Public Media Arts Hub

Singer Michael Bublé on his musical choices, inspirations


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Lisa Desjardins: Time now for our weekend spotlight. Throughout his 20 year career, Michael Bublé, his name has been synonymous with universal standards, the kind of music that seems to transcend generations. Geoff Bennett spoke with him earlier this week to learn about the mind behind the voice.

Geoff Bennett: In a modern musical era where crooners are few and far between. Michael Bublé occupies a lane all his own, reinterpreting timeless jazz and big band classics alongside his own contemporary pop songs. Bublé is out with his 11th full length album titled Higher. It includes a duet with Willie Nelson and a recording with Sir Paul McCartney. Bublé is currently back on the road. His new concert tour just wrapped up in the UK and is now taking him across the U.S.. I spoke with Michael Bublé this past week ahead of his show in Washington, D.C.. I'm. For you? I don't know. What's it like when you stand on that stage and you're responsible for captivating an arena full of 20,000 people just by the sheer force of your personality and your performance? How do you do it?

Michael Bublé: Well, I think there's an alter ego thing. I really do. I think it's a way of having self-protection. But in another way, I think that's. There's this magic in becoming the superhero that you always wanted to be. There's this magic in the peace of knowing that you can seduce an audience that way or a relationship that way. I think there's there's a lot of joy in that. So it's the truth is it became in my early twenties, it was a lot scarier. And now, as I'm you know, I'm in my forties and I've been out here for 25 years. It's it's just joy. Often within the moment, I'm going, wow, I can't believe I'm this is my life. I get to do this. Well, because when.

Geoff Bennett: I guess you've always been really intentional about the songs that you choose to interpret. What informs that? What informs the choices you make about I want to sing this song and on that one, love.

Michael Bublé: Wow. I mean, listen, if I don't love, love, love it. If it is something that doesn't completely fill me up, I can't. There's no way I'll do it. And I know that I'm going to have to do this for the rest of my life. And if I'm lucky enough to do this till I'm an old man, if people don't, you know, kick me off the stage and say, blah, like, you're done, you shouldn't be out there, then I need to absolutely love and be in the moment of every song. And tonight it's weird, you know, my shows will be obviously there's a bunch. I'm really lucky I wrote a bunch of hit songs, so I got a bunch of originals that people know and I can. I'm blessed that I have new hits and I try not to be too self-indulgent about that, and I don't want to do all new stuff or on old stuff. I try to keep a really good balance. So I know people are getting basically it's the hits. It's like if you come, I want you to walk away and go, Oh man, he did everything we wanted to do. He didn't leave out feeling good. He's saying, haven't met you yet, you know, I mean, there's, there's like but every song has to be loved. And when I make a record and I go into the studio, it's weird. It's a it's a very weird thing. And intentional is a good word because I will. There's times where I come to a producer and I'll say, I have an idea. And they'll go, No, I'm like, You can't do that. Like, for instance, on this last record.

Geoff Bennett: People still tell you no.

Michael Bublé: We say no, but they go like they go, Barry White, my first, my last, my everything. They go.

Geoff Bennett: Okay, yeah.

Michael Bublé: Dude. No one no one does that. No one. But there was a point at which I felt I could breathe life into that song and that it would be and there would be genuine care and love, and that the song would be a celebration of joy, of the joy I have for the song, the joy I have when I look at my wife and I sing it to her in the kitchen, a joy I have for the the nostalgia of that sense of romance. And I'll go, No, you know what? I have a way I think I can do it that it deserves to be done. And I have a concept that I think is strong and thick and rich. And I think if I believe it, like any actor, if I believe in the script, if I believe in the words coming out of my mouth, I will give my audience no choice but to believe with me. Yeah, and that's a really it's a weird thing because it does happen sometimes when you do something or you cover a song and then you go out on stage and you don't buy it and you can feel that they feel it and it never gets back into a setlist again.

Geoff Bennett: Well, I will tell you the duet with Willie Nelson Crazy. I mean, that's just, you.

Michael Bublé: Know, crazy. Good, huh?

Geoff Bennett: Yeah.

Michael Bublé: Sorry. That was. He's my my hero, man. That's one of the live shows.

Geoff Bennett: There's so few of those guys left. There's so few musical heroes, unfortunately.

Michael Bublé: And it's weird. Or to that, people go, Oh, like a country guy, and I go get country guy. I know he's a country guy, but for me, one of the great records of my life was Stardust, where he was covering all of these incredible songs. And I think it's one of the greatest things in my life getting to work with him and meet not just him, but getting to know his wife, who is a an incredible, wonderful, kind, real funny, amazing woman like this. There was so much about this record that was a real massive joy for me. There was a lot of a lot of pinching myself, working with working with Sir Willie Nelson. Yeah. So Paul McCartney.

Geoff Bennett: And writing with your son, apparently, because as I understand it, he wrote the vocal melody for hire.

Michael Bublé: That's right. He wrote for part of the chorus.

Geoff Bennett: Yeah. Does he get a songwriting credit or. He does get an allowance.

Michael Bublé: He reminds me every few seconds that, that, that he sang that in the shower. Yeah. And that just came out as a single now and say it's becoming a hit and it's really weird to it's really weird to say that, you know, and it's funny because the other day he said, Poppy, how come you don't tell people on stage? And I said, No, I will. When it's a hit, I'll tell people. But for now, I don't want to give I don't want anybody to go. And it was written by an eight year old. You know, it was co-written by it or we won't we won't get. So he's got credit. He's and he deserves it. And I'm one of those guys who feels like if I'm in a room with you and you write, it doesn't matter what you write. If you're in the room with me and you're part of it, you, you know, you're sharing it.

