If Bonnie Raitt has her way, this summer’s BonTaj Roulet tour with Taj Mahal will be the first of many such outings.
“I trademarked BonTaj Roulet,” Raitt tells Billboard.com. “I had the idea for this back when I did Lilith Fair, the whole idea of a touring mini-festival and ticket prices going to social causes. It’s not only the beginning of what I hope will be many years of BonTaj, but a franchise I’d like to see grow to where we can take it to Europe and get a combination of special guests and showcase new bands. That’s my dream — a rotating music festival where we’re basically a kind of brand name and can do a lot of different things under that.”
Mahal, meanwhile, says he’s all for it. “As musicians, there’s things you want to go out and do, different projects,” he explains. “Both of us have a broad overall viewpoint of the music that’s out there and musicians and culture and whatnot. There’s a lot of stuff you can find your way to through the music, so this could be a really great thing. And I know we’ll have a lot of fun.”
The 30-date tour, which kicks off Aug. 6 in Williamsport, Pa., will donate $1 per ticket sold to the BonTaj Collective Action Fund, which will allow fans to vote on organizations and causes that should receive the money via the www.bontaj.com web site. Special Action Fund VIP Packages, which include premium seats and meet-and-greet opportunities, will raise additional funds.
Raitt and Mahal, who met around 1970 and worked together on Raitt’s 1973 album, “Takin’ My Time,” are also stoked about the musical end of the tour, of course. Both will perform with their own bands, then come together for a collaborative set at the end of the night that Raitt says they’ll begin preparing for after she comes off the road from her current U.S. tour later this month.
“We have to plan ahead,” she explains. “Both bands are going to want to back us up on ever song and we could just make a big noise if we’re not careful. There’s a bunch of stuff we should be able to look in our toy chest and be able to pull out on a given night — back-porch country duets on guitar, stuff with just a small cut-down band, at least four or five killer R&B blowouts…I’m hoping we’ll get a dozen songs we really love and then pick and choose each night depending on how we feel.”
Raitt says there are no firm plans yet to document this tour. “I don’t want to be tied down for this tour,” she says. “I want to test the waters and have a blast with it and let it unfold. Down the line we’ll probably make a DVD of it, but I don’t know if that’ll be this year.”
Raitt is similarly circumspect about plans for her next album, the follow-up to 2005’s “Souls Alike.” She says that she has “a bunch of songs I really like” but says she really hasn’t focused on a full-length project yet. “That’s really down the line,” Raitt says.
“I’m happy to be independent and considering my options. There’s a lot of shifting going on in the music business, so I want to see what happens. The music part of it is no problem; you’ve just got to be really ready to do the promotion part, so I want to be energized to do that and do it right,” she said.