up there. They had a piano. At five or six-years-old, I'd sneak off from my brother and go upstairs to play. One day as I was walking up the stairs, there was all of this loud commotion. I peeked through the door, and there was a full-on Baptist church congregation. The preacher was jumping up and down and sweating on stage. People were running up and down the aisles and dancing. I'd never seen anything like it in my life. The preacher looked at me and said, "Little girl, do you believe in the lord?" I responded, "I don't know!" He was like, "Come on in and celebrate with the lord!" I came in, and he put me up with the choir. I had the best time of my life. It turned me on to celebrating God and faith and having a blast showing how you feel rather than trying to suppress it. My first real rock show was a Baptist revival [Laughs].
What influences you outside of music?
I really love painters, especially from the Van Gogh movement. I'm a huge fan of Renoir. I love anything from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I love the impressionism movement. It's incredible hearing the stories behind the artists and lives they led. I love to see dance and ballet. I love free form jazz. There are so many great art forms. I love cooking. I love movies. I can't stop seeing them.
If you were to compare Bang Bang Boom Boom to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Sophie's Choice is filled with unbelievable romance meets the diehard tragedy of the Holocaust. It's an amazing film. If you haven't seen it, you need to. It's got some of the greatest acting and writing you'll ever see. It's one of Meryl Streep's early movies. There's something about blending the tragedy and love. That's a cool representation of this record.
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