Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan was asked during a recent teleconference interview what advice he’d offer to his younger self if he was starting out in the music business.
“Keep attacking, you know, keep forging forward,” Bryan replied, noting that it takes plenty of hard work to make a career in music work.
Bryan seems to practice what he preaches. The idea of pushing forward applies perhaps now more than ever to Bon Jovi, which was faced with filling a major void when guitarist Richie Sambora quit the band in 2013.
Sambora was frontman Jon Bon Jovi’s primary songwriting partner within the group and to many, considered the most important band member outside of Bon Jovi.
Drummer Tico Torres, who also participated in the teleconference interview, admitted Sambora’s departure was a big deal for the band.
“The three-year period since the last record, I mean, the band itself also went through a lot of angst,” Torres said. “Richie’s a brother with us for many years – not something you brush off.”
But the three remaining original band members – Bon Jovi, Bryan and Torres – stuck together, drew on help from musicians who had ties to the band and emerged sounding as solid and confident as ever on the recently released studio album “This House Is Not For Sale.”
The album features the kind of no-frills blend of hard rock and pop that has typified most of Bon Jovi’s music, with hooky rockers such as “Living With The Ghost,” “New Year’s Day” and the title song.
John Shanks, producer on every Bon Jovi album since 2005’s “Have a Nice Day” and a guitarist himself, stepped into Sambora’s guitar role. He also continued to contribute as a songwriter – he has been part of the writing equation on each of the albums he’s produced – receiving writing credits on six of the new album’s 12 songs. Billy Falcon, who has written with Bon Jovi, also has credits on a half-dozen of the songs.
The group also found a comfort zone by arranging and recording the songs as a band, with Bon Jovi, Bryan, Torres, Shanks and long-time touring and studio bassist and now official band member Hugh MacDonald all together in the same room for the process.
“I think musically, for this, we just came into the studio, and said, ‘Let’s do this one almost more old-school,’ ” Bryan said. “We did it at the Avatar (studio), which used to be the Power Station, where we originally started. We made our first record there in ’83. And it just felt good. … And that was John Shanks, myself, Hugh and Tico and Jon. And then (new lead guitarist) Phil (X) came in and played a couple of solos.”
The increased role of Shanks in the band, plus the contributions of Phil X, also helped give the band a spark and sense of renewal as “This House Is Not For Sale” came together.
“I think when you have new people, you have new energy,” Bryan said. “And, of course, the creative process, the way we’ve worked together, is working with each other in the room. And the song dictates. And if everybody’s on the same page, it makes beautiful music. You know, of course, we had some wonderful years with Richie, but if he wants to move on in his direction, it’s one of those things that you can’t avoid, and we carry on, because the premise of this record, “This House Is Not For Sale” is the roots, and the fact (is) that we’re still together and strong and love playing music together.”
Saying Bon Jovi had wonderful years with Sambora is an understatement. After forming in Sayreville, N.J., in 1983, Bon Jovi has gone on to sell more than 130 million copies of its 13 previous studio albums, compilations and live releases.
Bon Jovi is now pushing full steam ahead with a world tour, with both Shanks and Phil X, that plays Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center on Tuesday.
Bryan said fans can expect a substantial show from the band – with a few different songs coming in and out of the set list each night.
“We try to change the list every night,” he said. “I mean, there are certain staples that people expect and probably deserve. …We try to keep those in there. We change our sets just about every night. And we have a big roster (of songs) to pick from, so depending on the shows, we get to play with them and bring them in and out, which also makes it fresh for us and great for the audiences. You know, we try to do as long a show as possible to fit them all in.”