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Blues and jazz and rock ’n’ roll: Hart draws from broad influences

Singer-songwriter Beth Hart performs Sunday at the Bing. (Associated Press)
Singer-songwriter Beth Hart performs Sunday at the Bing. (Associated Press)

It’d be easy to tag Beth Hart as merely a blues artist, but you can hear the influences of R&B, soul and rock coming through in her work. That eclecticism is emblematic of the wide-ranging genres the California-based singer-songwriter was exposed to in childhood.

“I don’t think I really sought music out,” Hart said during a recent tour stop in Colorado. “I just was really lucky that I always had family members and friends that would turn me on to music.”

Hart, who performs at the Bing Crosby Theater on Sunday, first fell in love with classical music at a young age and was inspired to pick up piano after hearing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” She remembers throwing herself into music around the time that her parents were going through a divorce, using creativity as an escape from the real world.

When rattling off her own musical influences, Hart enthusiastically names everyone from Patsy Cline to the Ramones, from gospel music – “What I considered gospel music was listening to Aretha Franklin’s secular music,” she said, “because the style in which she sang it and proclaimed it was very gospel” – to Black Sabbath.

“I really loved Ozzy (Osbourne)’s voice so much,” Hart said, “and I loved that song ‘Changes.’ I remember that really affected me, almost as much as when I first heard ‘Moonlight Sonata.’

“It’s just all over the place, because there are so many genres and so many amazing songwriters and singers inside each of those genres. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?”

She’s been a busy touring musician for most of her career, spending much of her time in the thriving blues scene of Europe. While she normally tours nine months of the year, Hart said she plans to scale back in the near future.

“I’m finding that it’s getting in the way of me having a connection to the real world, and that’s the only place I can really write from,” she said. “I also just want to take care of myself. I want to have a life with my husband, spend some time with friends and family and enjoy my life, instead of it all being about touring.”

Following a couple of acclaimed cover records with guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Hart recently released her eighth solo LP, “Better Than Home.” The album has a slightly glossier finish than Hart’s previous releases, courtesy of producers Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens, though Hart said she isn’t concerned about the record cohering with her overall discography.

“I don’t really care about it fitting in,” she said. “Maybe that’s one of the perks to not being a famous pop star. … I write from wherever I’m at in my life, whether it’s future dreams or past regret or if it’s just what’s going on the present and I’m trying to understand it. At the end of the day, I just have a little faith that I’m going to find the right producer for that work.”

She also refuses to be lulled into a sense of creative complacency, choosing to collaborate with artists who challenge her to push herself.

“If you surround yourself with everybody who just tells you how great you are all the time, you’re never gonna move,” Hart said. “The art just dies. You surround yourself with people who point out where you need to stretch or where you’re hiding and they’re giving you that criticism, I think that’s just fantastic. As much as my ego doesn’t like it, that part of the artist that wants to grow loves it.”

Hart’s penchant for stylistic diversity spills over into her live shows, too, which promise to offer plenty of musical variety.

“I think my live shows are really for people with eclectic taste,” she said. “If they’re coming for just rock, they’re not going to be happy. If they’re coming for just blues, they’re certainly not going to be happy. … There are some jazz parts to the show, blues parts, rock ’n’ roll. Even some storytelling, country-esque, kind of Americana parts to the show. It’s an energy of extremes, so it’s either really high energy or it’s really broken-down, acoustic kind of thing.”

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