Joe Bonamassa never lets grass grow beneath his feet, musically or otherwise. The blues virtuoso recorded his new album, Different Shades of Blue (out today), in Nashville in between tour stops: 11 tracks in 16 days. “It’s all new material,” the prolific Bonamassa told us. “I don’t warehouse songs, and we had 22 new songs to choose from.”
Some of the material is personal. No stranger to music business’ ups and downs, Bonamassa remains philosophical: “The music business giveth, and the music business taketh away.” He dryly called his last year “pretty transitional.”
“After being in the music business 25 years, you build up some stories to draw on,” Bonamassa told us. “My first paying gig, I was 11 years old, in Utica, NY. We charged $5 at the door and made $3,000.” Although he describes his career to date as 17 years of famine, eight years of feast, he’s headlined superb venues like the Beacon Theatre, with John Hiatt and others as surprise guests; nonetheless, he still has the ITT Technical Institute brochures his mother gave him when she thought a music career might not work out.
Bonamassa’s philosophical outlook precludes any fantasizing about his career. Is he pleased with the album? Yes, but he knows he’s not the final judge. “The reality is that, although I like it, the fans will let me know how good this record really is,” he said.
Ever the working artist, Bonamassa is now touring Europe, before returning to the States in November—it’ll be a while before he enjoys any down-home applause. Having heard the album and Bonamassa live, I’m sure it will be here waiting for him, when he comes home.
– Suzanne Cadgene