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Interview: Joe Bonamassa, Part II – Hidden Talents and The Meaning of Success

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Blogcritics music editor Connie Phillips and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa. In Vegas for two shows, we caught up with Bonamassa just hours prior to his second gig.

One of the goals of my portion of the interview was to obtain answers to some of Joe's fans' questions, as well as some of my own. While a large number of questions were submitted, time did not allow for all to be asked or answered. Many thanks go out to the fans who submitted their questions and I hope they enjoy Joe's responses.

Joan Hunt for Blogcritics: Joe, thank you for making time in your busy schedule for this interview.

Joe Bonamassa: Hi, Joanie. Not a problem.

I hope you don't mind me starting off with a few questions from some of your fans.

That's cool.

Stephanie wanted to know which song is your favorite to perform and why.

It varies. "Mountain Time" is my favorite song right now.

I'm surprised. I recall you saying in Reno that you were a bit weary of the song. Of course, that was two years ago and the song usually ran longer back then. In fact, I think our exchange at the time went a little something like "…well, I know many fans wouldn't mind a 45-minute version of 'Mountain Time'", to which you replied, "Isn't it already that long?" I have to admit, I was one of those fans who never wanted to the song to end.

Yeah, the song did go on for a while then, didn't it? Even though I used to play a longer version, it was hard to keep the feeling fresh night after night. Songs rotate in and out of preference because there are a lot of factors that go into each performance. Times change.

The new version of "Mountain Time" is probably my favorite version yet. I've had a chance to play around with it and bring it to where it feels right. Plus, the way the band is now, there's a little more freedom in my approach.

Personally, I like the new version and I love the fact you added what I call the "layered" sound back in.

Again, it's part of having the freedom to play the music the way I feel it.

I guess this answers another one of Stephanie's questions about which part of performing you most enjoy.

Yeah, it's about the opportunity to express myself musically, the way I want to. And another part of it is the chance to interact with the fans. It's also just a privilege to be doing what I do for a living.

Now, about your guitars. You have an impressive collection. How many do you have these days? Do they have names? And, are they all originals?

I have 181 guitars at this point, but they don't have names. They're numbered, but not named. Of my collection, 100 are original vintage guitars and some of the rest are customed made.

DH likes the new interactive Joe, the one who calls for audience participation. When did this trend start?

Oh, that started in Europe the last time I was there. I was surprised to hear the crowds singing along with my songs so loudly and clearly. It was really great! Now I like to encourage audiences [in the States] to do the same. For some reason, though, audiences here are a little more reserved when it comes to joining in. I'm not sure why.

[Laughing] I do my part! Especially on "Spoonful." My only guess as to why people don't join in on other songs is because they know you change some of the lyrics to your song. (Author's note: See Connie's interview for Joe's comments on lyrics.)

"Spoonful" usually gets people going. The lyrics to other songs change a little, but not so much that people can't sing along with the chorus. (Author's note: Very true!)

About those European audiences… Brian, from England, wanted to know what you thought of the "reserved" English crowds.

They're not reserved at all! Actually, it's the Eastern European fans who seem more polite, quiet. But I think maybe it's the language barrier more than anything else. Anyway, the crowds in Europe have all been great. Fans are fans and it's always good when they respond to what I'm doing on stage.

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