Joe Bonamassa

By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Photos: Kit Wood, Peter Nicholson & Steve Johnston

There are many amazing role models in the music Industry, but blues influenced Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter Joe Bonamassa truly exemplifies and even raises the stakes as a role model with all that he does. Since making his mark in the music industry starting in 2000, he has released over forty albums, has reached the status of having the most albums that have debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart, has won four Blues Music Awards, and has been nominated for three Grammy awards. He also created Journeyman LLC with his manager Roy Weisman, which helps artists establish themselves within a full-service company of artist management, marketing, record label and concert promotion. Moreover, Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation (KTBA), formed in 2011, has provided funding for projects and scholarships to students and teachers to help advance music education, and has reached over one hundred thousand students in fifty states. Most recently, he compiled an auction for one of his many musical collaborators, blues guitarist Kirk Fletcher after he had a stroke. Now, this extraordinary musician is back in Florida with his latest tour and fans can experience his phenomenal shows on March 7th at the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, on March 15th at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, and on March 16th at The Sound in Clearwater. The KTBA at Sea IX Caribbean cruise will be sailing out of Miami on March 18th through the 22nd.

Catching up with Bonamassa just prior to his spring tour, he divulged some details about the new show, how he writes his music, about other KTBA events, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music:  The last time we spoke was just before you played in Hollywood, Florida. Now you’re going to be playing the west coast, central, and North Florida. What can fans look forward to with this new show?

Joe Bonamassa: Well, we’re not bringing the orchestra, I can tell you that. No, it’s very good because we’re really getting ready for the summer. We’re pretty much playing the entire Blues Deluxe Album in its entirety, this one, and then we’ll play the perfunctory hits, if there are any. It could happen. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. We’re gonna start rehearsing in about two weeks, so there’s always a couple of songs that I pull out of the back catalogue that we haven’t played in years that you go ok, wow! Let’s go do that again. Why haven’t you been doing it? Things come in and out, come in and out. But yeah, I’m excited about the gig. It’s a new venue for us. We’ve worked with the Ruth Eckerd Hall people for twenty years now and played countless shows at Ruth Eckerd, and they were like, “hey let’s try the amphitheater.” It’s a brand new one. It’s four thousand, five thousand seats, whatever it is. Looking forward to it. I think it’s gonna be really a cool experience, and hopefully, in mid to late March, it’s nice outside. I’m banking on it. We’re all counting on it.

SFL Music:  I’ll put in a good word for you!

Bonamassa: Yeah, do me a favor. Just tell the weather guys to make it sunny and warm.

SFL Music:   Ok. You got it! We also last discussed your newer LP releases, as you mentioned your BLUES DELUXE VOL. 2 (his 27th album that debuted #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart) and your live concert film album TALES OF TIME which is your 26th #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart. I just read that you’re recording a new album?

Bonamassa: I just finished the new album.

SFL Music:  Tell me about that. What can fans look forward to with the new album?

Bonamassa: Well, we have eighteen songs. They’re not all gonna be on there, so we actually have to wade through it. We don’t even have a title. We had a title last year, and then I think we beat the teams this year. I was supposed to only go in last week and do three or four songs, but we ended up doing eight. So, it was just one of those things where Paul (Cerra) had like a moment of inspiration and just started writing, and our band cuts quick. So, we did eight songs in three days. Not because we didn’t have the time. We ended up finishing with two days left of studio time that we really didn’t use. I would say, why don’t we take a few extra days so I don’t have to sing these deeper vocals in three days, but you know, when the voice is good, things are fine.

SFL Music:   Does it have a certain theme, or what would you say inspired the music?

Bonamassa: It’s a Joe record for sure.

SFL Music: What inspires you in general when you’re writing your music? Is there anything in particular?

Bonamassa: I write for the live gigs; you know what I mean? I write for live. Stuff that I know will translate well live.

SFL Music: One of my co-workers told me that you may also be influenced by Eddie Van Halen?

Bonamassa: I think everybody’s influenced by Eddie Van Halen.

SFL Music: Did they get that wrong?

Bonamassa: No, I’m a big fan of Eddie.

