Why Beth Hart Didn’t Work With Jimmy Page
Beth Hart's recently released tribute album wasn't her first brush with Led Zeppelin.
She had a chance to work with Jimmy Page in the early 2000s, but it didn't work out. Instead, she soon landed an equally impressive gig, writing and touring with Page's one-time Yardbirds associate Jeff Beck, beginning in 2006.
UCR caught up with Hart as she prepared for the next leg of her tour in April. She discussed why she didn't get the gig with Page, the experience of working with Beck, and the new music she's been working on.
Tell me how you connected with Jeff Beck initially.
Jason Flom had originally given me a hookup to Jimmy Page. My DVD had gone to him. His wife at the time, I guess was pretty frickin’ jealous. She said, “No frickin’ way, are you working with that girl.” So then it went to Jeff Beck. But when he got it, he didn’t get [my live DVD at the] Paradiso [in Amsterdam] at first. He got me singing “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues,” the Billie Holiday [song] with Toots Thielemans – who is a pretty famous harmonica player – on one of his albums.
Listen to Toots Thielemans' 'I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues' With Beth Hart
My first working experience with [Beck] was just as a writer. We got together and wrote together. I didn’t know who Jeff Beck was, so I wasn’t freaked out and nervous – whereas, my husband and my manager, they were trippin’. I said, “Why the fuck are you guys trippin’?” They’re like, “Because you’re about to work with the most innovative guitarist of all time.” So I’m like, “Uhhh, okay!” I get in there to write and while I’m writing, I start getting nervous – because I start hearing someone play like I’ve never heard anyone play.
Jeff leaves the room and I talked to the engineer and I’m like, “Dude, what the fuck? This dude’s insane!” He’s like, “Dude, this is like one of the greatest guitarists ever.” I’m freaking the frick out. Anyway, we leave and the next thing I know, I get a phone call. I don’t know, it was a couple of weeks or a month later. Jeff’s like, “I want you to be my singer, for the first tour I’ve done in the United States since Rod [Stewart] back in the ‘70s,” He also said, “I want you to learn some stuff.”
I’m like, “Yeah, okay.” I learned this stuff and it was frickin’ Pino [Palladino], it was frickin’ Vinnie Colaiuta. It was these crazy frickin’ players, right? Oh God, you talk about being nervous, man? But he was so kind and loving and down to earth. He would let me and guests come and stay at their beautiful home in England. He’s just a rad dude. We just recently got to stay with him when we did those five shows in England. He and his wife are the most down-to-earth, fun and loving [people]. He is just one of my favorite people, man. You talk about humility: Jeff is a humble motherfucker. He works his ass off. Three hours a day on the guitar, every day. Then nine hours on his cars.
I love that you two did a version of "Purple Rain" live.
I was really nervous about that one. I’m always nervous when I work with Jeff, because I want to do such a good job for him. I also know how incredibly important every show is to him – every show – and how nervous he gets. So I was pretty nervous on that one. I wasn’t [worried about] “I’d Rather Go Blind,” because I’d been doing it for a while – but I’d never sung “Purple Rain.” I didn’t know “Purple Rain” So, literally right before I went out, I was still studying it backstage and listening, over and over and over. That was a little nerve-wracking.
Listen to Jeff Beck and Beth Hart Perform 'Purple Rain'
It sounds like you wrote an insane amount of material during the pandemic break, and you've got a couple of albums recorded already?
All I’ve done so far is to demo one record, but there’s 70-something songs. What I’m going to do is I’m just going to turn everything over to [producer] Rob [Cavallo] – the demos, as well as the stuff that I wrote alone at home. That’s where the bulk of it is. I just recorded it on my iPhone. I send it to him and then Rob lets me know what stuff he wants to start on first, because I don’t care. I just turn in everything that I love.
What I’d like to do is do two records with him with 18 [total] songs. But the style of it, if you took classical music and blended it with a little hip hop and then really, really old '30s Robert Johnson blues and then you mixed that with some Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits? If you mixed it into a big pot? That’s kind of the vibe of it.
Following up on what you said about Jimmy Page earlier, are you bummed that you didn’t get to do something with him?
No. I know this might sound corny, but I’m a big believer in whatever you might want to call it, God or the universe, it kind of puts you where you need to be and what you need to learn. Sometimes it goes your way and then if you’re lucky, it doesn’t go your way and then you get to really learn. I’m kind of open to that at this point. I’ve survived addiction and fuckin’ mental illness and Hepatitis C. The rest is cake. Wherever it takes me, I’ll go.
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