"The music scene in Florida is great," single mom and blues singer Amy Hart says. "I worked from Panama City to Pensacola, and the great thing about Florida is, as a musician, you can really live very well." Then, in 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and people started losing their jobs and stopped going to the restaurants and beach clubs where Hart played. Soon, like a lot of those folks, Hart found herself without an income. CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's a point of pride for some bands to say where they've played. Playing New York, Europe or Japan is a bit of a career milestone. The farther you go from home, the bigger the bragging rights.
WANT TO GO?The Amy Hart Band
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: $7INFO: 304-345-3914 or www.emptyglass.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In November, the Amy Hart Blues Band, which plays Saturday at The Empty Glass, will be going to the Himalayas."It's blues at the top of the world," the Nashville-based blues singer said. "We'll be traveling to the Himalayas Blues Fest in Nepal."The far-flung festival is a far cry from Hart's beginnings. In a weird twist of fate, she might not be playing the event were it not for an oil spill.In 2010, Hart was just a blues performer and single mom living and working in Florida."The music scene in Florida is great," she said. "I worked from Panama City to Pensacola, and the great thing about Florida is, as a musician, you can really live very well."Hart said she and her daughter had been in Florida for about 10 years when BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded and, for months, continuously released millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. The spill damaged coastal industries, including fisheries and tourism."The oil spill hit and knocked everybody down," she said. "A lot of people were out of work."People stopped coming to the restaurants and beach clubs where Hart played, and like a lot of people, she found herself without an income -- just as she was getting ready to send her daughter off to college.BP, Hart said, reacted pretty quickly to the concerns of the people affected by the spill, at least at first.
"I give them credit for coming in right away and putting everybody's fears to rest," she said.People affected either directly or indirectly by the spill, Hart said, were promised compensation or help until things were put right, but that began to drag as it became more litigious."All the second-tier opportunists moved in," she said, "The lawyers."Hart said she started getting some recompense for lost wages and took her daughter to Chicago to start her studies at Columbia College Chicago, an arts school there. She thought it might be good to stay.Hart is from Chicago and had some success as part of that music scene when she was much younger, plus the Gulf Coast music scene wasn't coming back quickly. She decided to give Chicago another try."But as soon as I left the state, BP said, 'Well, screw you.'"
The money stopped, and Chicago wasn't really working out. She'd come close to signing a record deal, but the record company didn't want to pay and was squabbling with the recording studio."I didn't want to get in the middle of that," Hart said.Nearly broke, she left for Nashville to stay with some friends and start over again."I'd lived in Nashville before," she said, "and things just fell into place there. I found a great church and started going to some great shows."Hart put together a band, recorded and album and got back out on the road. She's even playing Florida some."It's some of the old spots and some new places," she said. "People are telling me things are about 50 percent of what they used to be, but it's coming back."Hart probably isn't, though -- at least, not to stay. Nashville is treating her great."It's not quite as dog-eat-dog as Chicago," she said. "It's a musicians' town. We're all kind of in it together."Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.