Geoff Bennett: Listening to this latest album, I was paying close attention to your technique because the contemporary stuff. It sounds completely different than when you sing the old the classics. How do you do it? How do you place your voice? How do you what informs your approach?

Michael Bublé: I think my love of music and I think it's easy. It's easy to study something when you love it. I understand the logistics of singing that way and how how to sing differently when I sing. Stylistically, there's I mean, I could weirdly, I can walk you through. I think it's boring, but.

Geoff Bennett: I think it's fascinating.

Michael Bublé: You do? It's I oh, yeah. It's weird, like I and it's hard for me not to do without singing, but there's a way people sing today with runs and sort of the sound of a voice and then. And it's funny because I'll watch the guys on YouTube and they'll break it down on the go. You see, when he sings the the standards, he's he does these scoops and he'll it's like, no, that's that's not I mean, I can it's easier for me to tell you I've done this before, but to tell you. How differently my heroes sing. Mm hmm. I mean, Dean Martin would kind of, you know, get real low drop as everybody's very similar to Elvis Presley. And you have a fast vibrato. Mm hmm. And Elvis and Dean almost on the same. I mean, with Elvis, you have a why it is, men say. And he would do this quick vibrato, real low. And if Dean had done that, he would do this weird turn where he'd go or live who was rising. And it's it sounds kind of effortless. Sinatra sang on things. On the vowels. Yeah. Yeah. You know. Yeah. Where it's oohs and is. But I can tell. Falling in love with you does the weirdness alone. The soul music. All the people I love from Donny Hathaway to Sam Cooke had it's there's all of these little tiny little changes that they.

Geoff Bennett: All the nuances.

Michael Bublé: The nuances. Yeah. And I mean, I basically have stolen as much as I possibly could from my heroes as much as I could. And years ago, I was I had met Tony Bennett. We were we were doing a a record for the first time together. And I said, Well, Mr. Bennett, you know, I said, I have I've just stolen so much from you and Frank and Dean and Bobby and Ella and Louis and and Prima and all these people. And he smiled at me and he said, Wow. He said, he said, Kid. He said, You steal from one. He said, You're just a thief. But when you steal from everyone, you can call it research. I thought that was great because we all do it. Yes. Everyone is paying tribute to someone else. I don't care if it's Zeppelin or the Beatles or Elvis Presley or the Mills Brothers. Dean Martin, you can sort of almost trace the steps back to who has turned on who and how they have paid tribute by by taking certain things and making theirs.

Geoff Bennett: Yeah. Yeah. And then separate from the singing, you also have the reinterpreting and arranging songs, which is also a gift.

Michael Bublé: And that's I think that's my favorite thing about all of it. And I think it's I have a very cinematic way of looking at music, at songs that I think are very visual. I think it's one of my favorite things about music is, is what I love about cinema. It's it's the one place where all of us, cynical people, especially if we go to a movie theater, it's that one place where we drop that sense of cynicism and we allow ourselves that childlike wonderment that we see in our kids, you know? Yeah. And and for a little bit, we, we drop the facade and we allow ourselves to believe that the good guy wins and that, you know, Superman can fly and that and that that romance can happen for all of us. And I, I love that part of cinema, and it's what I love about music. It's why I hear a song like Cry Me A River, and I come up with that, you know, that arrangement because I hear this very cinematic, dark, yet beautiful, almost revenge song. Very bond to ask. Yeah. Or I sing something like on the last record I think I did La Vie En Rose and I right away I was like, okay, I see this. It's me. And I think this is a partner of mine. We're walking through the streets of Paris. I'm an American in Paris singing my heart language. I meet her, I fall in love. And as you hear the song, as I explain it, you can sort of see visually how that starts to inform the arrangement, how it how it changes. And for me, it's cool for me to do interviews because I love talking about, you know, you know, especially when I have a new record come out and I go, Oh, and then this song, that's what this song is about. So this is the cinematic moment even like this show is very cinematic. I mean, the opening of this show, my musical director and I, Nicolas wrote this massive big starting I don't know what you call it, this crazy theme that in a way I think just builds so much anticipation that I sort of lay a foundation of what you should expect in the arena. You know, it gets really it's very dramatic. And, yes, I just I guess I'm a dramatic dude in that way. Yet in the rest of my life, I'm easygoing, but in that artistic life, I am. Yeah, I'm really, really dramatic.

Geoff Bennett: It feels like you're in a great space right now.

Michael Bublé: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Life is good. I mean, listen, I'm. I've come through a lot. You know, we went through a big family thing with my son and his illness, and I just I think I have a great sense of perspective. I think I'm in a really good creative place now. And I think more than anything, it makes me really grateful. And I think it's important to stay grateful and it's important to stay hungry. And I see so many artists that I love and admire, and they get to a point in their career where they just start. Getting comfortable and they start kind of doing the same thing they did 30 years ago and they just sort of get in the pattern. And because it's scary, it's scary to move out of your comfort zone. It's scary to do new things. It's scary to call Sir Paul McCartney and Willie Nelson. It's scary to work with new writers and producers. It's scary, too, to build an ambitious show like this. But it's also, I think, what keeps you relevant and what keeps you motivated and hopefully keeps an audience motivated to come and see you. We're living in a time that is super difficult. I mean, people are hurting. The economy is not great. And if you want people to come and spend their hard earned money on a ticket, then you better damn well put on an experience that they feel is great value for their dollar.

Geoff Bennett: So yeah, stay hungry and be grateful. That's good advice.

Michael Bublé: Those are the things. You're right.

Geoff Bennett: Michael.

Michael Bublé: Public pleasure. Appreciate it. Thank you so much. I had a great time with you. Yeah, thank you.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.