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Ten Questions with...

JOE BONAMASSA

Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa has just released a live album via Provogue. One for all you blues rock fans out there...

1. What are you currently up to?

I am currently home in Los Angeles writing and preparing a new album set to be recorded in October 2005, also getting ready for our extensive 4 month summer tour that starts in a few weeks..

2. Could you take us through some highlights of your new album, `A New Day Yesterday'?

On " A New Day Yesterday Live" I would say that the real highlight of the album is the fact is was recorded live with no overdubs and fixes of any kind. In a age of music when you really don't know who's singing and who's not, I thought it would be cool to put out something that captured a "Moment of Time" so to speak. What you hear is what really happened that day in December 2001. Also I am particularly proud of our version of " If Heartaches Where Nickels".

3. You started playing the guitar at a very early age. Do you think guitar playing comes naturally or can you be taught to be a top player? What made you interested in the blues guitar players?

I think being a top player requires the both being highly technical, and natural talent. I also see players like BB King, who can play one or two notes and communicate volumes with a range of emotions that can bring a audience to tears in seconds. It was that very point that made me interested in Blues guitar in the first place. It was how they spoke words of joy and sorrow through their guitar.

4. When you compose a song where do you get your ideas from and how does a song evolve?

A song in my case evolves through my interpretation of something already written or a riff I hear somewhere. But when I listen to the way I play versus the original, it's completely different. I have never been one to learn things note for note. I think it has helped my writing a lot.

5. You won awards from Blues Wax last year. What does it feel like to get such accolades?

When you complete a album, in this case my fifth solo album, you are so close to the project that you cant objectively say it's good or bad.. You hope that it's good, 'cause you spent a lot of time and put a lot of yourself into it. Not to mention a lot of money. So to answer the question it was so great and humbling to receive album of the year in 2004. It feels like this long journey I embarked on 16 years ago means something to people. Something to tell the kids you know...

6. What do you enjoy most about performing live and who would you like to share a stage with if given the chance?

Eric Clapton...is to me as Robert Johnson is to him...He was the one that introduced me to the blues. I heard John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and was floored. I would love to share the stage with him just to show him what he taught me.

As far as what I like about live performances: It's the spur of the moment interaction between myself and the band. Kenny and Eric are brilliant musicians and challenge me everyday.. It's that walking the tightrope with no net... Either it's brilliant or you fall to your demise... That's thrilling to me.

7. How do you view the current blues scene has the Internet and smaller, specialist labels helped get your music out there more? What would say to someone thinking of coming along to see one of your gigs for the first time?

I think the internet has helped and hurt blues artist equally. In one sense people have access to so many artists that would never have been discovered otherwise. Consequently blues artists that have records out, that used to sell 50,000 copies, now sell 30,000 or fewer.

If Eminem goes from selling 8 million to 4 million due to downloading or otherwise... He still sold 4 million. Not bad. It hurts the blues artist on major labels always on the verge of getting dropped. It's pure economics.

As far as the blues scene in general... I think its either on the verge of something new and exciting or on the verge of a slow steady decline...

We have to reach the youth to have a fighting chance at being around in the next 30 years ..That's why I do the Blues in the Schools, and other things in the US to try to reach a new audience.

Also I think the artists themselves have to be more creative and draw from other influences to keep the music fresh. Most blues concerts bore me to be honest... There are exceptions like BB King, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Dr. John, Etta James, Fabulous Thunderbirds and George Thorogood, I am leaving some people as well... those mentioned know what their doing.. Many others don't.

8. How do you think you have developed as a musician down the years? Anything you would go back and change it you had the chance?

I would change many things, I would study jazz a lot more. I can play over changes but I definitely have a scared look on my face doing it.

Knowledge opens so many doors...My grandfather taught me that a long time ago. I didn't realise what it meant until now. As a musician I should know Leonard Bernstein just as well as Howlin Wolf...John Philip Sousa as well as the Jeff Beck Group. I don't, that's what I would change.....and that's how I have changed.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time collecting guitars, I have been collecting for 15 years. It's so much fun for me.. It the subject I am the most well read in. I also have been known to smoke a cigar or two as well. Another reason I love touring Europe.. We can't get the Havanas here...well sorta...

10. Message to your fans?

My message to my fans would be...Thank you...It has been such a honor to come to Europe and play for everybody here. I grew up on European Blues and to come here and give back is such a honor..So the best I can come up with is truly...Thank You...


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Interview © 2005 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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