Vancouver’s Michael Buble’ represents a new brand of newcomer to the music industry. A growing force of young singers who by-pass the usual formula and instead play a music that they have no right doing well. Still these singers defy the odds and play standards like only the legends could. Buble’ along with Norah Jones, Peter Cincotti, Jane Monheit and hosts of others are changing the way we look and listen to music and that’s an exciting thing. Michael Buble’ sings with a wisdom and grace it’s getting him lots of recognition. It certainly made us listen.
John Beaudin – Hi Michael. I gotta say it always make me happy when I see someone from Vancouver making it.
Michael Buble’ – Thank you very much John! I wanted to thank you for writing those nice things about me and the album. I really appreciate it.
John – You’re welcome. It’s a great CD! It’s a good time in music right now where a lot of the younger performers are doing something a little different. There’s you and Norah Jones, Peter Cincotti, Jane Monheit and a list of great performers doing Jazz. You all do it so well.
Michael – Thanks! (Laughing) My mom and dad really love it I tell you!
John – Coming from Vancouver which is a real rich city of Jazz since there are so many players there doing it, did you find enough places to play? I’ve heard a lot of complaints.
Michael – No, there are not enough places to play. You know what I found strange I went to Calgary and I went to Winnipeg a bit and I couldn’t believe the players coming out of both of those cities and there seemed to be more places to play.
John – Well, Vancouver still doesn’t have a Smooth Jazz station and I can’t see that situation changing any time soon but both Calgary and Winnipeg have radio outlets so there you go and I never want to leave out Hamilton’s ‘Wave.’ They were the first in Canada with Smooth Jazz 24/7.
Michael – Yeah, It’s all good and it’s slowly growing.
John – I’ve noticed you on TV a lot lately. There’s Days of Our Lives, Canada Am and all the U.S. talk shows. How’s the pace for you and can you keep this up?
Michael – It’s pretty strange because I’m hanging out in hotel rooms and doing all this promo stuff so I don’t really see it like you do. I don’t actually see the things in print or any of the things on TV so I kind of feel like I’ve been sheltered from it. My family is digging it very much. (Laughing)
John – No kidding, they must be really proud of you?
Michael – Yeah and likewise I’m proud of them too. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive family. When they knew that this was my dream instead of saying go to college first they just said we’re behind you one hundred percent!
John – I know your grandfather played a big part in you getting into this type of crooner/jazz music.
Michael – It’s funny but when I was six or seven years old Christmas would come around and I loved it so much but not because of the presents but for things like Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ album. It was playing all through the house and even at that young age I just thought it was the coolest stuff in the world. By the time I hit thirteen I’d been experimenting a lot and listening to different things and my grandpa really helped ignite more of a flame. All I wanted to do was to learn more and more.
John – So this genre/style just resonated with you right off the bat? You were so young.
Michael – Even at that young age I thought the words were something I could understand and the melodies were so catchy. For me that feeling of a group getting into pocket and I’m not just talking about songs with vocals, just a Jazz band. When they get into pocket and their swinging and stuff it’s something that you feel through your whole body and you can’t stop tapping your knee. That’s pretty much what I live for and I always did and I’ve always felt that way.
John – Before this big push came with you being produced by David Foster and Humberto Gatica and your association with Paul Anka, you still got some really good press in Vancouver.
Michael – People were always cool with me there. I was working a lot. There’s not that much work there and I was managing to work a lot. The people always came out and were always supportive and the press was really supportive too. So my story is unlike a lot of stories because a lot of time people have to take off from their hometown before people except them. I was really lucky and blessed that my hometown was cool enough to accept me like that.
John – Did you hear about the quote in USA Today? They said you could be the next Sinatra.
Michael – I love it! Some one asked me yesterday about the fact that I get compared to all these people and I said, “Of course I do! You’re not going to compare me to Michael Jackson.” (Laughing) People know Sinatra or Harry Connick Jr. so they’ll compare me so maybe someday maybe ten years from now people will compare someone to me.
John – Going into the game plan of this album was it you and David Foster plus Humberto Gatica or was Paul Anka also involved in picking the songs?
