After interviewing Michael Bolton, I’ve gained more respect for him not only as a singer or a performer but as a person. For a man who has sold over 53 million albums and won numerous awards, I did not expect for him to be as humble and sincere about life as he is. It’s hard to condense our forty minute conversation into a page, so I will try to give you the essence of the man.
Shelia Goss: Is it true that you actually started off in a Rock band (Blackjack)?
Michael Bolton: My earlier music was more kind of bluesy. My first records were more R & B than Rock n Roll. Then at some point, I had a group called Black Jack. We put out a couple of records in the late 70s that were Rock n Roll. I say that went on for about six or seven years before coming back to the kind of music I was writing for other artists. It was about ’81 or ’82 when I started writing for other artists (Pointer Sisters, Barbara Streisand, etc.). People began knowing me as a songwriter and the Rock n Roll days just disappeared.
Shelia: I read your bio and I wasn’t aware that you had written for all those people.
Michael: There was a time that no one knew me as an artist. They just knew me as a songwriter. Now, I guess I’m doing my interviews and people are surprised about that. That’s how I paid my rent and took care of my family. Someone told me that there was a publisher that could find a good home for my songs, but I didn’t want to give up my pursuit of a career in the business as an artist. It turned out to be a great career on the side. It also taught me that the whole industry evolves around a great song. There are a lot of great singers and artists out there, but the one thing that’s missing from their career and lives is a great song. A great song is the vehicle that gets you out there.
Shelia: I agree. The right song will put an artist on the map.
Michael: One song will launch you, but then you learn that you don’t want to be a one song artist. You have to understand it’s that music or material that got you on the map. Then you have to find the right material to keep you there.
With the internet, things are so much immediate. People are able to taste test things to see if they want to buy the CD. Things have changed so much, but it’s still about that one song that rises above.
Shelia: Looks like you’ve been able to do it time after time. You’ve definitely been blessed with that gift. Not too many people have been able to do it.
Michael: That’s how I perceive it, that it is a gift. It’s a blessing and I’m grateful. At the same time, I don’t feel like you’re permitted to cruise and just say okay I’ll just do whatever I want and put aside the awareness of all the people who want to know what you’re going to do next.
Shelia: Your music seems to cross generations.
Michael: I’m very happy that it speaks to various ages and very grateful I never thought it would be the soundtrack or backdrop of people’s lives that were headed toward their teens or twenties. It’s great seeing such a wide demographics for an audience. It makes the show a whole lot of fun.
Shelia: Is that why you decided to revive Sinatra songs; to give the new generation a taste of the past?
Michael: I didn’t mean to do it; that was not my intention. That would be a more generous take on it. The reason for me is that I felt like a big band swing record would be fun. I felt that the material was timeless. There was so much. I found a lot of the greatest compositions were made famous by Sinatra…I kept looking to do songs that were written years ago and would live or outlive all of us…and I realize one thing they had in common…Sinatra kept coming up as the person that had actually left the biggest stamp… the obvious common theme was a lot of the songs Sinatra made famous…thus the “Bolton swings Sinatra” theme was born.
Got to tip my hat to Sinatra…it was so much material with the songs… he delivered them with a certain type of power and authority. He was he guy with a lot of conviction and attitude with his voice…he was extremely tender with his voice like with My Funny Valentine…it’s another one of those songs when whatever form anyone decides to release it in … there’s something that gets under your skin …the melody and lyrics are beautiful…proof again on how important material is.
Here’s a guy who plays a tough guy in all his movies, but was allowed to be most vulnerable when he stepped to the microphone…He made himself accessible and vulnerable to deliver these monster ballads. “The Second Time Around” is a duet on the CD with Nicollette. It just so happens to speak to a lot of people, because there are a lot of people who have been married more than once and who have found love more than once. It speaks about being a little wiser down the road…and being able to come back to something powerful and promising. It’s a Sammy Cahn song.
Shelia: How did you convince Nicollette Sheridan to sing along with you on the album?
Michael: Well it wasn’t easy…I played her the song when we were on vacation…and we both smiled about it…Sammy Cahn loved and adored Nicollette. He’s passed away. She loved this version of the song. Sammy was a real lyricist…a good storyteller. Nicollette was already moved by the song and understand how applicable it was to us. She has always been terrified to sing in public…I heard her sing 14 years ago...whenever she knew I was listening, she was very self conscious…I don’t know why…she has a beautiful voice.
Shelia: “The Second Time Around” is a beautiful song. It kind of gives me hope.
Michael: People are relating to it…it’s an example of what can happen…being hopeful because literally that’s what the lyrics are…looking back over time…seeing where you are now…it relates to people who think they won’t fall in love again and that are ready for love this time.
Shelia: Will you be going on tour soon and if so will you be coming to Dallas?
Michael: Yes. Dallas is one of my biggest markets. I happen to love coming to Dallas…I’m sure I’m going to do something there. The show runs from R & B…Pop…Classical...Swing…to Rock n Roll…all the way through. We have an extensive tour planned for at least 5 or 6 months. We’re planning to play the entire country. We’ll get to the rest of the world as well, but will do the US extensively. From September on, we’ll be real busy.
In the meantime I’m going to have a lot of fun…with the big band…high energy…storytelling…a whole lot of fun.
More from Michael Bolton: I love songwriting. It’s second to my love for singing in how I express myself. When I hear a great song, I don’t need to have a pat on the back as the songwriter. I would rather sing it first. I’m all for that…with this swing record, I got to handpick crown jewels. I hope as a singer and interpreter of music that they are songs that people will relate to as well.
About Bolton Swings Sinatra: Michael Bolton’s latest release is “Bolton Swings Sinatra” and he can add this as another hit album under his belt. He takes classic Frank Sinatra songs and sings them with a flair that only Bolton can. With classics like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Funny Valentine,” “New York, New York,” among others, this is a CD that both Bolton and Sinatra fans alike will enjoy.
Interview by entertainment writer Shelia M. Goss. She's also the national bestselling author of My Invisible Husband and Roses are thorns, Violets are true. Her website is www.sheliagoss.com. For more entertainment news, go to www.e-spire.blogspot.com.