Joe Bonamassa on the blues
Vail, CO, Colorado
Sadness is a universal feeling, but it takes a talented person to put that feeling into music and make it put a smile on your face. Joe Bonamassa is just the man for the job.
Bonamassa’s blues career took off at the age of 12, and he shows no sign of slowing down, even in his mid-20s. He has played with his idol, B.B. King, as well as Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. He has opened for massive acts like George Thorogood, Peter Frampton and Gregg Allman. He’s the youngest member of the Blues Foundation in Memphis, which started the “Blues In The Schools” program. His last CD, “You and Me,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Magazines Blues chart, and he has another CD on the way.
Bonamassa plays at the Blues, Brews, and BBQ Festival this weekend in Beaver Creek, and despite his busy tour schedule, Bonamassa took some time out to answer some questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: You were 12 years old when B.B. King asked you to tour with him. What ran through your mind when you got the invitation?
Joe Bonamassa: It was a wonderful feeling. He is the reason why we’re even talking. He really gave me my start, and my whole career, basically. It was just one of those things where, without him, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve known him for 18 years, and it’s just awesome. I can’t say enough good things about the man.
VD: You started playing guitar at a very young age. Did you find that most of what you were learning just came to you, or did you really have to work hard at it?
JB: I had to work at it, nothing ever really came easy or natural to me, I really just had to work at it, and I still have to work at it. I still take vocal lessons, and I still do all this stuff to maintain this whole thing. You never want to get satisfied with where you’re at. You want to continue to try and grow and make it better ” it’s that simple.
VD: How has your style of playing and your song writing developed from when you first started until today?
JB: It’s a little less traditional blues. It’s a little more, I don’t know, I think a little bit more out of the box.
VD: Say you have some down time, what record are you going to throw on and just soak up while relaxing?
JB: Peter Gabriel or “B.B. King: Live at the Regal.”
VD: Which do you enjoy more: playing your own work or somebody else’s that you really admire?
JB: I like to interpret other people’s songs, kind of make them up, maybe take a verse or two of the lyrics and write something around it and make something cool out of a song that already exists, but has nothing to do with the original version.
VD: Why do you think you relate to blues more than other types of music, and what is it that makes the blues such a powerful force in music?
JB: It’s basically a three chord or a five chord music that can be interpreted in so many different ways. There are many different textures and colors, stuff like that, but there are no other kinds of music that can be interpreted and really defined by region. Rock ‘n’ roll is rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal is heavy metal, but there’s really no region you can define that by. In blues, there’s English blues, there’s the Texas blues, there’s the Chicago blues, there’s the Delta blues, there’s the Boston blues. It’s so defined by region, those three chords are interpreted in such a way, just based on everybody’s geographical location. That’s what makes it so interesting to me.
VD: What is your absolute favorite model of guitar to play, either electric or acoustic?
JB: Les Paul. I like the Les Paul. The Les Paul is pretty much my favorite.
VD: What is the No. 1 thing that you want a person to walk away with from your show?
JB: What I really want them to walk away with (thinking) is I got my money’s worth, I really have no regrets, and I don’t feel ripped off. That to me is so important.
VD: If you gave up playing the blues tomorrow, what would you do with yourself?
JB: I’d probably still be on the road. I’d probably be a tour manager or something. I really do like touring and stuff like that. I’m like a cockroach, you can’t kill me.
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