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This holiday season, Jon Bon Jovi has a lot to be thankful for. The singer, 47, hit the No. 1 spot on the charts last month with the release of The Circle, his eleventh studio album with Bon Jovi. But he’s also busy trying to change other people’s lives with his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which helps find housing for low-income and special needs families in Philadelphia and his native New Jersey (where he recently cut the ribbon on a 50-unit permanent rental facility in Newark, N.J., catering to HIV/AIDS patients).
Bon Jovi – who’s also NBC’s first “artist in residence” – will spend Christmas with his family (Dorothea, his wife of 20 years, and his four kids ranging in age from 5 to 16). But before his much-needed break, the rocker paused for this exclusive iVillage interview to answer questions from fans around the world (Nigeria to Greece!) about being a dad, the jewelry he was “too cheap” to buy himself and why he’s like a traveling salesman.
I absolutely love your new album. Personally, “Superman Tonight” has touched my heart, almost like you could see my soul. What was your motivation?
The beauty of songwriting is that the story is not mine or [guitarist/co-writer] Richie [Sambora’s] -- it becomes our story. Therefore it becomes everyone’s story and anyone’s story. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Germany or Jersey: People relate to the lyric and make it their own. It’s great that we’re able to touch on such honest emotions that people relate to.
My best friend/ex-boyfriend is an aspiring rock star, and I was wondering if you might have some advice for him? Thanks, Laney.
Quit -- because that means there’s more room for me and I prefer that there not be any more kids out there trying to challenge to me!
Were you born with your talented singing voice or did you receive voice lessons?
In high school I dabbled in it and then when I got out of high school I went to somebody for a little while. And then after I made three albums, I went and then really got into it. It never stops until you learn to do it properly and hopefully well. Don’t take singing as something that comes naturally -- all the best work hard at it. I don’t care if you’re Bono or Steven Tyler or Mariah Carey, they all study.
With your older children now in their mid-teens, do you foresee them following in your footsteps?
I’m not pushing them in that direction but should they ever choose it, it’s a great friend. You don’t have to become a rock singer in a famous band. Learning how to play an instrument, it’ll never let you down.
How do you manage your family life and your career?
It’s not easy. It’s difficult. Everybody was there either from the time they were born or my wife before it happened. So nobody jumped onto this train halfway through the ride. They all grew or grew up with it. There’s a year at a time when I’m gone and a year at a time that I’m home. It’s no different from being a traveling salesman -- or in the circus.
What do you find most fullfilling and most challenging about being a father and husband?
You don’t get a manual with a kid. You get home and you go, “Now what?” It’s up to each individual to do the best they can to raise the kid and be a positive role model and influence.
What's the secret to the success of your marriage?
Probably my going away for a year at a time. I think it’s independence and a common bond that strengthens.
Are you as stressed and intense as the documentary When We Were Beautiful makes you appear?
Yes, I am that stressed and miserable, full-time -- ask my group (laughs). I didn’t like seeing that on the screen but that is what it is. That was a realization to me. I didn’t realize I was that intense. I’m more aware of it now.
What makes you smile?
The kids -- their laughter.
What is the significance of the skull necklace you wear so often, and the silver charms added to it recently?
Two different things, actually. The little charms are little hearts with my kids’ names on it. The other thing was a gift. I wouldn’t buy it myself, I was too cheap to buy it myself so my wife bought it for me.
Over the past 20 years you have graced us with your music. Do you think you have another 20 ahead of you?
Do it until you aren’t relevant and forward-thinking. If I was here on some nostalgia tour, I’m out before then.
You’ve become very politically active. Did you ever think you’d be moving mountains in this way?
In your 20's and your 30's you’re looking to build a legacy, and in your latter 40's, you’re looking to leave one. There’s more than just singing a song and doing a talk show.
Plus: Jon Bon Jovi is named NBC’s first “artist in residence”
Chime in: What’s your favorite Bon Jovi song?