Dear Guitar Hero: Richie Sambora
He’s the longtime lead guitarist of Bon Jovi and has a collection of 135 guitars. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…
I loved Bon Jovi’s country-flavored hit single “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” [from 2005’s Have a Nice Day] and was wondering if the band would ever consider doing a full album of country songs. —Lori Lennon
A full country album? No, I don’t think so. But as those words leave my mouth, I should add that the one thing I’ve learned in this business is to never say “never.” Hey, the Rolling Stones have had a country vibe in a lot of their songs, but somehow they always manage to sound like the Stones. So if we ever did something again that fit into the country genre, I’d want to make sure we were being true to ourselves. There might be a song or two down the line, but I don’t think we’d ever do a full country album—we’re a rock band.
You have an incredible guitar collection. With so many to choose from, how do you decide which guitar to play on any given song? —The Tank
Well, Tank, when you’ve got 135 guitars, it can be a problem. When we tour, I don’t bring a lot of my expensive, vintage guitars out with me, ’cause I’m afraid they’ll get stolen. Leave a 1959 sunburst Les Paul in a hotel room? I don’t think so! [laughs] Basically, I have my ESP Richie Sambora signature model, which is very versatile soundwise. I have a bunch of those. Then I have some Strats, a few Teles, some Les Pauls and Les Paul Juniors. My general attitude is, “whatever fits the song.” The vintage stuff I’ll use in the studio, but there’s certain pieces I’ll never take on tour. Why take the risk?
I really like the solo you do in the new song “Bullet” [from Bon Jovi’s 2009 album, The Circle]. What kind of wah-wah pedal do you use on it? Did you try recording a version without the wah? —Steven Koles
I’m glad you liked that one. I used a regular Dunlop Cry Baby wah, right out of the store. I think I did try a pass without it, but it didn’t sound quite right. I put the wah-wah on to give it a bit of a sonic lift, some added dimension. Generally, I try not to go too crazy with effects, especially a wah, which can sound kind of redundant if you’re relying on it all the time. Use effects sparingly, I say, the same way a chef uses spices.
What do you think of Jon Bon Jovi’s skills on the guitar? Is he just a simple strummer, or is he capable of busting out a mind-blowing solo? —Kenny Griffen
Jon’s been getting better on the guitar. Over the past couple of years, he’s really been working on his technique. He never really played any leads until the last tour, and now he’s at the point where the two of us are even doing a couple of dual-lead solos onstage. He’s always been a terrific rhythm guitar player—very underrated, too, if you ask me.
On your first solo album, Stranger in This Town, Eric Clapton played on the song “Mr. Bluesman.” Did you feel at all intimidated to work with him? —Hannah Smith
No, I wasn’t afraid at all. I’ve been fortunate to play with a few of my heroes, and Eric is one of them. He’s a very gracious man, very humble, and he never tries to be intimidating. When I was cutting that song, he was playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, so I went to him so he could record his part. He came down to the studio and blew out a great solo. Afterward, we went to the show together. It turned out to be a great day and evening.