Getting real

BELIEVE in your music and you’ll get to where you want to go. That, said blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa, is what budding musicians ought to remember.

The 34-year-old musician will be in Singapore for a concert this weekend at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

“People don’t respond to what’s hip – they respond to conviction,” he said over the phone from Los Angeles. “Figure out what you really love and go out there and play with the best of your ability.”

And that goes for any type of music you might want to produce. “If you’re doing really esoteric, like banging on trash cans and making up your own language and shouting out melodies, and you record it and you’re happy with it and you’ve done it to the best of your ability then you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” said Bonamassa.

“But if you’re doing esoteric music and … you expect 10 million people to buy it, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You gotta be smart about it and have realistic goals.”

Luck – or in Bonamassa’s case, heritage – does play a part. His parents owned a guitar shop, and by age seven, he was playing Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn songs note-for-note.

Unlike many American blues-rock guitarists Bonamassa was influenced by British and Irish players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher rather than the American players that Clapton, Beck and Gallagher were influenced by. Bonamassa brought those influences to bear on his music with songs like Blues Deluxe, Sloe Gin or Had To Cry Today, but it’s not a “dilution” of the original blues, he said.

“Who decides what the blues is supposed to be?” he said. “There’s no absolute. You can’t say the blues is only about Robert Johnson or Buddy Guy. It’s just as much about Eric Clapton as it is about Led Zeppelin. And I have my own definition of the blues, and everybody else has their own. You can’t have too much emphasis on what it should sound like. It just is.”

So what does he expect the response to his show will be here? “I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ll know more when I get down on the ground and survey the lay of the land, but to be truthful, I have no freaking clue what to expect.”