Bon Jovi Revive Unplugged and find the Lost Highway- vh1-15.06.
Two decades ago, some people weren't sure Bon Jovi would last this long -- let alone be considered innovators. But they are. And they're thriving. The famed Jersey boys changed the TV concert game with an 1989 performance at the MTV Music Awards, which featured a stripped down spin of their biggest hair metal hit; over the next 20 years, they went on to sell millions and millions (and millions) of records. VH1 caught up with singer Jon Bon Jovi during the taping of the newly-resurrected Unplugged series, which airs on VH1 on Saturday, June 23. He explained the show and the band's new disc, Lost Highway.
VH1: You guys originated the Unplugged style performance -- how did that come about?
Jon Bon Jovi: We were in the midst of a big tour for the New Jersey album, and a lot of great artists were putting a lot of hard work into those productions on those [MTV Music Award] stages. Honestly, I went up there barefoot with a fever and said, "Heck with this. I'm going to sing with an acoustic guitar and get the heck out." We thought, "What better way to present this song than in its rawest form?" And we sat down and we couldn't decide which song to play so we played "Dead or Alive" and "Livin' on a Prayer," and we were going to have the ushers pick the song we were about to perform [before] the doors [opened].
VH1: What do you recall about the performance?
JBJ: The audience was made up of our peers and our heroes -- Bob Seeger, David Lee Roth, Madonna. You had Tom] Petty sitting there in the audience and [I'm] thinking, "How am I going to get these people on their feet?" I'm not going to put on a big French gown and come down and do the Madonna thing. Heck with it, let's just do what we do. It was the next day when it really sunk in.
VH1: How do you tailor your show for a more intimate atmosphere like the new version of Unplugged?
JBJ: Performing for 500 fans tonight or 50,000 a night at Giants Stadium is the same. It's playing. I want to be the best I can be. Because it's Smell-a-vision in this case, where you can actually smell the band you're so close, I go out there giving it everything I have to give.
VH1: Is it overwhelming to look back at your career and see all you've accomplished?
JBJ: It baffles me that all those people have bought our records. You put a number on it and start talking in hundreds of millions of records and think, "Is that possible?" You wonder if it's hype. Then you do something like American Idol and all those [contestants] are singing your songs and they're putting their whole game on the line singing your track. It's quite humbling, to be honest with you.
VH1: What was it like to work with LeAnn Rimes?
JBJ: We did a duet on the new album, a song that Richie [Sambora] and I wrote with Brett James that's called "Stranger." From the minute we wrote it, and in light of what both Richie and Dave are going through, I knew that it would be best sung with a woman, because of the drama of the lyrics. And we waited until we found the right one -- LeAnn [Rimes] knocked it out the park.
VH1: Is this album a more personal reflection of what's going on with the band?
JBJ: We have Dr. Phil coming, and the couch is being rolled out at the end. I'm going to lay down and tell everyone all my problems. I think the stories tell themselves, in light of what was going on in the lives of a couple of the guys in the band. I could channel those emotions, so I was able to pen them. Instead of it being a grandiose record, a review about politics or 9/11 or whatever was going on in the last few albums, it was pretty obvious that with this one, it was time to turn the camera in.
VH1: How did recording in Nashville effect the recording experience?
JBJ: I've gone there eighteen years, every year, [on] more than one occasion a year. Music City is called "Music City" for a reason. Every kid on every street corner works in the music business, either in the publishing business, at a recording studio, as a musician. What's so great is that there's truly a great sense of the South in that they embrace you and they include you and they're willing to share and they're willing to dare and I've always loved that. I get a great energy.
VH1: How does this record differ from past albums?
JBJ: As it stands right now, it's a pretty special record for us. We went in and said we're just going to write some songs. And the beauty of it is that it turned out well. "You Want to Make a Memory" is the first single. I think that the thread [of that song] runs throughout this record. "Strangers" is a pretty hard look at love, when you close the door and you say, "We gotta talk." But the idea of Lost Highway was [that] I see things a lot clearer behind me, and the blinding light in front of me is inviting and exciting.