You mention “drugs screwing up your life and having to get your shit together…” Would you care to elaborate how you did this?
Yeah, actually… “Get your shit together” is from my brother’s ex-girlfriend… I was at a point in my life where I didn’t care. I couldn’t care about the music nor could I care about living. I was really far gone down the hole and my manager, Scott and I had been working together that past year, we kind of had a thing going; he swept up and took care of me. I had stopped music for almost a year, was in and out of hospitals. He loved me so much that I started thinking maybe I have a reason to fight back. I also had really good doctors who helped me with my illness. Dr. Appleton, a trauma specialist, helped me a lot, I still work with him sometimes. I’ve seen other programs that can be really beneficial, and of course, God, prayer and learning to have faith. It starts inside, when you believe that you are worthy of living. It was a combination of all those things.
We live in social media-driven times; an increasing number of younger people are suicidal and seem to be uploading “how to” manuals on their Facebook page. As someone who’s been-there-done-that, been through mental illness, do you have any insights/words of wisdom to help people deal with life's problems?
Absolutely yes, you know I mentioned God. You can find him at church, in nature, in the love you have your family, your friends, in art - you can find him everywhere. It’s just trusting that he’s there and believing - in yourself and that change is possible. Meditation can also be a great tool. It’s a good practice to learn how to be still and that what your mind is going to run all over the place and doesn’t necessarily have a meaning. It’s important to find out if you have a chemical imbalance and if so, medication is essential. Also consider medication in combination with getting your hormones checked, if they’re imbalanced, so is everything else. There are times when I still go crazy, but not to the point where I want to kill myself or go back on drugs.
Also, I love these questions, because they are so much more important than Beth Hart, way more important.
At what phase of your life did you find your calling to make a career singing the blues?
I wanted to make music pretty much from the get-go. I was four when I heard Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on TV, as part of an infomercial. My parents were going through a lot at the time and I turned to the song because it had so much longing, it told a tale of a broken heart. I felt there was someone else who felt this pain - and look at what they did with it - created something so beautiful. So, I went to the piano looking for a connection and I’ve been going back ever since.
Who are your defining influences, besides Joplin?
Janis wasn’t a big influence, I know people always assume that. My influences as a child were classical musicians, like Beethoven. My mother introduced me to jazz singers like Billy Holiday, Diana Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. I was a big fan of singer songwriters like James Taylor, Ricky Lee Jones, Carole King. I eventually found Otis Redding and Joe Turner, possibly my first turn to the blues. Joe was doing Big Band Blues and I love Big Band! I was also a big fan of Rock n Roll as a kid - Progressive Rock, like RUSH and heavier music like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. There have been a lot of influences!
Do you start off with the lyrics or do you write the music and retrofit the lyrics to it?
I always start off with chord changes, sometimes with melody. Usually chord changes help me figure out a melody. Then the melody and the chord changes dictate me a story.
You seem to have had issues and stuff growing up? What was your breakthrough moment, when you soared above the destructive elements in your life and creatively used your pain in your music?
I was writing and making music long before I felt I was making headway or understanding that I have power over my demons. I don’t believe that you need to be free of demons in order to be successful in terms of writing great stuff or putting on a good show.
What drives you and makes you connect to your music?
Well everything that we’ve just been talking about really. Even to be a star, we’ve seen in the past, so many people who’ve written great music and performed incredible music but they were just totally gone and then they just died. I don’t necessarily think you need to be free of darkness to create art.
Do you have kids? If not, do you have any Angelina Jolie adoption moments?
No, I do not…. Hahaha what a funny question. I don’t think being a mother is such a good idea for me, I do deal with mental illness and even though my life is so much better, the illness is there, it isn’t going anywhere. Also, given my lifestyle, it’s not a great environment for a kid to grow up in.
You once said you’re not a blues singer but a story teller…do you use comedy or black comedy as creative tools? Who are your favorite comedians?
Yeah. It’s funny I have never been asked that question but absolutely! When you’re in such a bad place, you have to laugh, or you’re either going to cry yourself to death or explode. Joan Rivers said something so great in an interview… she said, ‘In the face of horror, if you can laugh it’s like taking a vacation’, and it’s just so true.
This addiction thing; are you in a space where you can dabble or are you totally off it? Are you able to sublimateyour wanting to get high in creativity?
No. Not with my brain chemistry. I take medication to stay even the slightest bit mellow and not all over the place. If I was to drink or to do drugs, it would send me right off the deep end. Even though I take good care of myself, there are points where stress gets the better of me because I still have mental illness.
I never wanted to get high in creativity. I never got high to be creative, I got high to stop this voice in my head from telling me I’m so horrible and so is everybody else.
What’s the things you’re looking forward to most in India?
I’m looking forward to the colours and the food. I think coming to India is going to be a life changing experience for me.