By Michael Pflughoeft, Special to   Published Sep 10, 2013 at 4:32 PM

I believe it was the philosopher Ringo who said, "Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy."

For blues rock artist Beth Hart, it seems that initial success might have come a little easy – but in true blues fashion – that early success didn’t last long before she found herself down and out and looking like she would never reach the heights for which she seemed so surely destined.

Hart began playing piano at age 4, attended L.A.'s High School for the Performing Arts as a vocal and cello major. By 1993, she was a regular fixture of the L.A. club circuit. She formed a band and secured her first recording contract within a couple of years.

She scored her first hit in the late ‘90s with "LA Song (Out of This Town)" from her sophomore album "Screamin' for My Supper." The single became an Adult Contemporary Top 5 hit after it was used in an episode during the final season of "Beverly Hills, 90210." At the same time, Hart was singing the lead role in "Love, Janis," an off-broadway musical based on Janis Joplin's letters home to her mother.

Live performances featuring Hart’s powerful, passionate vocals, were slowly building her a following but life on the road was tough. She soon found herself sliding into drug and alcohol addiction which, along with an undiagnosed bi-polar condition, sapped not only her desire to perform – it was draining her will to live.

"I was essentially dying …" said Hart of those dark days a decade ago. "I was so tired, I had no will left to live. It got real bad."

Fortunately for Hart, her boyfriend / road manager (now husband) Scott Guetzkow helped to pull her back from the brink. "My husband – along with some doctors, helped me not only to learn how to get sober, but helped me work through a process to allow me to accept myself and get to the point where I can be happy again."

It took a while, but the happier, now sober Hart, began to craft a comeback.

"I got a lot of support in Europe – even more than what I got in the US when I was younger. There was a sense of security I developed while playing in Europe over the past three years. With so much support, I got to the point that I believed that it was the right time to come back to the States and give it another shot.

"Right when I said that to myself and my manager, I was offered the opportunity to make the record with Joe Bonamassa and got word that my label was about to open up in the US and I would get to make a new record.

"It was amazing. My world changed. It could just be a coincidence, but I’d rather think that I never stopped believing -- and that strong belief helps open doors that make some really great things come your way…"

Great things like two albums' worth of fabulously well received recordings of blues cover tunes ("Don’t Explain" in 2011 and "Seesaw" which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues chart in May) with blues guitar wiz Bonamassa.

Then earlier this year, Hart had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with Jeff Beck at the "Kennedy Center Honors" event recognizing blues legend Buddy Guy. "I’m crazy about Jeff (Beck) and love working with him. Buddy Guy is Jeff’s ultimate hero and one of mine as well – so to get to pay tribute to him was huge for us – we were so excited. It was beyond special."

Guy was so impressed with Hart’s rendition of "I’d Rather Go Blind" that he invited her to sing on the track "What You Gonna Do About Me," for his latest album.

Great things like the April release of her Hart’s latest record, "Bang Bang Boom Boom" produced by renowned hard rock producer Kevin Shirley (Journey, Rush, Iron Maiden) to tremendous critical and fan response. (The US edition of "Bang Bang" includes the aforementioned Kennedy Center Honors performance of "I’d Rather Go Blind" as a bonus track.)

Great things like a sold-out headlining tour in US and then landing the opening slot on tour with newly minted blues super group "The Rides" (Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg) which rolls into Milwaukee this Friday night at The Pabst Theater.

"Playing on The Rides tour – it’s so awesome. They’re great players – a great band. It’s just amazing to watch them," said Hart.

As for her new band (including Milwaukee native Bill Ransom on drums), Hart says, "we’re on fire for this tour – getting tighter and tighter as a band and the crowds have been great. Expect a lot of joy – we’re having a wonderful time together as a band. We bring a lot of energy."

After a decade of struggles, Hart is clean, healthy and back better than ever on the blues scene – dues paid in full.