September 15, 2005

Bon Jovi rocks with country TV

A decade or so ago, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora said it would have been unlikely to see the Jersey-bred rock band performing on the same stage with a country group.
Bon Jovi rocks with country TV


A decade or so ago, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora said it would have been unlikely to see the Jersey-bred rock band performing on the same stage with a country group.
"I don't know if it would have been acceptable," he said. "Now you can put your music on commercials. Led Zeppelin sells Cadillacs. The world is changing. Before it wasn't cool. Now it is."

So cool, in fact, Friday night at 10:30, Bon Jovi appears on Country Music Television's "Crossroads" series sharing the stage with relative newcomers Sugarland.

The performance was taped last month at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

On the outside, pairing anthem rockers Bon Jovi with the country songs of Sugarland might seem like a stretch, but according to Sambora, it's not all that odd.

"I think what it all comes down to, first and foremost, is songwriting," said Sambora. "Nashville has been famous for writing great songs."

And, pairing disparate acts like Bon Jovi and Sugarland on a TV show has been a hallmark of "Crossroads."

In the past, producers have teamed Heart with Wynonna, Elton John with Ryan Adams, John Mayer with Brad Paisley, and the Dixie Chicks with James Taylor. The show usually takes about two days to record. The first part is the meeting of the artists, who then get together to rehearse each other's songs. Clips of those meetings are melded with the performances for the series.

"'Crossroads' is about bringing together artists for a love of music," said Chris Parr, CMT vice president of music and talent. "I've always thought Bon Jovi would absolutely connect with the country music audience. Demographically, our fans, plenty of them, are in their 30s and grew up listening to Bon Jovi songs."

Count Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles among them.

"Their music, without a doubt, is part of the soundtrack of my youth," said Nettles, 30. "It's all about music that you remember. That was exciting."

Nettles said the lines between the two genres are so blurred these days that the pairing is not unusual.

Indeed, it's not unusual for acts like Keith Urban, Shania Twain and Faith Hill to cross over into pop genres and be played on top-40 radio stations.

Nettles should know. When the members of Bon Jovi were working on their latest CD - "Have a Nice Day" - singer Jon Bon Jovi initially recorded a duet with Urban. Eventually, though, all involved agreed the song worked better with a female voice. Nettles was called.

"It was thrilling in a giggly way," Nettles said of the "Crossroads" experience. "Suddenly you're transported to 15 years old, and oh my god, you're thinking don't act stupid. Honestly, you want to act as professionals. At the same time, there is reverence and awe, and excitement, about meeting someone who is that legendary."

It also helps that by appearing on the show, each artist's music is exposed to new audiences, and perhaps helps them sell more CDs.

"I remember during the show, there were some guys in the front row," Nettles said. "And we're close enough to hear each other. One said, 'I'm so going to buy your record now.' And I thought, 'I'm so glad we did this.'"

Sugarland is the newest act to appear on "Crossroads," said Parr. Usually, all involved are more established.

Yet, because Nettles sings with Bon Jovi, combined with Sugarland's rising prominence, it made sense.

"It's just about great music," Parr said. "The music is a universal idea. ... The ultimate thing is that it is entertaining and that [viewers] see the common ground."

Posted by riesambo at September 15, 2005 12:28 PM