A few weeks ago Jon Bon Jovi was picking grapes on the French Riviera. Today he's in a Manhattan hotel room pondering success and sacrifice. We got here by way of Mark Wahlberg and the gruelling daily schedule - involving 2.30am starts and double-workout sessions - the Hollywood actor recently posted on Twitter.

"And really you've got to ask yourself this," says the 56-year-old rock star, enunciating each word carefully. "Who is living the better life? Mark or the guy I was just sipping wine with in a little village outside of Narbonne?"

Well, surely it's the wine guy, I start, realising too late it's a rhetorical question.

"Because I think hard about that guy as an example of who is living this short period of time on earth best."


To the wine guy, a man who's sold over 130 million albums and played 2800 concerts for 35 million-plus fans probably looks like he's living a full life. And if Bon Jovi wanted, he could swap places with him tomorrow.

"Sure. And listen, being career-driven is great. I'm certainly living life fully."

I last met Bon Jovi seven years ago. He was a dark blond, but since then has gone grey. "Yup, I'm the guy who embraced going grey!"

He breaks out into the wide, white smile that still makes women's abdomens contract 30 years on.

"There are a lot of gentlemen out there whose names I won't mention - and none of them have embraced the real them, have they?"

He mentions a vow he made in 1986.

"I remember saying: 'The day I turn 50 and I'm still writing bitch on my belly and painting my fingernails black, I'm quitting.' Equally, the day I'm not doing this in the style to which I'm accustomed, I'm quitting. So, yes, I'll embrace the grey hair - but I won't become fat Elvis."

We expect rock stars to be wild, impulsive, out of control, but you don't endure like Bon Jovi without discipline. And perhaps the New Jersey-born son of two Catholic ex-Marines inherited that from his parents. Perhaps becoming a musician was his one wild act.

Because unlike the band's former guitarist, Richie Sambora - whose substance abuse issues are well known - he never got into drugs or alcohol and remains married to the mother of his four children, Dorothea.

"We got together in high school so she's seen every iteration, every page in the book since the beginning," he shrugs.

When Bon Jovi and his wife first set up their own charity, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation - which has been providing food and shelter for low-income families for 15 years - there was speculation that the musician's social conscience might take him into politics.

"But to be honest, I don't have either the education or the background to do that."

The album he's touring with, This House Is Not for Sale, released after a three-year hiatus, was "a reflection of the turmoil I went through" after Sambora quit and he parted ways with his record company after a spat (they've since patched things up). Bon Jovi has described that time as "a living hell" but he rejects any notion of a "mid-life" crisis. "No, I just had to deal with a lot. But I got through it."

And came out the other side, it seems, with renewed vigour.

Bon Jovi has to get back to a gruelling schedule we're never going to read about on Twitter. With his creative block behind him, he's in a fertile place, writing four or five songs a month.

"Which is wonderful. Because when it starts to come, when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're laying on the floor with a notebook, that's magic. That's joy. That's living life to the full."