Joe Bonamassa Talks 'SeeSaw,' His New Album with Beth Hart, and His Ongoing Love Affair with Gibson's Les Paul "Burst"

by Corbin Reiff
Posted Jun 21, 2013 at 11:37am

This is an excerpt from the August 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus a Jeff Hanneman tribute and poster and features on Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins, Iggy and the Stooges, Steve Morse of Deep Purple, Eric Clapton's 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival, the 25 Best Guitar & Music Apps and more, check out the August 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

On the heels of his London retrospective shows, the indefatigable Joe Bonamassa talks about his busy career, his new album with singer Beth Hart and his ongoing love affair with the ultimate blues electric guitar: the Gibson Les Paul “Burst.”

It’s six o’clock on April 12, just two hours before show time, and Joe Bonamassa is sitting in his dressing room at Seattle’s famed Paramount Theatre absent-mindedly flipping through pictures of vintage guitars on his iPad. “Check this out,” he says to his tech while holding up the tablet.

“The Black Dan Armstrong Collection, bass and guitar, just $1,500 each.” The tech, who is seated on the couch next to Bonamassa, is gently playing the guitarist’s newest acquisition, a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard that he purchased from a seller in South Africa. He looks up to the screen and nods approvingly while setting the instrument back in its case. The two men engage in a brief conversation about the necessity of using Gorilla Glue on a piece of equipment before the tech excuses himself from the room.

Tonight will be Bonamassa’s second show on his spring 2013 North American tour, and although he’s battling a nasty flu that he contracted a short time ago in Europe, he seems to be in good spirits. “That first show a couple days ago in Vancouver was great,” he says. “I was on fire, great crowd, band played good. It was awesome.”

His enthusiasm is commendable given not only his health but the pace of his life recently. This past March, Bonamassa released the double-CD An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House, recorded last July during a two-week unplugged tour. Around the same time that the CD was issued, he performed four shows in London that chronicled his rise from small, intimate clubs to historic venues like the Hammersmith Apollo and the Royal Albert Hall. He also recorded SeeSaw, his second album with vocalist Beth Hart.

The quartet of London shows served as the climax for his European tour and were duly filmed and recorded for eventual release.

Together, they served as a retrospective of Bonamassa’s now 13-year professional career. “They worked, but I’ll never do that again,” declares the guitarist. “I don’t think anyone has ever attempted anything like that. Now I know why. It was almost like Evel Knievel jumping the fountain [at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas]: it doesn’t make it a good f---ing idea.”

Perhaps it was the still-lingering effects of the illness, but when he speaks about the shows, there is a twinge of weariness in his voice. “It was a great career retrospective and it was great for the fans, more so than it was for me,” he notes. “I’m sure that I will watch the films later and go, ‘I enjoyed myself a lot more than I realized at the time.’ But the pressure of shooting four separate films was just massive.”

That’s not to say Bonamassa isn’t proud of what he accomplished, especially at the penultimate show at the Royal Albert Hall, a venue that holds a special place in his heart. “You know, there are some nights that you just feel it when you get down there,” he says.

“That initial roar of the crowd tells me everything I need to know about what I’m in for. If it’s tepid, that means I’m going to have to work tonight. If it’s electric, it’s just more inviting. It’s the kind of thing you want to bottle and always have. You can’t achieve it every night, but what you can do is certainly strive for it, and if I had to choose one of the venues for it to happen in, I graciously accept it happening at the Albert Hall. It’s a great sound at the Albert Hall, and the first time we played it, we missed the mark and played too loud. It’s a big room, but it’s tricky in that you can overpower it. So this time we had the sound right, the crowd was in it from the minute we stepped out, and it was just a great night.”

Photo: Jeremy Danger

For the rest of this story, plus a Jeff Hanneman tribute and poster and features on Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins, Iggy and the Stooges, Steve Morse of Deep Purple, Eric Clapton's 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival, the 25 Best Guitar & Music Apps and more, check out the August 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.


Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Review: Epiphone PRO-1 Acoustic and Les Paul Classic-T Guitars (9/9/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the November 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Playing gu...
Joe Bonamassa, Chuck Ragan, new guitar gear demos in The Gear Show episode 3 (9/4/2014)
Read more about Joe Bonamassa, Chuck Ragan, new guitar gear demos in The Gear Show episode 3 at The makers of Guitarist, Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques magazines and present The Gear Show, a new monthly helping ...
‘World On Fire’: Slash Discusses New Solo Album, Gibson Les Pauls and Guns N’ Roses (9/2/2014)
Over the course of his illustrious career—one that includes time in Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver—Slash has amassed album sales of more than 100 million, garnered a Grammy (to go with his seven nominations) and was recently...
Buckcherry Guitarist Keith Nelson Talks New EP, 'F---,' and His Gibson Collector’s Choice Les Paul (8/12/2014)
Never a band to play by the rules, Buckcherry have made a career out of pushing the boundaries — and buttons — of conventional rock while doing things their own way. It’s a strategy that has paid off with successful studio albums and singles ove...
Gig Review: Richie Sambora Pays Tribute to Les Paul at the Iridium (7/23/2014)
Back in the late Eighties, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora was considered to be one of the true guitar heroes of the day. While less flashy than, say, Jake E. Lee or George Lynch, Sambo was generally acknowledged to be one of rock’s most tasteful and ...
Richie Sambora Honors Les Paul with Three Special Live Shows at New York's Iridium (7/18/2014)
While in Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora saw a million faces and rocked them all. But nothing will quite compare to three very intimate live performances he has planned to mark the anniversary of the birth of the great Les Paul, who would’ve...
Gibson unleashes a pair of new Flying Vs (6/25/2014)
Read more about Gibson unleashes a pair of new Flying Vs at Gibson has launched two new Flying V models, the Flying V History and the Flying V 120.The Flying V History ($1,999) has been launched as part of Gibson's 120th anniversa...
Led Vault: Jimmy Page Talks First Three Led Zeppelin Albums, Gibson and Harmony Guitars and More (6/11/2014)
This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Ace Frehley, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews o...
Gibson Introduces ES-Les Paul Guitar: "The Ultimate Marriage of Solid and Semi" (6/11/2014)
Gibson has introduced its new ES-Les Paul guitar. From the company: The solidbody Les Paul Standard and semi-acoustic ES-335 are the two most influential electric guitars ever to hit their respective genres. Now Gibson brings them together in t...
Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul (6/11/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul at Gibson has combined the ES and Les Paul designs to create a new model, the ES-Les Paul. Featuring ES-style laminated maple tops, semi-acoustic contruction including a mahogany central ...
Gibson celebrates 65 years of Lucille (6/4/2014)
Read more about Gibson celebrates 65 years of Lucille at Gibson is celebrating the 65th birthday of BB King's Lucille with a new anniversary signature guitar. The legendary bluesman's Lucille, the luxurient black semi acoustic tha...
New Johnny Winter Album, 'Step Back,' to Feature Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, Joe Bonamassa and More (6/3/2014)
Blues legend Johnny Winter will release a new studio album, Step Back, September 2 via Megaforce Records. The album, the followup to 2011’s Roots, will find Winter exploring a more aggressive vintage-blues style. The album also will feature a h...
Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls (5/20/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls at Gibson has announced two new Les Paul models, the Les Paul Supreme and the Southern Rock Tribute 1959 Les Paul. The Supreme is about as ostentatious a Les Paul as we've ever seen...
Gibson Introduces Memory Cable with Built-in Recorder (5/12/2014)
Gibson has introduced the Memory Cable, a 16-foot cable with a built-in, solid-state recorder designed by TASCAM’s engineers. From the company, courtesy of Craig Anderton: Inspiration is fragile. Remember those songs you lost when
Recovered: Zakk Wylde's Stolen Pelham Blue Bullseye Les Paul Custom Guitar Found in Chicago Pawn Shop (5/5/2014)
Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde got some good news over the weekend. His Pelham Blue Bullseye Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar — which was stolen March 14 from his tour bus in Chicago — has been found. The guitar, which was valued at $10,000, turn...