After 24 years as a band, the guys in Bon Jovi have “been through everything together,” says singer Jon Bon Jovi—not only the adrenaline rush of performing before a stadium full of fans, but also personal highs and lows. In just the past 12 months, he says, “both Richie [Sambora] and Dave [Bryan] went through divorces and the losses of their dads, serious life upheavals.” (Sambora spent time in a treatment center to detox in June.) With such songs as “Whole Lot of Leavin'” and the single “(You Want To) Make a Memory,” the band’s new, Nashville-influenced album Lost Highway reflects much of that turmoil. “It was therapeutic that we were able to make those songs,” says Bon Jovi, 45. He and his bandmates—Sambora, 47, Bryan, 45, and Tico Torres, 53—plan to hit the road for an eight-month world tour next year, but not before performing a 10-night stint in their native New Jersey beginning in October. “For the first time ever, I get to sleep in my own bed,” Bon Jovi says with a laugh. “We’re like Goldilocks and the three bears, man.” The singer chatted with PEOPLE’s Tiffany McGee to answer your questions.
What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?
—Rika Kaneko-Goldsworthy, San Jose
I don’t know that there is a secret. It’s hard work and determination. [My wife of 18 years, Dorothea, 44] is really my best friend, and I wouldn’t want to be with anybody else in the world. And I don’t even wanna hang around anybody else. It’s that simple. I got it right the first time.
What is the one item you cannot throw out, even though your wife is begging you to get rid of it?
—Elizabeth Nevone, Shoreham, N.Y.
I can be a bit of a packrat when it comes to those old ratty T-shirts and shorts. I have shorts that could walk home from the beach! I have a T-shirt that I stole off a girl’s body at a political rally at a college I was at in New England, because the T-shirt said, “Tell your mom I said hi.” She gave it to me right off her back. Thank God she had a shirt on underneath it! That’s probably my favorite shirt.
Do any of your children seem to be musical?
—Judy Lawler, Pollock Pines, Calif.
Jesse, my 12-year-old, is playing a little bit of guitar, finally. And Stephanie [who’s 14] has aspirations, I think, to sing a little bit. [He and Dorothea are also the parents of Jacob, 5, and Romeo, 3.] Should they find it in their own time, I’ll encourage it, but I have never pushed them. It could be something great if they chose to do it, because it’s given me a lot of great memories.
How do you stay so hot?
—Leighellen Conley, Duluth, Minn.
I don’t know if I’m hot. Thank you to her. I can’t really answer that one without just wanting to throw up. So I can’t comment on that one!
Do you ever think of running for any political position in our state? What do you say? Governor Bon Jovi?
—Irene Kirwan, Haledon, N.J.
I don’t envision a life in politics in the near future. The job doesn’t pay well enough! When once asked in the company of [former] President Clinton whose job was better, mine or his, I authoritatively and without any reservation said mine, because I get to keep the house and the airplane.