India Today - - LEISURE - —Amit Gur­bax­ani

AAmer­i­can vo­cal­ist Beth Hart, who will head­line this year’s edi­tion of the Mahin­dra Blues Fes­ti­val in Mum­bai in the sec­ond week­end of Fe­bru­ary, has re­leased a dozen stu­dio al­bums over the course of a 25-year ca­reer. She be­lieves her be­ing pro­lific has a lot to do with her per­son­al­ity. “One of the things I at­tribute it to is be­ing overly sen­si­tive as a kid and just be­ing in so much pain all the time,” said Hart, who’s al­ways been can­did about both the drug ad­dic­tion that al­most de­railed her ca­reer and the men­tal ill­ness she deals with daily.

Her event­ful life has in­formed the songs that make up her discog­ra­phy, which in­cludes three col­lec­tions of cover ver­sions recorded with Amer­i­can blues-rock gui­tarist Joe Bona­massa. Clas­sics from those al­bums, such as ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ by Etta James and ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ by Bobby Bland, are likely to fea­ture in her set. But Hart, who Bona­massa hailed as a mod­ern-day Ja­nis Jo­plin, doesn’t call her­self a blues mu­si­cian. “First and fore­most, I am re­ally a song­writer,” said Hart. Her in­flu­ences cut across gen­res, start­ing with western classical and Beethoven, with whom she fell in love when she started play­ing the piano at the age of four.

Along with song­writ­ing stars such as Ca­role King and James Tay­lor, her list of in­spi­ra­tions in­clude jazz greats such as Bil­lie Hol­i­day and Di­nah Wash­ing­ton. Her brother in­tro­duced her to reg­gae royal Bob Mar­ley and hard rock heavy­weights Led Zep­pelin. She cred­its an ex-boyfriend for turn­ing her on to blues boss Big Joe Turner. She came to love alt-rock emis­saries Soundgar­den and Alice Chains lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio in her early 20s, and she dis­cov­ered soul leg­end Otis Red­ding through a com­pi­la­tion tape some­body handed her at one of her gigs.

Hart says they each share a qual­ity. “They don’t use the genre as a place to lean on but re­ally use their heart and soul,” she said. “To me, they’re re­ally lean­ing on their story.” As far as sto­ries go, Hart has plenty of her own to share. It might come as a sur­prise, though, that the melodies and ar­range­ments of her com­po­si­tions come to her more eas­ily than her lyrics. “I tor­ture my­self over [them],” she said. “But I love it. That feel­ing of search­ing for some­thing. I know how I feel but [not] how [I’m] go­ing to re­lay it to where it makes me cry or move or feel like I’m find­ing the truth. [Song­writ­ing is] al­ways a spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Amer­i­can vo­cal­ist Beth Hart head­lines this month’s Mahin­dra Blues Fes­ti­val in Mum­bai

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