Joe Bonamassa

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

The phrase ‘music is in my blood’ truly applies to Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter Joe Bonamassa as he comes from a line of family musicians. However, this extraordinarily talented musician made his mark in the music industry starting in 2000 with his debut album a new day yesterday and since then, he has released over forty albums total (studio, live and collaborative with projects Rock Candy Funk Party and Black Country Communion). He has won four Blues Music Awards with thirteen nominations, as well as being nominated for three Grammy awards. His latest live album TALES OF TIME earned him his twenty-sixth No. 1 album on the Billboard Blues Chart. Most currently, on October 6th Bonamassa released his sixteenth studio album BLUES DELUXE VOL. 2 which has now earned him his twenty-seventh No. 1 debut on the Billboard Blues Albums Chart. Simultaneously, he has announced a Fall tour which South Florida fans can experience on December 1st at the Hertz Arena in Estero, and on December 2nd at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.

Catching up with Bonamassa just after his LP release and prior to his latest tour, he revealed some details about his new music, a bit about his roots, his most recent collectable, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What inspired your new album BLUES DELUXE VOL. 2? Is there a theme?
Joe Bonamassa: Well no. I mean, the first blues deluxe album was the album that basically saved my career. I wanted to do something for the twentieth anniversary which kind of crept up on us, but unfortunately there was no bonus tracks. There was no extra traction twenty years ago. There was no nothing. Even the damn hard drive didn’t work, so you couldn’t even re-mix it. So, at the end of the day I said, well let’s do another volume. There was never supposed to be a volume 2, but we’ll do another volume and see how it goes. We did it last year, made the record and then waited until the twentieth anniversary and here we are, a week in. So, I guess it’s doing pretty good.

SFL Music: Yes, it sounds great! What made you choose songs like “It’s Hard But It’s Fair” and “Well, I Done Got Over It”?
Bonamassa: Well, “It’s Hard But It’s Fair”, I had known Bobby Parker probably for the last decade of his life. He was the one of those types of blues artists, he’s from Baltimore and he had some regional hits in the ‘60’s, got completely screwed by the business. “Hard But It’s Fair” was also one of my favorite Bobby Parker songs, but you know, I finally became a singer that could actually pull that off with some legitimacy. So that’s how we got to “Done Got Over It” and “Hard But It’s Fair”. It’s because it was just one of those things where I could actually sing it to where I felt like I was paying tribute to people not just reinterpreting stuff.

SFL Music: Is that why you recorded your version of “Twenty-Four Hour Blues”?
Bonamassa: I could have never done that twenty years ago. I mean, that really wasn’t something that I could have pulled off. So, I’m actually really pleased with that.

SFL Music: You recorded with your friend Josh Smith to produce this album. What would you say that he added?
Bonamassa: Well, you know, Josh and I, we produced a lot of records together for other people kind of like this record, and we have a really good thing going here. I said, It’s the same as doing a record for Larry McCray or Joanne Shaw Taylor or Eric Gales except it’s me. We used the same cat; same studio and we have a really good working relationship.

SFL Music: He wrote the song “Is It Safe To Go Home”?
Bonamassa: Yeah, which it seems to be one of the stand outs of the record.

SFL Music: Was there any particular reason that he wrote that?
Bonamassa: Well, he brought it in as an original. I looked at it and said, well, we should do a Gary Moore treatment to this, and we did. I think it was the last song we cut for the record. We cut the originals after, and we did “Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again)” and that song in Nashville, and those were the last two songs we did for the album. Then we mixed it, mastered it, and then it sat on the shelf.

SFL Music: I love how the album has such a variety of blues with a little jazzy, rockish sound. What would you say inspires you when you write your music or how you choose what to play?
Bonamassa: Well, sometimes you have to put together a record. You have to make a record, so you’re writing because you need a feel. You need certain, you know.

SFL Music: What influenced you originally to become a musician?
Bonamassa: I was around music my whole life. My dad played, my grandfather played, my great grandfather played.

SFL Music: Were you taught professionally or just picked it up from being around it?
Bonamassa: I picked it up. I had a few lessons when I was a kid, but I’m mostly an ear player. Hold on. I’ve got to get the UPS guy..… Sorry about that.

