Bonamassa hails producer Shirley

Joe Bonamassa says he would still be playing to small crowds rather than sold-out arenas if it wasn’t for the guiding influence of longtime producer Kevin Shirley.

Shirley’s worked with artists including Iron Maiden, Rush, Europe and Journey – and he’s used his experience behind the desk to help the blues guitarist achieve huge commercial success.

Bonamassa tells the Newcastle Chronicle: “He’s crucial. If I hadn’t met Kevin I would probably still be playing shows to a few hundred blues fans – not selling out Red Rock three years in a row or playing arenas around Europe.

“Kevin tells it as it is – and then some. I can still recall one of our first meetings and he didn’t mince his words. ‘The band’s dreadful, your songs are weak and your voice needs improvement,’ he said.

“But he was right. It’s a ruthless world out there and he basically laid out the career path for me to follow. Call it being cruel to be kind, but listening to him and heeding his advice was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Bonamassa says while his guitar playing comes naturally, he’s had to go out of his way to improve and maintain the quality of his vocals over the years.

He continues: “My singing is something I take great pride in because my voice needs high maintenance. Looking after your voice takes an awful lot of hard work – especially when you’re on the road playing five or six gigs a week.

“You want it to sound as good on the last night of a tour as it did on the first. I’d like to think if someone heard me both times they wouldn’t detect a real difference.

“What they probably wouldn’t realise is the work that goes into ensuring that is the case.”

Bonamassa will head out on a UK tour next week before returning to the US for a run of dates. He’ll also play the 300-capacity Mr Kyps in Poole on November 1 – 10 years on from the night he made his live debut in the UK in front of just 100 people.

Joe Bonamassa: Live At Radio City Music Hall

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.