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Beth Hart Still Breathing Fire

Beth Hart is teasing fans ahead of the release of her new album with the iTunes and Spotify release of the title track.  "Fire On The Floor" is another smoldering blues ballad, a style that has become her calling card.  "Fire On The Floor" might be even more intense than her 2012 Kennedy Center Awards performance of "I'd Rather Go Blind" with Jeff Beck.  When asked for a preview of other songs on her upcoming album, Hart said she took a different approach to songwriting on "Fire On The Floor."

"This album really does have a story" said Hart.  "I'm always writing, so a lot of stuff I turned in to the producers for 'Better Than Home' I had either written three, four years earlier, or maybe that year.  And they were encouraging me to write from a more joyful place, for good reason.  It was a really good exercise to do something different than what I've been used to doing for years.  Plus I think it's really cool to not just use music as your way to get through your pain, but to also use it as a way to celebrate your joy, and give thanks a lot."

Hart said accepting the "happy place" challenge laid out by her producers for "Better Than Home" worked well for her in that it birthed what she calls "one of the best records I've ever done."  But she said her approach to "Fire On The Floor" was different, and credits her producers, as well as frequent collaborator Joe Bonamassa as inspirations.

"I'm just happy because Joe has inspired me to go down the road as a (blues) writer.  And that is really challenging.  But now I feel I'm getting the hang of a whole different vocabulary to pull from in terms of chord changes.  So that's been helpful as a songwriter.  And that's a lot of what's going to be on the "Fire On The Floor" album" said Hart.

Hart came to national prominence in 2012 with her Kennedy Center performance with Beck,   When it was suggested her anguished, wrenching, often back of the neck hair raising vocals on that song and other ballads is something the music world hasn't heard since perhaps Etta James,  she was touched by the comparison.  She said it's easier to crawl into one of her songs than it is to interpret someone else's song.

"If I write it, it's easy because the writing is obviously coming from me" said Hart.  So when it's time to record, I've already created it, so it's not any thought process.  But when I work with Joe (Bonamassa), (we just recorded another record a couple weeks ago) the three records we've done together are all cover songs. So because I didn't write them, it was really, really daunting."

Hart used "I'd Rather Go Blind" as an example of how she uses personal experience to give meaning to songs she didn't write. For this song, she went back to when her father left her father left her family when she was about five years old.

"And I was really, really close to my father" said Hart.  "And forever I thought I was the one who ruined my mom and dad's marriage. So I would pray all the time to bring my dad back.  On the playground, I would use the monkey bars.  I would go back and forth to the point I thought my arms would break.  And I'd say 'If I can do this enough times my dad would come back.'  So that was a big obsession of mine as a kid.  So with 'I'd Rather Go Blind' that's what I pulled from, I pulled from father when he left us and walked away."

"Fire On The Floor" is scheduled to be released October 14 in Europe.  February 3, 2017 is the official release date in the U.S.A.

Hart plays the Park West in Chicago September 21 and 22 and the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul September 24.  A European tour begins November 9.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.