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“If Slash jumps up and he’s got to play a clean intro to Rude Boy, it ain’t happening.” Nuno Bettencourt explains why playing guitar for Rihanna is way harder than you might imagine

Extreme guitar hero Nuno Bettencourt points out why people who think playing guitar for pop stars is an easy gig have it way wrong



While many know him as the axe-slinging lead guitarist in Boston rock veterans Extreme, plenty of other fans know Nuno Bettencourt from a totally different role – playing guitar for pop icon Rihanna. The Portuguese virtuoso joined RiRi’s live band in 2009 and has performed with her on every world tour since, but if you think it makes for an easier way to make a living than his ‘day job’, think again. As it happens, the man himself is happy to confirm that playing guitar as part of a major pop show has plenty of challenges.

“When somebody like Rihanna reaches out to you to perform everybody thinks ‘oh, that’s cute. It’s a pop artist, whatever,’” Bettencourt tells Planet Rock

“Let me tell you something,” he adds. “What I had to do night after night… put on a reggae hat [for one song] with a reggae feel, and go into R&B, then go into some punk rock and pop rock that she did, and then club tracks. All sorts, all those different feels.

“I’m sorry, most of the guitar players who I admire could not in their lifetime play that gig,” he claims. “I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Slash is one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time but I guarantee – and he’d be the first to tell you – that if he jumps up and he’s got play a clean intro to Rude Boy from Rihanna, it ain’t happening.”

Back in 2016, Bettencourt explained to Classic Rock that having confidence in yourself was vital to making it in the music industry as a guitar player.

“I don’t give a fuck how good a guitar player of songwriter you are, if you don’t believe that you’re going to take down even your idols one day then you’re not delusional enough to do shit in this business,” he explained. “It’s not an asshole ego thing, you just need to have self belief that what you’re doing is special. If you don’t think it’s special, don’t do it. There’s all these guys out there now online that will play rings around me, but it’s not about that, this is not the guitar Olympics. It’s all about passion and wanting it so bad.”