Joe Bonamassa: The Grammy-nominated blues guitarist on anger, Anglophilia, and his 300 axes


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

I'm not a rock star and I don't have hits After 25 years in the music business, I don't want to be defined by some three-minute song written by committee, tossed out and [endorsed] by music taste-makers who are failed musicians. I don't live and breathe what those numpties say – the kids can fight over the hit tunes; I'm just a blues guy.

I dislike all those cookie-cutter Nashville songs You know the ones, about tight jeans and pick-up trucks. When I started working on my new album, I went to Nashville and I told the [professional song] writers there, I'm not going after those sorts of hits, I don't want any part of that.

I hate to see young people discouraged It's sad when a 19-year-old musician hears nonsense from some major record label with an antiquated business model. It's not about grass-roots flowering with them. They're more interested in what song you've got next through the pipe – and if it doesn't fit in the mould of the next Beyoncé, it's off to the next person. But if you record your tune on your iPhone, put it on social media, you own it – it's your idea and you've got your own business. That's the message I want to get out to young people.

If you met me 10 years ago, I had chips on both shoulders I was so angry, I was p*****g vinegar. I'd struggled my whole career to get noticed and I was like, OK, I've got to play faster and louder than the rest of you and I'm going to make you notice me. I didn't care how many people I had to rub the wrong way. I've mellowed out now – I'm more Zen and more thankful.

I love to collect guitars made in the 1950s I like preserving and playing them. When I bought my first [Gibson] 1959 Les Paul, you'd have thought I was buying 100, that's how much it cost. I used to have 300 guitars, but I've sold 200. I now have 40 that are mint: a piece of Fender and American history deserves be preserved. But I've also got a beat-up 1955 Stratocaster I use for gigs.

You often see lifestyle over substance in LA Some rock stars dress up like they're going to play a gig when they're just going to the 7-Eleven store on a Tuesday night. In fact, in LA, you see it more often than not: rock stars acting like entitled idiots, though it'd be dangerous of me to name names!

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck made me an Anglophile I listened to English and Irish artists as a kid and they were way louder, heavier and faster than the traditional blues that I was listening to.

Musicians shouldn't talk politics The Dixie Chicks gave the perfect example of what not to do. The entire US revolted against those three girls [the group faced a partial boycott in America after the lead singer insulted then-president George W Bush on stage]. That's how to take a billion-dollar music empire and throw it in the trash.

People who make rash judgements get my goat Particularly ill-informed people who believe everything they read online is the gospel truth. The other day I was reading a forum for guitar geeks on which a guy had written a whole essay about my lack of talent and that the only reason I was successful was that my father was a multi-millionaire. Well, my father earnt a modest living as a guitar dealer for 20 years. But 300 numpties couldn't agree with the guy fast enough, and this pied piper of stupidity got his followers. Five years ago, as a hot-headed Italian, I would have posted a response.

Joe Bonamassa, 37, is a Grammy-nominated blues guitarist. His new solo album 'Different Shades of Blue' is out now