Joe Bonamassa, an American blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about working again with Black Country Communion, performing on Later…With Jools Holland, his latest album Redemption, and his forthcoming three dates in the UK.

Joe Bonamassa is an American blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, who started his career when he opened for B.B. King at the tender age of twelve years old.

Since then he has played alongside such artists as Stephen Stills, Eric Clapton, Blondie Chaplin, Foreigner, Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood, Warren Haynes, Solomon Hicks, and Derek Trucks amongst others. His career highlights include performances at the Royal Albert Hall and a Grammy Award nomination in 2013.

In the last thirteen years Bonamassa has put out fifteen solo albums through his independent record label J&R Adventures. In addition to his music career, Joe Bonamassa runs a non-profit organisation called The Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, whose mission it is to further music education by funding scholarships and providing music education resources to schools in need.

Whilst busy preparing for a concert in Germany, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Joe how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m doing great. Absolutely great.

That’s good and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s not a problem, I’m always happy to speak with you.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Not bad, not bad at all. We are about to play a show here in the North East of Germany in a city called Rostock which is a place that I had never heard of. It’s a city in the North German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. However, apparently the people have heard of me because we have sold a bunch of tickets which is good.

Well I hope that the show goes well. Now you and I really do have to talk about your thirteenth album Redemption. I have to say that I have been playing it for the past couple of weeks and I personally think that it is your best work to date.

Thank you, thank you so much for saying that. I certainly worked hard on it, and I have to say that it came out good. The album was actually recorded in stages so I don’t remember a whole lot about it because it was recorded over such a long period of time. When you finally see it come out you think ‘oh, okay I can remember that’ (laughter).

Your UK fans love it. Are you happy with the reaction that the album has received so far?

Yes, so far nobody has hated it so… (laughter).

Redemption is an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. Was there a fault or a mistake that you had to seek redemption for?

To be honest I think that everybody does don’t you. Does anybody actually get through life without making an unforced error somewhere along the way? Do you know what I mean? It is just one of those things where you just have to live a little life. That’s part of the Blues and that is part of the whole thing about being forty-one years old. You find yourself going through a de-facto midlife crisis I guess. It’s just one of those things that, without going into any detail, it just happens to everybody. You just find yourself in a situation in life where you are in your early forties and you get overly consumed by your career and life and it starts taking away from other things.

I have to say that I feel that the opening track Evil Mama grabs your attention and takes you on a journey through the rest of the album. You can’t wait to hear the next track to see just where you are going next.

Yes it does and you have to remember that we start the live shows like that. It’s a good groove. I always wanted to be like Tower Of Power but to be honest I am not a funky kind of guy. So this is my nod to everything that is hip.

Normally at this point I would be saying to you “I like this track” or “I like that track” but with this album it’s hard because every track has its own legs and stands up on its own.

Well thank you. However, I have to tell you that my least favourite track on the album is the acoustic song Stronger Now In Broken Places. Everyone who I speak to seems to be loving that song and I’m like ‘wow that would be the last song that I would pick’ (laughter).

Well if I had to pick just one track then at this moment in time it would have to be Deep In The Blues Again; I think that it is fantastic.

(Hysterical laughter) well thank you again but I’m afraid that I have to be honest with you and tell you that Deep In The Blues Again would be the second to the last song that I would pick (laughter).

In that case putting you firmly on the spot, which track would you say is your favourite?

That’s easy, my favourite track by far is Self-Inflicted Wounds. That is the most honest song that I have written in a long, long, long time.

Bringing in guitarists Kenny (Greenberg) and Doug (Lancio), did that give you more freedom to express yourself?

Being totally honest with you, whenever Kenny, Doug and myself went into the studio I always felt like I was the weak link in the room. What can I tell you, I was simply the weakest link in the room with those guys.

You have used producer Kevin Shirley once again and I have to say that he always seems to bring out the best in you. Would you agree with that?

Absolutely, yes absolutely. What you have to remember is that for the past thirty-seven years, Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley has worked with some of the biggest artists on the planet, including Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Metallica and numerous others. Working with Kevin is great; he has a very different approach to producing. I personally thought it was complex, but he works in a very simple way. It was great to learn not to complicate things. I could see what he wanted from me and the sound. For me to be able to see what he expected from all the tracks that he worked with, that was the clarifying thing.

You are coming over to the UK to play three gigs; Plymouth Pavilions, Nottingham Motorpoint Arena and Bournemouth International Centre. Are you looking forward to that?

Yes I am. We will be playing three areas that we do really get a great deal of pleasure from whenever we get the chance to play there. Nottingham is always a favourite of mine; Bournemouth is a great venue to play and Plymouth we have only played there a couple of times so yes we are coming over to do a short run of three dates.

I have heard a rumour that you will be performing on Later… With Jools Holland whilst you are here?

(Laughter) just how the hell do you know that; who has been speaking out of school (laughter). Yes it’s true, we are going to be performing on the Jools Holland show in a couple of weeks so we will be needing a little extended stay in London.

