AMSTERDAM – The American singer Beth Hart had a long struggle with alcohol, drugs and bipolar disorder. She won, but two and a half years later she collapsed again. On her new album My California, 38-year old Hart sings about these experiences.
Hart is best-known for her 2000 hit song L.A. Song (Out Of This Town). She is particularly doing well in Northwest Europe: Hart tours a lot in The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Denmark. Back in 2005, the singer-songwriter released Live In Paradiso, which was recorded in the famed Amsterdam pop temple.
Hart's fifth studio album My California is about her rather chaotic personal life. When she was 27, Hart was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When a doctor brought her the news, she denied. “I said: 'I'm an alcoholic drug addict, that's what the problem is. If I get sober, everything will be fine.' And I proved them right for a while: I got clean and sober for several years. But I had emotional problems, especially when I got on the road. My husband was taking care of me, so I could get through.”
Two and a half years ago Hart had a mental breakdown. “I could not work, could not be at home alone – it was dangerous for me”, she explains. “This time, when I went back into the hospital, I was in it for over a month.” She learned to rely on her medication. “I'd had enough, I'd never felt so ill. It was terrifying. When they put me on medication, I instantly started feeling better. I didn't feel as afraid, as insecure, as paranoid. I had heard that it takes away your creativity, but I got more creative.”
Writing about personal subjects is the only thing that works for Hart. “Because it's not interesting for me to sit down at the piano and write a song that's all about how great life is. When life is great for me I don't write, I go out and enjoy life. When life is hard for me, that's when I create, because it helps me to get through it.” Medication has taken over the role drugs (“I had to use every day in order to feel better”) had in her life. “I learnt how to get on with taking my medicine, and not feeling ashamed anymore.”
My California couldn't have been made without producer Rune Westberg: he convinced Hart to write songs about her recent experiences. She is glad with the result, but a little scared as well. “I love the record and I believe that there will be people out there who will love it too, but on the other hand: what if what happened a long time ago happens all over again? That gives me a little bit of the chills.”
My California was released on October 8 via Mascot Records
Beth Hart live: www.bethhart.com/present_en.php
Interview: Martin Kuiper
Text: Tom Springveld