Jon Bon Jovi knows that 2020 has certainly been one “unique” year — but it’s continued to inspire his music. Bon Jovi’s 15th studio album, titled 2020, is finally releasing on Friday, Oct. 2.
The LP was initially scheduled to be released on May 15, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. Ahead of the album dropping, the 58-year-old rocker reflected on his biggest milestones, as well as the many ups and downs that he had with his new music.
“If this year doesn’t give you that ammunition to write, then what would, right? 2020 is the most unique year I’ve lived,” Bon Jovi tells ET’s Nischelle Turner. The rock star explained that he began the recording process for the new album in March 2019, and that the batch of songs he had at the time were meant to be “tongue-and-cheek and a cute bumper sticker in an election year.”
“But as events started to unfold, and I started to write more and more topical songs…I started to really get deep into what was going on around us,” he continues. “Trying not to take sides. In essence, being a witness to history.”
After turning the album in, the country shut down in mid-March. “And the world really hit the reset button,” Bon Jovi recalls. “We decided to postpone the record and cancel the tour and I continued the writing. Then I wrote ‘Do What You Can’ and then, ultimately, ‘American Reckoning.’ Then I really thought that the album title was appropriate and I was ready to present it.”
The New Jersey native put his heart and soul into his writing, and wrote “American Reckoning” after being impacted by George Floyd’s death.
“I worked very hard on it. I was so moved by the death of George Floyd and watching and witnessing it on television over and over again,” he explains. “Whether it’s because we were in lockdown or whether it’s because the visual was so clear or the audio was so clear, when I heard the story of George Floyd calling out for his mom, I welled up.”
“The only way I know how to get that across is to sit down and to write. And I wrote it, and truthfully, I played it for my wife and she said the verse is great, you gotta keep working on the chorus. And I went back and I woodshedded some more…I made sure that I got it right.”
It’s difficult subjects like those that Bon Jovi is “proud to have spoken on,” but he hopes it also inspires people to take action against injustices.
“This was a difficult subject for a guy like me to tackle, but one that I’m very proud to have spoken on and embraced,” he notes. “It is America’s reckoning, and the call to action and to shine a light to use your voice and that’s how you’ll remember all of those who have suffered like this.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 2020. Do what you can to make a difference,” he adds.
It’s been 37 years since Bon Jovi was formed and the singer couldn’t be prouder of the band’s accomplishments. Among their biggest milestones comes this year — with “It’s My Life” celebrating its 20-year anniversary.
“I’ve been around a long, long time now,” jokes Bon Jovi. “‘It’s My Life’ was amazing for us…It was empowering and that turned a whole other generation on to our music. It was a second birth of the band.”
It’s also been 30 years since the band dropped “Blaze of Glory.” The song, which was featured in Young Guns II, won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards, and nominated for an Academy Award.
“That was my first foray into film. Emilio Estevez was the star of Young Guns. I had met him and he asked me to write a song for the movie,” he recalls. “And I wanted to go to the set and witness it, and I did.”
“My takeaway was these guys are learning to do things that they’ll carry with them off the set, i.e. hobbies. I didn’t have any hobbies. I knew how to sing, play a show and write a song…So I write the song and I end up taking acting lessons as a result. So it was that that led me to do U-571, which led me to making movies and all that kind of stuff.”
As for the “best thing” he’s ever done? Married his wife of 31 years, Dorothea. “I got it right the first time,” he marvels. “And we work hard at it and it gets stronger every day.”
Among the activities that have made them stronger, especially during the pandemic, is giving back to the community. The two have helped out in their Soul Kitchens. “We opened a food bank on Eastern Long Island because the need was so dire,” Bon Jovi says. “And we worked hard there for four months, providing the food for seven pantries. So we were feeding 25,000 people on Eastern Long Island. We were very very busy throughout this whole COVID…I was dishwasher every day, five days a week, for the first two months.”
“But out of washing dishes comes great songs,” he adds.