May 13, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
Joe Bonamassa has grown into one of the best guitarists in today’s music, and a lot of that can be attributed to his connection with central New York.
Born in New Hartford, Bonamassa is another in a long line of musicians to emerge from his family. His parents used to run a guitar shop, a place where Bonamassa got his start of a life-long love of music.
Though he’s blossomed into a phenomenal musician, he won’t tell you that’s his day job.
“My life is like Groundhog Day,” he said in a phone interview May 11 while he was in Pittsburgh as part of his huge tour which will bring him to The Landmark Theatre on Thursday for a show that starts at 8 p.m. “It’s always the same. I wake up at 1 p.m., see the hotel for all of ten minutes. There’s a sheet of paper on the desk in my tour bus that has a list of interviews I have to do. I speak to people like you so you can get your story, then I shake 100 fans’ hands, do a quick soundcheck, shake some more hands, eat, then maybe have a few minutes to chill. I don’t play music for a living; I shake hands and do interviews. Playing guitar is just a small part of the job. I’m happy to be doing it.”
While his comments were tongue-in-cheek, Bonamassa is quite a busy guy right now. His tour began April 17 in Los Angeles and doesn’t conclude until May 25 in New Hampshire. He has already announced another tour that will keep him on the road from October through mid-December.
On top of that, he’s releasing an album on May 22 titled “Driving Towards The Daylight,” which features a collaboration with Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. It’s the 13th album of his career, recorded in Las Vegas and produced by Kevin Shirley, who has worked with Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes, among many other well-known bands.
“I call it Lucky No. 13,” Bonamassa said.
Whitford, speaking from Las Vegas, said the album has a rugged feel, harkening back to the days when blues rock was just growing popular.
“This is definitely more influenced by the stuff the guys and musicians in this room love, early ‘60s English and American rock and blues,” he said. “I guess we’ll never get that out of our system and it’s fun to come in here and find out own path down that highway.”
Bonamassa, by the time he was 10 years old, had drawn praise from legendary axe man B.B. King, who said Bonamassa was going to grow into one of the best ever. Over the next two years, he had opened for Buddy Guy, Stephen Stills and Gregg Allman, among a slew of other notables.
That’s quite a resume for a 12-year-old to possess.
“I studied from the likes of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck,” Bonamassa said. “Now here I am. I’ve made a name for myself by playing British-style blues. I’m more popular in England than I am here, but I think it’s evening out now.”
At a show in England a few years back, Bonamassa got the chance to play with Clapton, as Slowhand — that’s Clapton’s nickname — emerged for a take on “Further On Up The Road,” which he said was the first song he learned to play. He and Clapton traded licks for a jam that could satiate even the biggest of blues fans. On a side note, it was the first time I had ever heard Bonamassa’s playing, and I was completely blown away. In my opinion, he, Phish’s Trey Anastasio and the Allman Brothers Band’s Derek Trucks are the three greatest living guitarists today.
Asked to comment on the experience, Bonamassa said he didn’t get nervous, but rather he was inspired to play his best.
“I’ve played over 3,000 gigs in my life,” he said. “I play five nights a week and I’ve done that for most of my life. Was it cool he played with me? Yes. But I enjoy every show I play because I know my fans like it.”
The 35-year-old Bonamassa hasn’t lived in CNY in more than a decade. He’s going to be playing at the Landmark in front many friends and members of his family. Fun fact: he claims the first gig he ever played was at the Beginning II, a bar in East Syracuse.
“I really enjoy playing in front of them,” he said. “But I don’t feel as if I have to impress anyone just because I’m playing near where I grew up. I just go for it. I have a program that lasts 2 hours, 20 minutes and I try not to make it lag.”
So if you want to see some amazing guitar work, go buy a ticket for Thursday’s show. Bonamassa will not only blow you away with his guitar work, but he may also shake your hand.
It’s all in a day’s work.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.