Beth Raebeck Hall
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Beth Raebeck Hall

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
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"Soul Train - Songs of Survival- Beth Raebeck Hall, May 17 , 2011"

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Q&A: Beth Raebeck Hall – Songs of Survival
May 17, 2011 · No comments
Sound Check · Tagged: Beth Raebeck Hall, indie artists, Joey Hood, Miles McPherson, Nashville, Q&A
Beth Raebeck Hall has never had it easy. Her career has been interrupted with starts-and-stops, family tragedies and the current recession.

As a 2003 Grammy contender for Best Contemporary Blues Album, it seemed as if Hall’s rocky road finally petered out. But a few years later, Hall found herself working multiple jobs to support her college bound children and family as her husband of thirty years, like many millions of other Americans lost his job.

In 2008, Hall had begun an exciting new CD with wunderkind producer Miles McPherson. He was drawn to Hall’s intense songwriting, powerful voice and persona and was anxious to keep going after the initial three tracks were finished. Her YouTube video “Something Goin’ On,” racked up thousands of hits right before the Presidential election. Now, as on her nominated album, Live at Cafe Milano, Hall’s message hinges on survival.

“Can we talk?” Hall asks as she swivels a chocolate leather executive chair in her cottage-style house in Belle Meade, a stone’s throw away from Music Row in Nashville. Her office is scattered with remnants from the past such as a framed honorary proclamation from former Nashville mayor, Bill Boner.

“I feel as if I need to bill you for therapy services,” Hall says at one point during our no-holds barred interview. She opens up about her many demons: her fears of the fame monster and “the failure syndrome.”

This summer, Hall heads a stellar mash-up concept with a cast of session player heavyweights such as guitarist Manny Yanez (Patti LaBelle, The Neville Brothers). The debut show will be unveiled at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley on Wednesday May 18. Tell us about the impetus of the mash-up “Take That” series.

Beth Raebeck Hall: I lost my job in February from a corporate downsize. That sort of came on the tail end of a lot of not so fun years that had taken me away from my music. From running head-on into a caustic and unraveling world, I just decided that dammit, it’s time to sing. I’m a big fan of ‘Glee.’ And I thought to myself, why couldn’t I do that with my songs? I always thought in terms of arrangements. There’s an old saying: put that in your pipe and smoke it. I’m going to get this anger and ‘I’ll show you’ out. So I called it, ‘Take That.’ It’s going to be all of the attitude songs. I’m going to do things with this show that not many people do because it’s a hell of a lot of work. But it’s an absolute blast. I also wanted to do something that would involve the audience and make it really fun for them. I hand-picked songs that I knew everybody loved and loved to sing. It’ll be sort of surprising the way that they are mixed in. It becomes a win-win for everybody. The band is excited, which is great because they have played thousands of shows. If the band is excited, you know that you are onto something good. I played with them for 20 years, and each one is an artist in their own right. This is a very different show for them. There are many, many pieces to the puzzle. The intention of the mash-up show is to lay a foundation for future mash-up shows with different themes or different styles. But I do think it’s something that people will want to see because it’s just not about me. When you stand back and say that, I think that you have really grown up. Besides, it’s much more fun to have everybody engaged in the development. It makes it fun for the band and audience, too. You gravitated toward African-American roots music from a young age. Why do you think this genre had such a pull on a Protestant girl from Bronxville?

Beth Raebeck Hall: Growing up in the 60s and 70s, there was such a wealth of great music, whether it was Motown or Memphis, blues or black gospel. We used to do Motown routines in gym class. We would get kicked out of gym class for trying to do Motown choreography and Motown songs. That’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to sound like those Motown singers. I wanted to have the depth and resonance in my voice. I was classically trained for 20 years. There wasn’t a type of music that I wasn’t exposed to living in New York. I grew up on opera, Broadway and the great jazz clubs. My parents were huge music lovers from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald. I ate everything up. There was a deep attachment at the core of my being. It spoke to my heart. You mentioned that the community was very conservative. Was this a music a way to rebel for you?

Beth Raebeck Hall: Well, I grew up in an executive, commuter suburb right outside of New York that was completely lilywhite and WASP. There were three churches: the Reformed Church, the Catholic Church and the Episcopalians. There wasn’t any ethnicity of any kind. Right next door you had Mt. Vernon, home of Denzel Washington. Stokely Carmichael was coming to burn down our town. He was quoted in The New York Times. Yeah, I was scared. I didn’t understand why there was so much division between black and white people. My family was very open-minded and involved in all sorts of cultural things. Our house was open to a great number of people from all types of cultures and walks of life. My parents always promoted finding the other person’s vantage point. Having lived in the South all these years now, I have a much different view of civil rights and why it was necessary. But at the time, I was horrified about the stories I heard about on the news. I just didn’t get all the hatred and anger. I had a fascination with Native African-American art: the magnificent carvings and ancestor figures. In fact, I did an independent study on it in high school. I was just drawn to it like a magnet. So how did the civil rights struggles inform your music?