Do you enjoy your time spent here in the UK?

Yes I do I really do. I have found that in the UK in the last fifteen years, you guys have gone through a cuisine metamorphosis with the Jamie Oliver’s and the Gordon Ramsey’s. They have changed the entire restaurant scene over there and it is now quite lovely. It’s not just Yorkshire pudding and mushy peas anymore. So yes, we do enjoy spending time in the UK; it is always fun and to be honest with you, the UK was the first country in Europe to embrace me and what I was trying to do so much so that the people in my country now think that I am English.

I have to say that I first saw you playing here in the UK at The Robin 2 in Bilston more years ago now than I care to remember. Since then I have seen you playing at The Running Horse, The Rescue Rooms, Rock City, The Royal Concert Hall, The Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, Newark Castle and a couple of gigs at The Birmingham Arena.

Wow, that’s quite an impressive list of gigs, thank you for all of your support over the years. I have been coming over to the UK for many years now. It has been a trip of many changes, I can tell you that.

Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

Yes I have, I really have. And I have to say to you that I wouldn’t change a thing.

Staying on the subject of meetings I almost knocked you over on the Newark High Street just as you had bought yourself a coffee.

(Laughter) so that was you was it. At least I didn’t spill my coffee. Coffee is my thing, and so before every gig I love a good cup of Costa Coffee.

For the forthcoming three shows, how many of the new songs will make it onto the set list?

Depending upon how I feel, it will be between four and five.

I will be reviewing and photographing your gig here in Nottingham.

That’s cool; I had better try to lose some weight for that (laughter).

Whenever you are out on the road, do you ever get the chance to take a look around the cities that you are in and what they have got to offer?

I have done that so many times so now whenever I am out on the road I really am like an old fuddy duddy. I have done all of the churches man, I went up the spires years ago. I’ve had the vertigo, I have taken the photos. I done all of the museums and the High Street crawls; I have done all of that some fifteen years ago now. Nowadays some room service, Netflix and a hotel bar will do me just fine.

I was recently speaking to Chantel McGregor…

Ah nice how is she doing?

She is doing okay, she asked me to remember her to you and to tell you that she would love to work with you some time in the future.

OK well that would be great, that would be really great.

Is there currently anybody out there who you would like to work with?

You know I have had my fair share of collaborations and to be honest with you I’m pretty good because I will never turn down an invitation to work with Paul Rodgers, I will never turn down an invitation to work with Jeff Beck, or any of those kind of people. I recently got to work with Ginger Baker, and I have to say it was fantastic. I will never turn down anything like that.

The last time that you and I spoke was the 22nd June 2016. During that interview I asked you who we should be looking out for here in the UK on the Blues scene and you said “truth be told I think that Joanne Shaw Taylor is a superstar in waiting”. Do you still think that?

Yes I do. She is fantastic and I will say it again that she is a superstar in waiting.

How is everything now between you and Glenn (Hughes)? Are Black Country Communion still a valid ongoing concern?

Yes they are and yes, everything is once again fine between Glenn and me. We are all excited about actually finding some time that will allow us all to work together again. However, at the moment Glenn is out on the road with his Deep Purple show. Derek (Sherinian) is out with Sons Of Apollo and Jason (Bonham) is currently touring with Sammy Hagar and his Led Zeppelin show so everyone at the moment is really busy.

Do you have anything in the pipeline for you and Beth Hart?

Beth is one of the very best in the world and I would love to do something with her again, but again, it is all down to timing. Believe it or not there is not a lot of extra time for us to get together. I know that people would like to see a few shows again so we will figure that out. Believe me when I say that everything will be fine (laughter).

Are you ever going to slow down; it seems that you are never at home. In fact my wife doesn’t think that you have a home (laughter).

(Laughter) actually I have two homes.

Yes you do but you don’t seem to spend much time in them.

No I don’t, that’s very true. Perhaps that is something that I need to sit down and seriously look into at some stage.

What motivates you to keep going at such a thunderous pace?

I don’t know, I really don’t know. I think that Red Bull helps (laughter). I suppose it’s simply because you have to see this stuff through. You have got to be there and I have just put out a record myself and so I have to see that through.

Are you already thinking about album number fourteen?

Yes I am.

What period are you looking at getting it out there?

We are going to record it all next year at The Abbey Road Studios over there in London.

Redemption is the third album on which you have written all of the songs. Are you now comfortable doing that?

Yes I am, it has taken a little time but yes, I now feel comfortable having the responsibility of writing all of the songs for the album resting purely upon my shoulders.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That was Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits.

What would be the ideal Christmas for Joe Bonamassa?

That’s easy, not playing. That about sums it up (laughter).

On that note Joe let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today and I will see you here in Nottingham on 12 October.

Thank you Kevin and I am really looking forward to being back in Nottingham. Thanks very much, I really do appreciate it. Bye for now.