Singer Jon Bon Jovi on why he delayed his new record
Every Friday, national arts reporter Geoff Edgers hosts The Washington Post’s first Instagram Live show from his barn in Massachusetts. He has interviewed, among others, comedian Lewis Black, singer Annie Lennox and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Recently, Edgers chatted with musician Jon Bon Jovi. Here are excerpts from their conversation.
I’m not going to lie, your hair is pretty spectacular, as you know. I tried to match it today, but I don’t think I made it happen.
Because you used a comb or a brush or took a shower or something.
I did take a shower. Yeah.
It’s all downhill from there.
What should I have done?
Roll out of bed.
Was your latest album (released last fall) always going to be called “2020,” even before this all hit?
Yeah, it was. It took on a much deeper meaning when we went in the studio with what was, in retrospect, really the first batch of songs. But in March of 2019, when we began the recording process, I said to the guys, “I’d like to call the album ‘Bon Jovi 2020’ for two reasons. One is I believe that right now I have very clear vision for what I want the band to be and sound like. And two, the cuteness of having a campaign bumper sticker.” It was going to sell a bunch of T-shirts. But it took on a whole different meaning as the year went on, and even as I turned the record in, the events of this year led me to delay the release and ultimately write a couple more songs and tweak the ones that were pertinent. It was a time capsule and I was bearing witness to history.
‘Do What You Can’ and ‘American Reckoning’, which you wrote after George Floyd’s death, are central pieces of the record. And they didn’t exist before.
Yeah. It’s true and thank you for noticing. It brought the record into an even deeper focus, hence the title making more sense. And for me to no longer think of it as a bumper sticker, but as a moment in time where, like I said, I’ve been a witness to history.
There’s a picture of you on your Instagram page supporting Joe Biden. Some of the comments read: “I used to be a fan until you endorsed a socialist.” “You do know some of your major fans are Republicans.” How did this develop, and have you been concerned about separating career from personal political beliefs?
Sure. I’ll give you a little background, dating back to 1992 when Bill Clinton asked me to do things with and for him. I didn’t get involved at the time because I don’t think I was really ready for it. But by ‘96, I really, truly was. Our foundation, the JBJ Soul Foundation, has been active for some 15 years now. I’ve built homes from coast to coast, nearly a thousand units of affordable housing. I have these three community restaurants.
We opened an emergency pop-up food bank that supplied all of the food to seven pantries for four months during the height of the pandemic on eastern Long Island. President (Barack) Obama had named me to his Council for Community Solutions, so I was very active with them, as well. I also campaigned with Al Gore a lot. But all that doesn’t mean I don’t like Republicans, because I do. I have been friendly with several of them over the years. Chris Christie and I became good friends for quite a time in New Jersey. I just try to help people.
So you don’t worry about alienating fans?
When I am on the stage, I never preach politics. I would never use that as my soapbox. If in private life I am doing something like campaigning for a candidate or working at one of our kitchens or building houses for those in need, that’s who I am. So, again, you know, the thing about celebrity that people confuse, and it’s not a position that everyone has to take, is if you choose to be true to who you are, then you should be true to who you are 24 hours a day. Again, it’s why I didn’t come to you today with bleached blond hair like it was 1987.
This is who I am as a man at 58 years old. This is what I’ve done. Folks have been along for the journey. Some have gotten off; some have gotten on the ride. If a fan wants to get off the ride because I made a topical record, not a political record, than I’m sorry, but that’s OK. I don’t make music to pander.