SFL Music: Was there anything you think you may have taken away from him?

Bonamassa: Well, I mean, I don’t think a rock guitar player since 1978 hasn’t taken a few things from Eddie Van Halen.

SFL Music: Yes, there are a lot of people influenced by him, true. Your show at the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra was filmed last year. When is that coming out?

Bonamassa: Hollywood Bowl is coming out this year, but it’s already filmed and mixed and everything.

SFL Music:  What can fans look forward to that may be different?

Bonamassa: Full orchestra. That’s as different as it gets for everyone. For the orchestra, for us. I mean, it’s something I always wanted to do, is an orchestra show. It came out great! I’m very proud of the band. We worked almost three years on this. I mean, those charts don’t write themselves.

SFL Music:  I know you have a musical background. Was that something that was on your bucket list?

Bonamassa: Yeah.

SFL Music: You are also planning on recording an album with Black Country Communion again?

Bonamassa: That’s coming out in June.

SFL Music: Tell me about that album.

Bonamassa: I think it’s our best one. I mean, honestly after all that. I know I’m supposed to say that, but I think it is. I think it’s the best one we’ve done, and I didn’t expect that. It actually kind of shocked me.

SFL Music: Why so?

Bonamassa: Because we haven’t played in six years. Glenn (Hughes) and I got together, wrote for three days, and then we went in with kind of sketches of riffs and ideas, and the next thing you know, it’s like, this things slammin!

Joe Bonamassa

SFL Music:  That’s definitely something else for fans to look forward to. Your non-profit organization (Keeping The Blues Alive) has reached over one hundred thousand students in fifty states to help students and teachers with scholarships and projects.

Bonamassa: Yeah.

SFL Music: There is a 7 Days of Giving that is going to coincide with GivingTuesday? How did this come about?

Bonamassa: Well, we’ve had this foundation for years, over a decade. We’re very lucky and fortunate in our careers and lives and the whole team. It’s like, if you don’t give back, then at some point, you just kind of look selfish, and that’s been our thing, forever. Over a million dollars has gone out, and we help people every single day. We don’t advertise, pretty much. It’s a labor of love.

SFL Music:  I read about the auction for Guitarist Kirk Fletcher (who was one of the featured musicians on BLUES DELUXE VOL 2 album) where there was a Gibson guitar (donated by Gibson) that was autographed by some amazing blues artists, and you donated a ’48 Fender Dual Professional Amp. How did this come about?

Bonamassa: Well, he had a stroke. He came to gigs, you know.

SFL Music:  You also have your Journeyman LLC company with your manager (Roy Weisman) to help artists with management, marketing, concert promotions and recording. What prompted you to start this?

Bonamassa: Well, our model works. The vertical integration of the business works, and it works for other artists, not just me. So, it’s something that you know, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Robert Jon & The Wreck, it’s really something that we’re very passionate about. I think they’re gonna have bright careers, and I think they’re going to be able to write their own checks.

SFL Music: How did they become involved with you?

Bonamassa: I’m just fans. I mean, I’ve known Joanne fifteen years. A new arrival for Jon & The Wreck in the last three to four years, and It’s something that we’re passionate about. Both artists have the X factor, where they play in front of people, people gravitate to them, and that’s something you can’t teach.

SFL Music:  The other thing you did with KTBA, the Sea IX Cruise Sweepstakes. What prompted that idea?

Bonamassa: It’s good old fashion marketing, Lori. I’m a marketing man at heart really. It’s good old fashion PR 101.

SFL Music: Would you recommend these things for others to follow that you’ve found rewarding and helpful?

Bonamassa: Absolutely! I did alright.

SFL Music: You definitely did, and that’s a great role model of you, actually. The last time we spoke, UPS delivered a new guitar with stickers. So, what is new lately?

Bonamassa: There’s always stuff that comes along, goes away, comes along.

SFL Music: Do you have like an entire room of this stuff?

Bonamassa: Like rooms.

SFL Music: So, maybe one day you’ll have your own museum?

Bonamassa: No. That’s too much work.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want fans to know?

Bonamassa: I’m just excited to get back on the road. It’s just one of those things where the nomadic gene is still there with me.


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