Guitarist Richie Sambora will always be known as the man who co-wrote some of rock’s biggest songs as a founding member of the multi-platinum band Bon Jovi. But last year, after 30 years, he quit the band to go solo. I caught up with the 54-year-old during his recent visit as a headliner of the Soundwave festival to chat about leaving Bon Jovi to spend more time with his daughter, Ava, how he loves his ex-wife Heather Locklear more now than when they were married, and the Bon Jovi songs he will never play again.
You’ve co-written some of rock’s greatest songs, including Livin’ on a Prayer. How do you feel when they’re played on radio?
It’s fantastic but it’s better when you see it live. Like when you’re playing in front of 70,000 people and they’re singing the words I literally write in my bathroom.
Do you have any songs you wrote that you are sick of hearing and don’t want to play any more?
Yes I do! There’s a couple. The early Bon Jovi stuff I can’t stand. I just think we didn’t have our stylistic voice. But some people love some of that stuff. Like people are going “[play] Run Away” and I’m going “I hate that song! I’ll never play it again!”
Are you enjoying being solo again?
I’d been a lead singer in every band I was in before joining [Bon Jovi]. And quite frankly I missed it badly … Now I just love being the lead singer again!
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
There’s a lot but I recently did a gig with Stevie Wonder, who is my singing idol. He is so good it’s frightening. And I don’t get nervous often but I’m pretty damn nervous when I was with him.
In what way?
It’s intimidating because he’s that good … We’re going to work together in the future. That’s the thing about not being in a band any more: all of a sudden the doors swung open to artistic freedom. [But] the real reason I stopped is because I was on the road for 30 years. I missed a lot of my daughter’s life. I missed her so severely and she missed me and we needed each other so badly.
You must be a very cool dad when you go to parent-teacher night!
I am a cool dad. But it’s interesting because when I’m around the house I get up early in the morning, I cook her breakfast, I pick up the dog shit and take the garbage out, I take her to school and later on in the day I could be getting on the G4 in Paris, so I’ve lived a strange dichotomy in that respect. But I’m a homebody, really, when it comes down to it.
When her boyfriends knock on your door, do you put them through the wringer?
No I’m not tough, I feel bad for them. Actually I sit down and say, “Hey, let’s talk, let’s watch some sports” … I want to see who she’s hanging around with. I actually take some of the kids on vacation with me sometimes also, so I can see the fabric of [who they are].
If you hadn’t have gone down the road of music, what road would you have taken?
I might have been a psychologist. It interests me. You know, like I’m one of those strange people that like therapy and I want to know how I can be better … Like when you get a divorce – I grew up in a religious Catholic background so automatically you think you’re a piece of crap. There’s all this grief and all the other stuff and you’ve got to address it; if you don’t address it, it just becomes bigger and you end up carrying it around the rest of your life. [When Heather and I got divorced] I was lucky enough actually to find a mediator that was a really good kind of psychotherapist [but he] was also very spiritual. And he really opened Heather and I up to a place where we’re now really close friends. We love each other more than we did when we were married.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has done?
Oh, people you know, they come with a pizza to your house. I’ve had [women] up on my roof, and I’ve had to go up there with a baseball bat because I didn’t know if it was a burglar or not.
Will you ever put down your guitar and retire?
Never. Not until I’m dead.
WE WENT TO The Executive Club, Sheraton on the Park, Sydney CBD.
WE ATE Fruit, sandwiches and cakes.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water and a Diet Coke.
RICHIE WORE Saint Laurent jacket and Nikki Rich shirt and pants.
For video footage see: smh.com.au