Beth Raebeck Hall: Well, I was privileged enough to grow up in the greatest city in the world at the most electrifying time in American culture. I think that the civil rights movement galvanized those of us in high school. It opened our eyes to the big, bad world. It brought out into the light a lot of dirty little secrets. The “Leave It to Beaver” world that we all started out in was suddenly shattered into a million pieces. All around me were the trappings of Middle America suburbia and yet everything was different. It was like waking up on the other side of the moon. And the music at the time, people were speaking out and speaking their truth through music. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about bebop. It was about changing the world and being angry at what was wrong with the world. Today, the disillusionment is far more pervasive and global. I sing about three things: love, injustice and the need for change. Oddly enough, I was always the one who would say what nobody else would. I think I do the same thing in my music. My music has never strayed from being the people’s music. I’ve always been drawn to the big things. I was never really a coffeehouse girl. So how did you find your voice? Was it naturally developed or were you mimicking Aretha Franklin and the others who inspired you?

Beth Raebeck Hall: I have perfect pitch and aural memory, but I think I was a mime bird of sorts. I wanted so badly to be those powerful women. I used to listen to black gospel radio all the time. I would try to imitate those singers from Mahalia Jackson to Bessie Smith. Etta James has always been my idol. But I was in choir. I’ve been singing since I was 3. So music and Beth were always synonymous. Over time, my voice, which is a low register, started to pick up different nuances with the call-and-response type of stuff. It’s all about the phrasing and attitude, too. So how did you end up in Nashville?

Beth Raebeck Hall: I wanted to be immersed in something different. I traveled a great deal, but I never spent any amount of time in the South. I didn’t know anything about it, you know? It seemed like an adventure. In the 70s, Music Row was an obviously different culture compared with today.

Beth Raebeck Hall: Are you kidding? It was a cultural wasteland. For one thing, all of my life, I have been many people in many worlds. I came down as a rebel singer-songwriter with a musical under my belt, but I ended up joining a sorority at Vanderbilt University. As soon as I got into Vanderbilt, I found people to play music with. For all intents and purposes, I should’ve gone back to New York, but I wanted to stay in the music business here. However, I flunked out of nursing school and just tried to move forward. I didn’t realize how messed up I was from failing. The one thing I did to please my parents kept me from my music and set up a failure syndrome. It always seemed to me like your parents were supportive of your music.

Beth Raebeck Hall: Oh, my parents were my biggest fans. My dad just wanted me to have something to fall back on. Instead of getting out after the first failed course, he kept saying, “oh, it’s no big deal. You can do it.” As the dutiful 1950s baby boomer kid, I kept going. The colleges didn’t have music business programs like your Belmont University and Middle Tennessee State University of today. So I stayed the course. The longer I stayed the course, the more messed up I became. Inside of me was this creative person screaming and wanting to come out. I tried to find jobs that were creative and that allowed me an opportunity to write. It was a different day in Nashville, too. It was a very small pond. Was there a sense of camaraderie?

Beth Raebeck Hall: Well, it was very easy to meet lots of people with similar interests. I wasn’t a country-and-western performer; I was the pop-rock girl. Everybody knew each other. Eventually, the rock block on Elliston Place was the gathering point for everybody. There were about two clubs. It was more loose and organic than the corporate legislation of the music business as we know it now. If you had a demo session, engineers planted a fifth of scotch on the console. It would last ‘til God knows whenever. People hung out, all kinds of crazy stuff. I also got to know the world famous WLAC rhythm-and-blues disk jockey Hoss Allen. He was the beacon of light for race music. I was drawn to him like a bug to a zapper. Do you have any good Hoss Allen stories?

Beth Raebeck Hall: Hoss and I worked at WZTV. We would hang outside the control room and smoke cigarettes. He would tell me all kinds of crazy stories about running around with the R&B artists. It was like opening a door to a candy store every time we talked. He was a big fan and supporter of my music. Later, we both quit drinking, so we had that to share. I loved him very much. When was the moment that the R&B scene in Nashville started to evolve?

Beth Raebeck Hall: I went to the first urban music conferences in the late-80s. In Nashville, civil rights was only ten years old. I had a bunch of musician friends from drummer Mellow Mel to Dobie Gray and O.B. McClinton. The black and white live music scenes didn’t really merge until the latter part of the 90s. It was when everything that wasn’t country sort of fell into one pot. In college, I met Bobby Jones. I was blessed to perform with him at the TorchFest. But I wanted that sound. I wanted to throw myself into it and just disappear. You asked about the turning point. For me personally, I lost both of my parents unexpectedly within ten days. I gave the eulogy and sang “Love is a Gift.” It something broke loose that changed everything. It didn’t matter anymore what anybody thought. It became about singing from the bottom of my soul. That’s when it all sort of changed for me. Now it’s time to be back. I’m not leaving again.

