Bon Jovi courts Nashville again with new album
Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:54 AM EDT
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - For the last few months, there's been a buzz around Music Row that Bon Jovi's next album would be a country record.
Some folks were skeptical and others ready to celebrate. After all, Bon Jovi made history last year when "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles soared to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, making them the first non-country act to hit that summit in decades. They won a Grammy for the tune in February, the group's first.
Will history repeat itself? The new single, "Make a Memory," which previews the band's June 19 Island/Mercury Nashville release "Lost Highway," debuted at No. 39 on Hot Country Songs earlier this month and is currently No. 35.
Yet Jon Bon Jovi is
quick to clarify that "Lost Highway" is not a country album but a "Bon Jovi
record influenced by Nashville."
Six of the tracks were produced by John Shanks, and six -- including "Make a Memory" -- by Nashville's Dann Huff, known for his work with Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. Bon Jovi also tapped further into the Nashville creative community, co-writing with Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and Brett James, and recording duets with Big & Rich and LeAnn Rimes.
The result is a collection of songs that strike a perfect balance -- rock enough to appeal to longtime Bon Jovi fans, yet with a Nashville flavor that should satisfy country fans who loved "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
"The line is so blurred between new country and (adult top 40), it wasn't a difficult leap," Bon Jovi says. "We had to just make sure we weren't patronizing the true country format. Could you have imagined me walking into an award show where 15 or 25 other artists are and saying, 'Howdy, y'all,' with straw in my teeth and a cowboy hat on? I would have expected them to run me out of Dodge."
Bon Jovi has been visiting Nashville regularly, and says the city's creative community inspires him. "If you would have asked me at the end of the tour last August to do a record in September, I would have said, 'Not for all the tea in China. I don't have anything to say,"' he says. "I didn't like what I heard on the top 40. I had nothing in common with any of that stuff. But when I listened to Keith Urban, Gary Allan and Big & Rich, I heard the same kind of stories I'd been writing for 25 years. I thought, 'I get it: Write a record, go back to your storytelling days and say something about yourself."'
As a result, much
of "Lost Highway" reflects some of the turmoil band members were facing. "I was
watching my friend going through a very painful divorce and his father had stage
four cancer," Bon Jovi says of guitarist/songwriting partner Richie Sambora. "We
were dealing with a lot. Dave (Bryan), my keyboard player, was going through a
terrible divorce at the same time. So it was all around me. That's how I got the
idea for "Whole Lot of Leavin'."
"Until We're Not Strangers" is a sultry duet with Rimes. "I wanted somebody with a strong voice who could pull it off dramatically because I knew it was a dramatic lyric," Bon Jovi says. "I didn't want a young girl that couldn't provide the sexuality in the lyric. She has a seasoned voice. She may be a young woman, but she's been around for a long time and she knows how to translate a lyric."
Among the more
upbeat fare on the record is the title track, which was featured in the John
Travolta motorcycle comedy "Wild Hogs." "We Got It Going On" is a duet with Big
& Rich that is serving as the theme song for the Arena Football League season on
ESPN, while the catchy "I Love This Town" celebrates the frontman's enthusiasm
The new album's visibility will be boosted by key TV appearances: April 16 in Nashville at the CMT Awards, May 1 on "American Idol" and June 19 on "Today." Bon Jovi says there are also plans for the band to tape an "MTV Unplugged" that will air simultaneously on CMT, MTV and VH1.
Though there aren't any plans for a major tour, Bon Jovi says the band will play select dates, among them the Frontier Days festival in Cheyenne, Wyo., and the new O2 arena in London.
Already, Bon Jovi served as keynote speaker for this year's Country Radio Seminar in Nashville and the band played a special show to give country programmers a taste of the new music. "We're very respectful of it," Bon Jovi says of the country format. "All I can ask for is, 'Give us a chance and don't judge the book by its cover."'