Richie Sambora is mostly known for being the lead guitarist for Bon Jovi. He co-wrote some of the band’s greatest hits, including ‘Living On A Prayer’ and ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’. He has also released three solo records, of which “Aftermath Of The Lowdown” (2012) is his most recent one. ThisIsNotAScene caught up with Richie to talk to him about his upcoming European tour, being a dedicated family man, his charity work and his views on the current decline of the music industry.
You’ve taken some time away some from Bon Jovi. How does it feel to be a free agent again?
It feels really good. I’m spending a lot of time on different projects like writing songs for other people, producing records and I really enjoy being the lead singer of a band again. That was something I wanted to do for a long time again. I also spend a lot on doing different charity projects and it’s good to spend some quality time with my family and being a dad for my daughter Ava. The touring schedule with my main band just became too much. We finished this mammoth 14 month tour through 52 countries. I had hardly a month off and then this other 13 month tour came up. It was just madness. In the history of rock and roll only the Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead did this type of touring. It was very unpopular decision with the fans, but I really needed to take some off and spend time with my family again.
Compared to a Bon Jovi your solo tour will see you playing in much smaller venues and often at a more intimate setting. What are your thoughts on this change of pace?
I think it’s a welcome change of pace and it gives me the chance to connect with my fans in a more direct manner. I have some really solid musicians in my backing band, which also enables me to do a lot more jamming and improvisation on stage. That expect from being a musician that I couldn’t really explore while being on the road with Bon Jovi.
The special guest on the tour will be a female guitar prodigy named Orianthi. I met her during this charity thing on Hawaii. I was hanging with my buddies Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler and Sammy Hagar when she took the stage and blew me away with her sheer stage presence and playing ability. Alice Cooper told me she was the guitarist in his backing band and as soon as her obligations with him ended I took her along on a couple of Australian dates, including the famous Soundwave festival.
There’s a musical chemistry between Orianthi and myself that is undeniable. Not many people know she’s a very gifted songwriter as well, so we’ve been working on a couple of songs together. We’ll hit the studio once the current tour obligation wind down. One the current tour people can expect a lot of improvisation between me and her. She’s one of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure of working with in a very long time.
“Aftermath Of The Low Done” contains some very personal and candid lyrics. When you perform those songs do you relive the moments and the emotions when you wrote them?
It depends really. On my previous solo records I never felt comfortable to really put the focus on my lyrics on my own experiences. It didn’t felt humble enough. However, with “Aftermath Of The Lowdown”, the time had came to tell about about my own experiences, I went through a lot during that time, including my battle with substance abuse, my father passing away with cancer, and a grueling tour with Bon Jovi. All within a short amount of time.
When you give someone the lowdown on something it means you’re telling people the truth straight up which can be a positive or a negative thing, depending on the subject matter. Sharing my personal experiences with my fans and being sincere about this, created this vulnerability which my fans really appreciated and they could relate to. Everyone goes through a rough time at some point in their life, even people like me who are blessed with an incredible career in music.
You had your fair share of rock n’ roll excess and all the negative consequences that come with it. How do you prevent falling back into old behaviour again while being on the road for instance?
It comes down to taking care of yourself. When you want to keep your voice intact and give your fans everything you got evening after evening you have to be in shape. I have some people with me on tour who help me with my diet and I exercise on a regular basis. Every tour is the culmination of months of preparation and I don’t want to screw this up. I’m really dedicated to give the fans the show they deserve. I certainly lived the rock and roll lifestyle in my younger years, but at some point in your career it will lose its appeal and you’ll realise you’re not 25 anymore and you don’t bounce back that easily anymore after a long night of partying, certainly at the age I’m now. Like I said, it comes down to taking care of yourself.
Charity is a big thing for you. Why is it so important for you to be involved with fundraisers and being part public awareness campaigns?
My parents raised with me with this. They really thought me the importance of helping other people when they’re in need. I’m blessed with this incredible career in music and if I can help to raise awareness for certain issues because my celebrity status I will certainly do so. I did this with this benefit gig for hurricane Sandy when it hit New York some years ago. More recently I got contacted by an old friend of mine who worked his way up in law enforcement to raise awareness for a growing heroin addiction plague affecting young teenagers in a neighborhood close to where I grew up in New Jersey. Every month almost 10 to 12 kids died from heroin addiction, so of course I stepped in and help to raise awareness. Before I knew it blossomed into this great campaign where I attended many council meetings and whatnot. Being involved with charity and helping other people is in my DNA and I feel giving back to the community is something really important.
What are your thoughts on the current decline of the music industry?
The industry is certainly going through times and the rise of internet and file sharing leveled the playing field completely. Revenue went from album sales to playing live, which is fine with me, because playing live is something I live for as a musician. I’ve been a producer, songwriter, member of a very successful band, a manager and whatnot and these are tough times all around for everyone involved in the industry. Labels hardly invest money in developing artists and bands anymore, although I was pleasantly surprised with the success of someone like Adele who managed to sell a respectable amount of albums despite the current decline.
Finally, what is next for you as far as touring goes and other possible projects go?
I’ll be touring in Europe in June and July, including a couple of dates in the UK and Germany and some festivals. There’s also this album with Orianthi I’m working on, which will include duets with her, some solo material from her and a couple of tracks of myself. I’ll keep busy for a long time to go and I still love coming home and spend as much time with my daughter Ava as I can.
You can find Richie in Europe for the following dates:
June 13 LONDON (UK) – ISLINGTON ACADEMY
June 15 DONINGTON (UK) – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL
June 17 TILBURG (NL) – O13
June 19 STUTTGART (D) – BEETHOVENSAAL
June 20 München (D) – KESSELHAUS
June 22 BERLIN (D) – HUXLEYS
June 24 KÖLN (D) – E-WERK
June 26 PARIS (FR) – BATACLAN
June 28 LONDON (UK) CALLING FESTIVAL – CLAPHAM COMMON
June 30 DUBLIN (IR) – OLYMPIA
July 1 BELFAST (UK) – ULSTER HALL
July 3 GLASGOW (UK)– ABC