No one knows more about soulful love songs than Michael Bolton. The charming crooner is responsible for hit power ballads such as “When A Man Loves A Woman” and “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,” not to mention his more recent contribution in the 2011 viral YouTube parody “Jack Sparrow” with The Lonely Island.
The singer/songwriter will perform at the Sunrise Theatre for the Performing Arts in Fort Pierce on January 25; tickets cost $65-$75. Before his performance, Bolton talked with PBI about his evolving career and personal passions.
Tell us about your songwriting process: What inspires you, and how do you start composing?
The process always varies depending on what I’m writing for and who I’m writing with. Recently, I’ve been working on a song specifically for a film, and the inspiration came from the film itself, which has a very powerful father-daughter relationship that really resonates with me since I have three daughters. So I’m writing from a very personal place and pouring my heart into it. I also have been writing with young collaborators for contemporary artists, so that approach is very different.
What artist or band would you want to collaborate with and why?
I have a list, but I really appreciate the soulful, vocal power of artists like Sam Smith, Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna. There are many different genres of music that I love performing, so in the more classical world I’d like to sing with Renee Fleming. I’d also love to perform some soulful blues with Bonnie Raitt.
What’s the last song that played in your iPod?
“Stay with Me” by Sam Smith.
You’re known for your love power ballads with soulful lyrics. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love?
I would have to write a book to answer this one.
Not many people think of you as a heavy-metal or hard-rock singer, although your music career started in those genres. Why did you transition? And is there still an inner Ozzy Osbourne part of you?
I actually started more R&B, soulful. I transitioned into the hard rock genre when my management at the time decided I should try fronting a band, which was Blackjack. We did two albums, which didn’t really succeed. Meanwhile, I had started seeing some success as a songwriter, and my songs were being recorded and released by artists like Patti LaBelle, Joe Cocker, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers and eventually Cher, KISS and Barbra Streisand.
The game changer in my career as an artist came when Al Teller (the then-president of Columbia Records) told me to stop giving all my songs away to other artists and to keep them for myself. That’s when my artist career took off. But if you really look at the repertoire of music that I’ve written and recorded, it’s very diverse. It’s not all ballads; there’s standards, rock, blues, R&B, classical cross-over, pop. What’s most rewarding to me is delivering a great song.
“Jack Sparrow” was a hit, garnering 128 million views on YouTube—and showed your playful, goofier side. What ultimately made you decide to participate in the parody and give fans something unexpected?
It was strange to me that the general public didn’t know my more playful side, because I’ve always been the prankster, the class clown, even as a kid (not that I’ve grown up). So doing something funny that would be shared on such a massive scale was very attractive and natural for me. The fact that Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone are a genius team who came up with a brilliant concept made this irresistible. It’s been a lot of fun developing more projects in the comedic space now.
Besides music, what is another one of your passions or hobbies?
I love playing tennis and golf whenever and wherever I can. I’m very competitive and will pick up a game of just about anything—ping pong, bowling, Scrabble. But most of my time is focused on my career or my family.
What do you enjoy about South Florida?
It’s always great to be able to tour around Florida during the winter, because I get the best of both worlds—fun, supportive fans on show days; great friends and phenomenal golf courses on the voice-rest days in between!
The Michael Bolton Charities assists at-risk women and children. Why is this cause, particularly violence among women, of personal importance to you?
As a struggling artist in the early years, I verged on homelessness with a family of five, and that was very traumatic. When I finally had success over a decade later, I wanted to find ways of addressing homelessness in America. What I discovered while researching the shelters was a majority of women and children there as a result of domestic violence. That’s when my focus shifted on advocating for those victims and working to eradicate the epidemic.
Today, there is more awareness, but there is still so much to be done, especially in sending the right message to kids at a young age that you can never be a real man if you’re violent with a woman.
What’s your life motto?
Do what you love, and never give up.