Beth Hart on making music through mental illness
September 26, 2107 | By Chris Varias
There are those interviews where serious topics of a personal nature are off-limits. And then, on the other hand, there is an interview with Beth Hart.
The Grammy-nominated blues artist was not prompted to open up about sensitive topics, but she jumped in, and we now get out of the way as she tells her story:
My career blew up in a bad way when I had such a horrible drug addiction at the end of my 20s. I was so far gone. It really was looking like I was gonna die. I was losing all my hair. I was 90 pounds, and I’m 5-foot-9. I was mentally ill, in and out of psych wards and everything else.
You lose everything. It’s kind of like you build a Lego city, and then you kick the whole thing down in a matter of seconds.
It took me a good year to get myself healthy again, and when I did, there were only two countries that would have me, Holland and New Zealand. Those were the only two countries I worked for about two, three years, and then slowly went into Norway and Germany and Denmark, and that’s all. I only worked those countries for about six years. And then my label decided to open up a label for the United States, and that’s when I started working in more countries.
To get a second chance at being alive and getting married to Scott (Guetzkow), that in itself was a miracle. But then to be able to get back to work and slowly learn how to do it, because I was clearly too overwhelmed in my 20s to handle it. It’s been beautiful the way the whole thing has worked out.
Clearly what saved my life was my husband. He nursed me back to health, and he continues to do that to this day. It’s not easy to be married and to have a relationship with someone with mental illness. I’m 45, and he’s been there with me since I was 27.
My story is how to have a life while dealing with mental illness, and I’ve had a life. I’ve been blessed. It’s been a different kind of life than what I planned on, but it’s been a good life nonetheless.
I’m not a doctor, but I would assume that anything that you’re doing that’s harming you and you can’t stop doing it is a sign of mental illness. From my experience, with myself, it’s very clear. If it wasn’t drugs and alcohol, it was something else I would do to harm myself.
I should be writing songs about happiness all day long, but a lot of my songs get inspired from that place of unworthiness and shame, which really goes with mental illness. Maybe there’s a way to find that light in the dark. Maybe it shines brightest in the dark. It’s just a matter of finding it. I don’t want to write a sad song my whole life.
I don’t want to say, “I’m a drug addict,” or “I’m bipolar,” because that’s just negative. That’s letting the beast win. I can let it take me out like it almost did, or I can find that light. One of the things to do is to love ourselves and allow ourselves to do the things that make us happy. And one of the things that makes me happy is making music and getting out on the road and trying to connect to the audience.