Joe Bonamassa spoke to Danny Stoakes about the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought many businesses across the globe to a screeching halt. Asked what he thinks the future holds for live music once the COVID-19 crisis has subsided, the acclaimed guitarist, who was calling from Nashville, where he has a home, stated (hear audio): "Who knows? Nobody has a crystal ball. All I know is that I've had many conversations with my friends, many conversations with my family, I've listened to a lot of podcasts, I've watched people on television, and everybody does not know definitively what's gonna happen — they just don't. And if they say they do, they're probably making it up. It's a lot of speculation.
"Who knows what the music business is gonna look like in two years, five years, 10 years?" he continued. "I mean, things have changed in the last five years that I never thought I'd see change. Now that livestreaming and Zoom and everything else, you're gonna see a hit on the commercial real estate market, where offices are just not gonna reopen, because companies figured out, 'Why are we paying all this overhead and supplying coffee for two hundred employees when they can make their own coffee at their own house and just get on a computer screen and we can do the exact same thing?' Concerts are a little bit different, because you can livestream a concert, and it doesn't matter if you have that wonderful Macintosh poweramp and all the speakers in the world in your house, you don't get that kinetic energy and that connection with the band, and the band does not get the connection with the audience. So that's what gives me hope that concerts are gonna come back; they just may look a little different in the short term. But you never know.
"All these sea-change events in the world always have ramifications," Joe added. "We went through the terrorist attacks in 2001, on September 11th, and things changed, and we just accepted it. We now have to take our shoes off at the airport. It changed, and we've been doing it for 20 years. So there's gonna be a sea change, there's gonna be things that are gonna be changing and permanent that we didn't think [would ever happen before the pandemic]."
Last month, Bonamassa sold over 17,000 tickets to his livestreamed concert from Ryman Auditorium, where he played his new studio album "Royal Tea" (recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London) in its entirety, a month before its release on October 23, along with fan favorites from his recent 20th-anniversary album, "A New Day Now", which is his 23rd No. 1 album.
Following the ticketed event, the concert is in the works to be broadcast on public television and will be available on DVD at a later date.
"Royal Tea" was inspired by Joe's British heroes Jeff Beck, JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUESBREAKERS, Eric Clapton, LED ZEPPELIN and CREAM. These ten original tracks were co-written by Joe and a cast of homegrown notables including former WHITESNAKE guitarist Bernie Marsden, ex-CREAM lyricist Pete Brown and national-treasure piano man Jools Holland.
"This whole adventure," admitted Joe, "was a bucket-list thing for me." This album reconnects the 43-year-old with the guitar-slinging kid from upstate New York, who stumbled across the best of British blues music in his dad's vinyl collection — whose influences have shaped him to be the player he is today. "I would have been about 12 years old, and it was the sound I heard in my head. Like, 'Okay, I'm in. That's what I want to be.'"
He added: "Writing this record in London has done its job. It really does sound inherently British. Bernie and I, we finish each other's sentences. We're cut from the same cloth." Bonamassa's long-standing producer Kevin Shirley and regular touring band flew in for the recording sessions, which included Anton Fig (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass) and Reese Wynans (keys).