Beth Hart has the kind of voice that could strip paint from ceilings.

Rich, smoky and loaded with emotion, it could curdle cream, send wild dogs packing and pin lovers of her soulful brand of blues-rock to the wall.

While possessing something like the power of Aretha Franklin, it is also intimate and heartfelt – and it comes from a life lived to the full.

Next month she plays an already sold-out gig at the Royal Albert Hall, but, before that, she is tearing through a 14-day tour which on Wednesday reaches the New Theatre, Oxford.

And she is loving the chance to play live again: “I like trying to make that soul connection with people,” she says.

“I can’t really describe it other than I just know when it’s connecting. It’s a beautiful feeling and when that feeling is not there it is really scary and hard.”

She goes on: “It’s just because I’m so insecure. I read into everything way too much, but when I do feel that connection, I love it so much. I just feel close with everybody and it’s really nice.”

You probably know of Beth Hart without realising it. The Los Angeles artist has cornered the market in bluesy, jazzy soul, accompanying her belted out vocals with piano, guitar and cello and working with Jeff Beck and blues star Joe Bonamassa.

She made her name with her 1999 single LA Song (Out of This Town) from her second album Screamin’ for My Supper and follow-ups, the platinum-selling Leave the Light On, Bang Bang Boom Boom, Grammy-nominated Seesaw and collaborating with Bonamassa on Don’t Explain and this year’s US Billboard chart-topper Black Coffee.

And the reason for her success is her authenticity. She has lived through ups and downs, enjoyed a life of excesses while also conquering her fondness for drugs.

“There was definitely difficult stuff, but there was incredible stuff as well,” she says. “I wouldn’t change any of it, because you bring your experiences to the music.”

That love of music goes back to her childhood in 70s California, when she couldn’t stay away from the family piano.

“I never thought I’d be a singer,” she says. “I thought I’d be a classical pianist or cellist,” she says. “When I did start singing, I took opera lessons and my teacher was wonderful, but one day she goes, ‘Beth, I don’t think classical is for you, because you like to do your own thing with the music’. That’s when I started putting singing to my own music.”

Her style was shaped by her listening – from jazz, rock, blues and gospel to grunge.

“Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald: I’m fascinated by them,” she says, “But then when I heard Robert Plant and Chris Cornell, I couldn’t get over their power. But then, Rickie Lee Jones and James Taylor, their voices were so lovely and soft…”

She started off gigging with an acoustic guitar around LA, earning her big break in 1993, when a $50 bet with a friend led her onto a TV talent show.

“I won!” she says. “I won a lot of money, over $100,000. But instead of being happy the night I won, I went into total depression.

“I was so afraid of the pressure. But boy, I took that money. I lived in a basement, and my piano was full of roaches, so I got new furniture and moved into a great apartment.

“I was on cloud nine. I did a lot of drugs. I spent that money in less than six months.”

Signed to Atlantic Records, she worked with top producers on 1996’s Immortal, and scored international hits with the likes of Am I The One, before smashing it with1999’s Screamin’ For My Supper.. “If I could have my way,” she says, “I’d love it if people bought my new album and Screamin’ For My Supper simultaneously, because I think that record is where I became a real writer”

As many a hedonist knows, however, the party can’t go on forever, and the drugs (she describes the tranquiliser Klonopin as her former “drug of choice”) coupled with bipolar disorder took their toll.

It was the intervention of road manager – now husband – Scott Guetzkow which saved her.

“I went into five different hospitals that year, not including rehabs,” she says. “It was so bad that I remember talking to my psychologist and he said, ‘I don’t think you can handle being in this business…’”

Fortunately she could. Her third album, Leave the Light On representing a return to form. The 2007 album 37 Days gave her a hit in Good As It Gets, and 2010’s My California saw her exploring personal issues, including the loss of her sister, Sharon, on Sister Heroine.

Her stardom was assured after a chance meeting with Bonamassa in a hotel lobby when he invited her to sing on a soul-rock covers album that became 2011’s Don’t Explain. “I said, ‘are you kidding me?’” she laughs of her response. “We made a big list of covers over the phone, but we only recorded for four days.We instantly clicked.”

Produced by Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Black Crowes), Don’t Explain included the hit I’ll Take Care of You, the gospel-infused Spirit of God and , the Billie Holiday-flavoured Baddest Blues. and her first piano solo on Swing My Thing Back Around.So what can we expect from the show?

“I usually like to play different stuff from different records and try to cover all the records if I can,” she says. “I don’t know how much stuff from the latest Joe record I will be playing because there is a lot of horns and there’s a lot of background singers and stuff that we didn’t have on our first two records, and I can’t really pull that off with my band.”

And she says she is enjoying life on the road.

“I adore touring,” she says. “I adore getting to play to people and changing up the set – and we change it up every night.

“I love the challenge of remembering something that you pull out that you haven’t played for a couple of years, or however many years. It’s still like ‘Oh my God, how badly am I going to screw this up?’ but I like the challenge of that.”

She adds: “I also love getting to have different food and getting to be around different people and different cultures and different ways people look at life.

“It’s really kind of helped me open up my mind and see the world from different perspectives. That’s a humbling and cool thing for me. And then my band and crew, they are like family, and I don’t have children or anything, so it’s like I get to have that feeling of family, when we’re out here.”

And the all-American gal admits she feels at home here.

“The audiences are really great, so I really love it. I love Europe period. Europe has been so wonderful to me and I love all the architecture and history. The way people think and live is so different. I love being an American and it’s a beautiful country but are we a bunch of whack jobs!

“We got so much to learn and now we got a Mr Whacko as president who’s making all the whack jobs think that they are pretty freaking normal. It’s just getting worse. We should be getting better but whatever... what do I know?”

  • Beth Hart plays the New Theatre Oxford on Wednesday. Tickets from
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