SFL Music: No problem. It’s all good. What would you advise a new musician to sustain a career like you have over twenty years? What’s the secret to success?
Bonamassa: I’ve been doing this for thirty-five and I can tell you, it’s the same stuff comes up time and time again. One is, you have to be yourself. You have to not listen to advice from people that are not musicians because everybody’s gonna tell you what they think you should be doing, but then you limit yourself if you follow that advice and it doesn’t work out. I’d rather go with my gut and fail at least on my own terms, then listen to somebody else and fail on their terms. I see it time and time again. People tell you time and time again what you should be doing. They don’t know. They don’t know your music. They don’t know your path. Everybody has a different way to get to where they want to be. It’s no different than running a restaurant. You got to go with your gut. You got to go with how it feels.

SFL Music: That’s wise advice. You also have a new live album TALES OF TIME which earned you your twenty-sixth #1 album on the Billboard Blues Chart. What made you decide to do this live album?
Bonamassa: Well, we did a DVD to go with the record and we’d done that for the one previous too. It came out great. It’s a very ambitious project. Most production we ever dragged out onstage, ever. We did it at Red Rocks (Amphitheatre) and it’s a great venue to film. I’m just happy that the album did well and people are still enjoying that, and PBS ran it. I’m thrilled with it.

SFL Music: Are there going to be any more videos out?
Bonamassa: Well, we just recorded a DVD at the Hollywood Bowl. So, that will be out next year. Yeah, with a full orchestra.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with this new show, your show coming up?
Bonamassa: Well, we’re gonna do some stuff off of Blues Deluxe obviously. We’re promoting that record now. I’m excited about making more of a blues centered set, but I’m just looking forward to getting back to you know, we love that venue in Hollywood. Those guys are super nice. They’ve actually put a guitar of mine up in the casino now, which is cool.

SFL Music: I’ll have to look for it. You have a lot of collectibles like the 1960 Burst. Is there anything new?
Bonamassa: What do you think the UPS guys was delivering?

SFL Music: Oh, very cool! I have perfect timing!
Bonamassa: Exactly.

SFL Music: I hear it.
Bonamassa: Yep, I just cracked the box. There you go!

SFL Music: What is this one?
Bonamassa: I either like them mint or I like really unique. This one is definitely unique. It’s an old ’62 Stratocaster with a bunch of stickers on it, like the guy just went nuts. Like in the 80’s. Like there’s stamps on it. I see a State Farm Insurance sticker on here. Telephone Pioneers of America. There’s an I Voted sticker. Here’s a beautiful way to help your hips, thighs and butts. There’s an Apple sticker. There’s a Lucky Strike.

SFL Music: You’ll have to post a photo.
Bonamassa: Oh, it will be very polarizing once it hits the internet.

SFL Music: You also have Keeping the Blues Alive foundation?
Bonamassa: Right.

SFL Music: It helps South Florida area children. How did this come about?
Bonamassa: Well, we’ve been doing it for almost fifteen years now.

SFL Music: What is your goal?
Bonamassa: We help musicians. We help schools. We helped people during the pandemic. Raised almost a million dollars for that. Gave away fifteen-hundred-dollar checks.

SFL Music: Do you feel it’s helping young people get involved with music?
Bonamassa: Yeah, and that’s totally raw. Anything you can do to encourage people to play music is absolutely essential to keeping it all going.

SFL Music: You’ve also worked with many musicians. You worked with Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia (Blood Brothers) and you’re getting ready to work with Mike on his next album. How did that collaboration come to be?
Bonamassa: They asked us to produce a record for them, Josh and I, and I was happy. We went down to Lafayette, Louisiana. They’re two great people and I love them both, and they’re very talented, but as humans, they’re like some of my favorite people in the world.

SFL Music: Is there anything else you want fans to look forward to?
Bonamassa: We got the record out. Got the tour coming up. So, that’s about it for now.

SFL Music: Well, I’m glad your guitar came today!
Bonamassa: It’s new, old guitar day!

SFL Music: Anything you want to add?
Bonamassa: Just looking forward to getting back to South Florida. It’s the last show of the year. It’s been a big year.

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