Rob Shanahan
Joe Bonamassa got his first guitar when he was 4.

Award-winning blues/rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa said he is looking forward to playing in Salt Lake City.

"We have never headlined a show there," he said during a phone call from Fort Wayne, Ind. "I heard the ticket sales are going well, and that's always a good sign."

When he was young, Bonamassa saw his dad playing guitar and decided that's what he wanted to do.

"I got my first guitar when I was 4 and started to play," said Bonamassa. "That's pretty much all I did growing up. My dad played and I thought to myself, 'That looks good to me.' "

"I've never had a 'Plan B,' " he said. "I've never had a real job, either. I just wanted to play guitar."

In turn, the love for the guitar has been very good for Bonamassa.

He's gained the respect of everyone from B.B. King to Ted Nugent. But when asked about the accolades, Bonamassa plays them down.

"It's funny because guitarists really don't know the impact of their playing until they are dead and gone," he said with a laugh. "So I don't try to think too much about that. I want to be here for a long time."

Bonamassa also knows that in order for him to last, even though he's been playing music and releasing albums for a good part of 13 years, he has to continue to progress as a musician.

"I'm always trying to make sure that I play the best I can and make the best recordings I can," he said.

"Some days it's frustrating. Some days it wonderful. Some days are better than others. But I don't like giving up. This is the lifestyle I've chosen, and there's no going back. I wouldn't know how. So I have no choice but to try to give everything I do 100 percent."

Bonamassa's new CD, "The Ballad of John Henry," his seventh studio album, was written during and after a relationship.

"The songs were written when I was in love with this girl and there are songs that were written when my heart was broken by this girl," he said. "And my producer (Kevin Shirley) brought up some songs that he felt would be great for me to cover."

Shirley, who has worked with Journey and Silverchair — among others, has worked with Bonamassa before and felt the cover songs would be a good addition and challenge for the guitarist.

Some of the covers include "Funkier the Mosquito Tweeter," "Feelin' Good," "Stop," "As the Crow Flies" and "The Great Flood," which have been covered by a number of other artists, and Tom Waits' "Jockey Full of Bourbon,"

"You always listen to the originals and then listen to other people's versions and try to add your own touches," said Bonamassa.

If you go …

What: Joe Bonamassa

Where: The Depot, 400 W. South Temple

When: March 14, 8 p.m.

How much: $29-$40

Phone: 801-467-8499, 800-888-8499

Web: www.smithstix.com

E-mail: scott@desnews.com