– Joey Hood

* * * *

Joey Hood has been writing about musicians since 2003. His byline has appeared in “American Songwriter,” “Nashville Scene,”, NPR and “Ya’ll.” He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Middle Tennessee State University with a focus in the recording industry. Read more:Joey Hood |

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"Rooted in Singer-Songerwriter"

“Her Music is rooted in the singer-songwriter tradition with flavors of R&B, gospel and sheer joy. Interesting music, lyrically on target… Beth has the voice of an angel”

-Jessie Scott – Program Director XM Satellite Radio
- XM Satellite Radio

"Great Set of Pipes"

”Raebeck could light a city with her energy, and she has a great set of pipes”

-Blues Revue Magazine
- Blues Revue

"Truck load of Heart"

"One of the greatest gifts one can receive is to be turned onto an artist that just blows you away. My buddy George McCorkle did this when he hooked me up a few years ago with Beth Raebeck Hall, one of the finest singers in Nashville. Beth consistently releases great music, and her new live album is no exception. Buckets of soul and a truck load of heart, this is the music of Beth Raebeck Hall."

-Michael Buffalo Smith; Gritz Magazine
- Gritz Magazine


“A gifted composer and a soulful, exhuberant vocalist!”
-Ron Wynn, Music Editor, Nashville City Paper
- Nashville City Paper

"Slant on RandB"

“Beth’s writing , like her slant on R&B avoids the “gee, I sure wish I’d been born in Louisiana syndrome , the trap many fall into when they’re trying to be soulful. She’s got a cool vibe where she sounds sultry, confident and real. One of the most mature unsung writers in town, Hall’s team is made up of killer players on a bunch of great tunes”

-Rusty Russell, Guitar Player Magazine
- Guitar Player Magazine

"Sensitivity and Power"

“This is a woman with the rare combo of sensitivity and power in her rhythm and blues”.
- The Tennessean
- The Tennessean

"Full Throttle"

“Beth Raebeck Hall delivers a performance marked by soul. Groove, bluesy improvisation and strong musicianship. She performs an all-original set with bluesy soul and finesse – she can keep a crowd at full throttle!”

-Nashville Scene
- Nashville Scene

"Beth Raebeck Hall Selected- June 2008"

Congratulations! We love your music! We will begin airing your song on Women of Substance Radio immediately. Please let your fans know to support you and the station by listening at:
- Woman of Substance Radio & Podcast

"Hall Picked Best of City Stages"

Beth Raebeck Hall was one of the weekend's Best of Acts along with Patti Labelle and Randy Newman. All performed on the Coca Cola Main Stage. - Birmingham News


2008- EP Somethin' Goin' On - Produced by Miles McPherson
**Grammy Nominated**Live at Caffe Milano (2003)
She's Only Human (1996)



Beth Raebeck Hall
Contact: Joey Hood
(615) 972-0665

Blues Revue Magazine - ”Raebeck could light a city with her energy, and she has a great set of pipes”
Nashville City Paper' described her sound as "a female version of Delbert McClinton meeting Etta James and Carole King at the crossroads." ”

Pay attention. She with the smoky pipes, sounding as she's been stewed in a potluck of Etta James Rocks the House and East Bay Grease. A 2003 Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Beth Raebeck Hall's Mississippi Delta canned heat has earned raves from industry legends.

An almost mythic figure in the Nashville music scene, was picked Best of City Stages among many other honors.Young artists and fans are drawn to her dynamite chops, infectious groove and refreshing honesty. Many of them look to her as a mentor and co-writer. Promoters welcome her with open arms.

Ms. Hall is the lifeblood of postwar Southern blues. She embraces life with a contentment that comes only with surviving life’s many challenges, some even devastating. With the same groove fever she’s always had, she could give lessons in performance energy and delivery.

If you ever catch this woman in the flesh, she's a firecracker of unbridled energy. Her stage presence recalls Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings with a flick of purebred boom - chigger pluck. Her lyrics are spot-on

Somethin' Goin On might be her finest record to date. Produced by 28-year-old wunderkind Miles McPherson at Kosmodrome, Somethin' Goin On is a rich tapestry of wall-of-sound soul and scorched earth funk.

The title track is fearlessly political in tone. With syncopated thumps and a slab of deep-fried melisma, Hall twists the knife on power and greed. “Since I was a little girl I’ve always called them as I see them. Life is too short to do otherwise”.

There’s a reason Beth is on a first name basis with Edwin McCain, Desmond Child, David ‘Z’, “The Commish” and numerous others.Because they get it.