The Writer’s Block: Jon Bon Jovi Calls Songwriting “Emotional Overload” and Sleeps With a Notebook Beside His Bed

Along with writing the majority of the Bon Jovi catalog— including hits with Richie Sambora, ”I’ll Be There for You,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”—from the ’80s through the present on the band’s 16th album Forever, and solo albums Blaze of Glory in 1990 and Destination Anywhere from 1997, Jon Bon Jovi has also co-written songs for Stevie Nicks, Cher, Alice Cooper, Paul Young, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Meat Loaf, and Ted Nugent, among other artists.

After the release of the band’s 15th album, 2020, released in that year, Bon Jovi underwent reconstructive surgery to repair his vocal cords, which was documented in the 2024 Hulu documentary Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, and says he hopes to tour with the band again.

“You want to continue to make quality work, and if there’s anything I could ever ask for it would be to be able to do it [tour] again,” Bon Jovi recently told American Songwriter. “But I will always be able to write a song.” He added, “The only thing I can hope for is that the songs will live in the hearts of the listener and give them the same joy that they’ve given us.”

Bon Jovi spoke to American Songwriter about his “process” of writing, what he thinks of the band’s earlier albums and collaborators, and when—and where—the notebook comes in.

Videos by American Songwriter

[RELATED: 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Jon Bon Jovi Wrote for Other Artists]

AS: Throughout the documentary, you talk about songwriting and say “Writing a song is the heart and soul of what I do … If you write a song that’s the closest you’ll get to immortality.” Thinking back to ’83-’85, how has songwriting shifted for you? Was there a turning point when you noticed your songwriting improving, whether through collaborators like Desmond Child or continuing with Richie Sambora, and others?

Jon Bon Jovi: Everyone along the way was a part of the lesson. And everyone’s contributions along the way made for us to have this conversation today. But there’s certainly a hell of a lot more to write about in this place in my life than I had on the first album in 1983 [Bon Jovi] when we recorded it. And with life comes opportunities to write about.

Case in point: “I Got the Girl” [from Crush, 2000] turns into “Kiss the Bride” [Forever] 25 years later. The ability to write about your own life comes into focus with experience.

AS: Each album almost plays like a different chapter in your life. With the first album (Bon Jovi, 1984) and everything that followed, how do these songs resonate with you now?

JBJ: I look back fondly on the first record as you would your baby pictures. I knew very little about the endeavor that I was embarking on. I was 21 years old. I had only been writing songs for a couple of years at that point, yet, it seemed like you had your whole life to write the first one. The second one [7800° Fahrenheit, 1985]—you had three months. You were rushed into by yourself, mind you, not by anyone else. But you were rushed into the second one, and that was a very naive time as well. With the third one [Slippery When Wet, 1986], now we started to realize what would what the process could be, how it could be better, and how things work in a bigger live setting, with a diverse audience, and not just a bar somewhere. So that helps the process.

And as I said, some collaborators along the way, help teach you tricks, if you will, of the trade. And then you evolve and you start developing your own personal voice because there’s other things to say when you get married, when you have kids. You have things to say when you have a loss in your life. And given the opportunity, you could put them into writing, and tell your story.

Jon Bon Jovi (Photo: Emily Shur)

AS: Are you always writing?

Jon Bon Jovi: No, I find it to be emotional overload. And, for me, this is sort of the process: When I’m in the mode, writing things like “I Wrote You a Song,” there’s a notebook next to my bed. I’m dead asleep. I will wake up in my sleep, and write things down, and it’s all-encompassing. The entire day revolves around it. And when I’m done with the mixes and the mastering, you can set your mind off, because up until the mix, you’re still tweaking—”Oh, I think I should change this word. I could sing that line better.” And then I shut it off. And then my mind goes to promotion and tour. And then when it’s time again, I know it.

You know, coming up with a line or two in my sleep, or during the course of the day. I just know that it’s coming again. But I’ve been confident enough over the years to know when I can turn it on or off.

Read our cover story with Jon Bon Jovi in the July/August 2024 issue of American Songwriter.

Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust

5 Amazing Albums Released 45 Years Ago This Month

Katy Perry

‘American Idol’ Finalist Knows Who Should Replace Katy Perry