For a brief moment in the late ’90s, Beth Hart seemed to be on the verge of big things.
She had a major label record deal, national TV appearances and a role as Janis Joplin in an Off-Broadway show.
Within a few years, all of it had disappeared due to her struggles with drug addiction and bipolar disorder.
More than a decade later, she may have another shot at a big break after stealing the show at the Kennedy Center Honors in a duet with guitar legend Jeff Beck.
amNewYork spoke with Hart as she released her new album “Bang Bang Boom Boom.”
Until now, you focused your comeback on Europe instead of the U.S. Why? I had a massive drug and mental illness problem. I was in and out of hospitals and Atlantic Records dropped me. When I got back on my feet, I made a record on my own. Warner Brothers in New Zealand wanted me to come out there and I had some success. Warner Holland heard about it and was interested in me, and we had an underground following almost instantly. That trickled into Denmark, Norway and then England, France and Italy.
Were you worried you’d blown your chance here? I didn’t feel I deserved to play here. I felt ashamed of my behavior. I had a lot of people supporting me and I just threw it away.
Were you nervous performing in front of President Barack Obama at the Kennedy Center Honors performance? I wasn’t, which is weird because I’m nervous about everything. I felt so happy to be there that nerves didn’t get a hold of me. I just relaxed and went with it.
Early in your career, you won TV talent show “Star Search.” What do you think of shows like “American Idol”? I don’t watch it, but I know it’s really popular. It’s a competitive business, so if you want to get your name out there, go for it. I had a blast on “Star Search.” But back then, it was a very uncool thing to do. The only reason I went to the audition was because a friend said he’d give me $50 and I needed the money.
Beth Hart is at City Winery Monday night, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., 155 Varick St., 212-608-0555, $20-$25.