Wednesday at Fraze: Blues artist Joe Bonamassa reflects on writing, recording, touring

Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who released his 15th studio solo album, “Time Clocks,” in October 2021, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Combined ShapeCaption
Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who released his 15th studio solo album, “Time Clocks,” in October 2021, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

While he might joke about sitting around playing guitar in his PJs, Joe Bonamassa didn’t take much time off during the coronavirus shutdowns. The award-winning blues artist, returning to Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3, worked on numerous projects while he was off the road.

In addition to developing material for other artists during lockdown, Bonamassa wrote songs for his 15th solo studio album, “Time Clocks,” which was released in October 2021. It is the follow-up to “Royal Tea” (2020), the Grammy-nominated album recorded at Abbey Road Studio in London.

Bonamassa, who has resumed a full tour schedule, answered some questions by telephone during a short break from the road.

Q: Where are you today and what’s going on?

A: I’m home in New York City, where I split my time. This is my vacation, so I have 10 days off. I’m here for five days and I’m doing a bunch of stuff but I’m really doing nothing right now. I’m just riding my bike.

Q: Are you an active cyclist?

A: Not really, no. It’s a good brainless thing to take my bike and make laps at Central Park and it’s a good way to lose weight for the summer tour. It’s always good to take off a few pounds before going back on the road but it’s hard at 45 to keep your weight the same as it was at 35.

Q: Have ever been a runner or anything like that?

A: Not unless somebody is chasing me.

Q: What are you working on before shows start again in early August?

A: I go back to work, making a new record with Joanne Shaw Taylor. We have to finish that up. I’m looking forward to that. It’s always fun to get back into the studio. My whole life is guitars and making music so the whole thing is fun. We also have to start rehearsing for the tour. It’s coming up quick. Before you know it, we’re going to be right there.

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Q: You’ll be back at the Fraze, where you’ve been performing for a long time. When I first started interviewing you, Gilly’s was your regular spot in Dayton. What do you remember about that venue?

A: We played there a lot. It was the end of an era when that place closed. I mean, BB King played there and Bobby Bland. Those clubs are the building blocks in everyone’s careers. It’s like the farm system but sadly most of those venues are gone. It’s just a weird thing. It’s a tough time but we’re really looking forward to getting back to the Fraze. It’s a good place to play. We’ve been coming there for almost 20 years.

Combined ShapeCaption
Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who released his 15th studio solo album, “Time Clocks,” in October 2021, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who released his 15th studio solo album, “Time Clocks,” in October 2021, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Combined ShapeCaption
Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who released his 15th studio solo album, “Time Clocks,” in October 2021, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: Your most recent album, “Time Clocks,” was released in October. When did you start working on that?

A: I started writing it during COVID. I did a lot of writing in 2020 and 2021. For ‘Time Clocks,’ we had a few songs we had cut for our Abbey Road record that we had left over. We recorded everything else during COVID.

Q: You said you wrote a lot of songs. Was it easy to tap into the creativity during the lockdown?

A: Not really, no more than usual. It’s not any easier or harder for me but a lot of people found it harder because they were feeling kind of ground down. It was like, ‘Why are we doing this? Is it one-minute Instagram videos? What are we doing here? What’s our job?’ It used to be, you’d make a record and then you’d go tour. It was a crazy time.

Q: You hadn’t had that amount of downtime since you were a kid, right?

A: Yeah, 100 percent. I mean, it was a year-and-a-half I never would’ve taken off myself. Obviously, staying home and playing guitar in my pajamas is not something I signed up for. At the end of the day, everybody adjusted to it in a different way. Some people learned new things, but I focused on writing. Luckily, it started to unwind a little bit about a year-and-a-half in and we did some half-house shows.

Q: How were those?

A: It’s been an odd transition, you know. The road back has been odd because our business was the first to close and last to open. Apparently, we’re different than football and baseball. I don’t get it but that’s neither here nor there.

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Q: You have a cruise coming up in late August. Have you done anything like since things opened back up?

A: We did one back in the spring of this year. That was my first one back. It was great. This one should be good. We’re going to Greece and Turkey. We’ve got Keb’ Mo’, Tommy Emmanuel, Samantha Fish, Walter Trout, just a lot of people.

Q: You’ve got dates into 2023. What else is on tap?

A: I’m making a new studio album at the beginning of 2023. We’ll be touring next spring and summer. There’s always something to do.

Q: Do you have material for that album?

A: I’d like to say yes. I’ll start working on that in September and October, before we go back out for the fall tour in November.

Q: Do you need a deadline to get you focused on writing?

A: Oh, 100 percent. Never discount fear as the great motivator.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

Who: Joe Bonamassa

Where: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3

Cost: $69 to $199 in advance, prices increase $5 day of show

More info: 937-296-3300 or www.fraze.com

Artist info: https://jbonamassa.com

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