Some 20 years ago, Joe Bonamassa launched his first tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now 33, the former child prodigy is full grown — and his blues-rock guitar sound full-blown.
The New York native’s latest tour has sold out many show dates (his April 1 concert at the Ottawa Civic Centre is a near sell-out), and the road warrior plays more than 200 concerts a year.
“The first instrument I ever picked up was a Yamaha classical guitar when I was four,” said Bonamassa during a recent phone interview. “A few years later, I discovered blues, and I was off like a rocket.”
His earliest influences include standards like those by Robert Johnson and British blues from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck. Bonamassa has toured with just about everyone who is anyone on the blues scene: B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman, to name a few.
When Bonamassa was 10, blues guitarist Freddie King heard him play and said: “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. He’s one of a kind,” quoted Bonamassa.
Bonamassa released his 10th studio album, Dust Bowl, on March 22. Among the featured artists is Vince Gill, who wrote one of the songs on the album, Sweet Rowena, and performs on the tune Tennessee Plates.
Bonamassa met Gill at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival last year.
“He came up and introduced himself, and I was like: ‘Wow. I know exactly who you are, dude.’ It’s just crazy how good he is at guitar.”
Soon, Bonamassa had asked Gill if they could collaborate. Gill said yes. “I was so honoured,” Bonamassa said.
Thinking back to his earliest days, Bonamassa said: “That first tour was four guys in a van. Now it’s a whole touring machine, it’s just unbelievable.”