"If you can't do what you do, do what you can..."
Simple and powerful words from New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi -- and words that still ring true now as we enter the seventh month of COVID-19 restrictions in the United States.
Bon Jovi joined RADIO.COM LIVE remotely for a special chat with host Karen Carson as we look to find out more about their new album 2020 set for release on October 2, as well as the work the band has been doing to help communities in need during these trying times – and, of course, rock some tracks new and old for fans just burning to see them again in a live setting.
For Jon, the emergence of the coronavirus caused him to do some deep soul searching and the result was a hopeful motto-turned-song that folks across the musical spectrum could stand behind.
“2020 is a year unlike any other that we’ve ever experienced,” says Jon. “In fact, if you really get down to the nitty-gritty it’s been a hundred years since there was something as strange as this pandemic. So, if you would have said to you or I, or our listeners today on New Year’s Day, ‘hey guess what? In three months, the world’s going to go upside down, and in six months from now we’re going to walk around with these crazy masks on… There’s no release of the album, there’s no tour. Bang!’ I would have either thought you were crazy or hired you to write a science fiction movie.”
“But this happened,” he continued. “And so, I watched the world adjust. My world and everyone’s world.”
In the midst of venue closures, restaurants laying off workers, and countless jobs lost, Jon, already a beacon of hope in the communities he serves with the JBJ Soul Foundation spoke those 11 simple words which hit home for many struggling to cope with all of the uncertainty.
“This is something that, unlike any other event whether happy or sad, is something that the planet experienced together. You know, 9/11 was something that affected the people that were in those cities. The rest of the folks, even in America, watched it on television and said, ‘oh I feel for those folks,’ but it wasn’t their hometown."
“You had situations that people could relate to, hurricanes and fires, but we watched them on television. This pandemic hit your home, and mine. It didn’t matter if you were from China or Australia, or Italy or New Jersey.”
With the world having the shared experience of working, teaching, and living their lives much closer to home base these days, Jon also sees the pause as an opportunity for positive change.
“We all had to sort of stop running on the treadmill,” he explains. “We all had to stop chasing things just for the sake of chasing them. I know at least I was guilty of work, work, work, work, run, run, run. ‘Where do I gotta go, what do I gotta do? How can I do it better?’ The pandemic forced us all to re-evaluate life and what that meant. So, there’s a new simplicity and complexity. For some it’s been a peaceful time, others that have lost their loved ones or lost a job there’s a lot of turmoil. In another way, it’s helped us to find that after we breathe in and breathe out, everything else – we’re just lucky to have it.”
For Jon, the pandemic is not an abstract threat. The virus hit very close to his life affecting his son as well as longtime keyboard player David Bryan and touring percussionist Everett Bradley, all of whom are currently doing “better.”
Jon says Bryan, “having lived through this, was very ill and could not have traveled to have done this. He has said to me repeatedly since he’s gotten better, had this affected me, it could have been devastating… He said he wanted to wrap me in bubble wrap because he realized the depth of his sickness.”
“At first he was one of the naysayers,” Jon explained. “He was one of those, ‘ah, it’s a flu, ah, I don’t need that’ – then he got hit. He called me up and said, ‘I’ve got it, and it’s bad.’ Then, Everett Bradley, our touring percussionist, same thing… affected him terribly. My son Jake had it, but a mild case, thank the Lord, an intestinal version of it that lasted three or four days. He’s young and strong and he got better. So, I’ve seen it around me; I’ve seen people who have passed away. You know the first layer of the onion, I’ve lost three people I know.”
Jon is a reluctant social media user, but while in the bubble with his family he has really begun to shine with his one minute reviews, fan updates, and even a TikTok dance that his kids forced upon him. Although he jokes he was secretly sending signals for help, he appreciates what has come from it. But he’s still not a social media fan.
Regardless, “no band has stirred more empathy, articulated the feelings of uncertainty, and comforted fans with reassurance than the Jersey rockers in the first weeks of the outbreak,” USA Today said of the band’s impact during the emergence of the pandemic.
The band brought in fans to help complete the story of “Do What You Can,” and since its release there have been plenty of live versions, charity events, and clips created to get the message out -- with the most recent version of the song seeing the addition of Country singer-songwriter Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland fame.
Including and connecting with the fans in the creation of the single, he says, was enjoyable “because it came so naturally. It wasn’t some genius plan that I had or the record company said you should do it… The record was finished. The record was turned in, it was mastered. Done. COVID hits, and if you’re going to write a record called ‘2020’ and it’s meant to be a topical record, how can you not address COVID?”
Jon explained how the idea for the new song came about while he was washing dishes at one of his JBJ Soul Kitchens supplying food to communities in need. It was a photo taken by his wife Dorothea posted with the powerful caption that was all it took to spark that creative fire.
“It was a lot of fun," Jon says of the entire process. “Now that the song is out and it’s doing so well, it just goes to show you when you have something like that and it touches that nerve with people about their lives, that’s when the magic happens.”
Jon also went into detail about the efforts his JBJ Soul Foundation, and the JBJ Soul Kitchen branches in New Jersey and now Long Island are doing for communities in need. To donate time or funds, please consider checking out the links above.
Following the interview, Bon Jovi gave an impeccable performance for fans dishing out two new singles from 2020, “Do What You Can,” and “Limitless” – as well as their fan favorites “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Check it all out above and stay tuned for more exclusives from your favorite artists at RADIO.COM/LIVE.