Michael – It was all the above and it was great! We all sat down and all came up with songs. Each of us had ‘give me’s’ and to be honest with you I was more of a purest than anyone else so when they came to me with the Bee Gees song “How do You Mend a Broken Heart” and the Lou Rawls song “You’ll Never Find” I thought I don’t want to do these songs. I don’t want to be known as a strange lounge act going over the line of good taste. Its funny David looked at me and said, “No man, these are good tunes, good melodies and good words make for a timeless tune. Anything can work and if it’s a timeless tune it will lend itself to the style of the genre that you love.” So everyone got what they wanted out of it. I got my standards out of it and they got their newer stuff.
John – I love David’s perspective on the very melody of a song. How a good melody will last.
Michael – Absolutely. It’s so true.
John – So, this is such a great story on how you met David Foster. Is this how it went down, you’re singing at former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter’s wedding?
Michael – Yeah. (Laughing) It’s a funny story because I refuse to do weddings and I didn’t want to be known as the wedding singer.
John – Yeah but its Brian Mulroney, now that’s a pretty good gig! (Laughing)
Michael – Yeah, it’s Brian Mulroney. He’s been very good to me and his family was wonderful and it was a real honor for me to do it so of course I did it. The cool thing was when David (Foster) came in I could see his face as I started (singing) and I knew he was thinking “Oh Lord! Here we go.”(Laughing) Brian Mulroney had his arm around him and shaking him saying, “Watch him, isn’t he great just watch him.” So, he really kind of forced me upon David. It took me a little while to get signed and through that time the Mulroney’s kept in contact with me a lot. Mila and Brian would call and say, “I just put a call into David so were putting the heat on him.” They were so supportive!
John – You know in the business Michael we hear from people who say their going to help us.
Michael – Yeah.
Michael – Absolutely! He went way out of his way actually both Mila his wife and him. Look at the break they gave me. That’s not the only time they introduced someone to David Foster, they introduced a young French Canadian singer named Celine Dion as well.
John – Is that right? That one I didn’t know.
Michael – I believe so. They’ll say of course the same thing that they say to me which is “Just be a nice kid, it wasn’t us and you would have made it with or without us.” I think they feel the same way about Celine.
John – That’s pretty classy!
Michael – You know what, they were very classy.
John – When you were growing up were there other types of bands that you listened to? I’m talking the rock stuff.
Michael – I was a regular kid like everyone else I was affected by the music that was surrounding me. Every once in a while I’d hear a song that I liked, maybe a Fresh Prince tune or Michael Jackson and I just loved Elvis but really most of the time it was all about discovering someone like Al Martino or the Mills Brothers, The Four Aces, Vic Damone, The Platters, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Louis Armstrong. John, you know how many great artists there are you play this stuff, people like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall.
John – You’ve been compared to Harry Connick Jr. a lot and that’s a great compliment?
Michael – Seeing that I can’t play the piano or haven’t acted in any huge movies (laughing) and I’m not married to a super model.
John – (laughing) All in good time. Let’s get back to your rebel side, what’s the heaviest music that you’ve listened to?
Michael – Ok, this is not a joke but I’m betting Louis Prima. I’m very serious I know what you were asking like did you buy any heavy rock band or rap music, well no way. The coolest stuff ever was just Louis Prima’s greatest hits. That’s my best rockin’ album.
John – You’re not going to shatter the image are you? (Laughing)
Michael – (laughing) I know it sounds funny doesn’t it. People always say to me, “Really come on honestly just tell me what do you listen to in your car?” John, if you got in my car today you would find lets see (shuffling through his CD collection) actually, I’m really rockin’ I had James Taylor also Frank Sinatra Live at Sands, Bobby Darin and Louis Prima’s greatest hits.
John – In the seventies I reluctantly like the Lou Rawls hit “You’ll Never Find…” I held out because to me it sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck tune. You know what got to me? It was that melody and that beat. You come at that song from a really different angel. It’s very breezy, I like it.
Michael – Thank you. That’s all David Foster and I’ll give all the credit there. I have to tell you I had the same reaction you originally had. David gave me the song and told me to go home and listen to it. So I was in the bath and I put it on and I said to my self, “What the hell is this?” I mean don’t get me wrong it was a cool tune but I could see me doing it with that whole disco thing. So I thought David Foster is nuts! When we got into the studio he said, “In my head I can hear what it is going to sound like as a finished product and you’re going to love it.” I thought I can’t argue with David Foster since he’s probably right! So we did it and it ended up being one of my favorite tunes on the album.
John – The fact that you both slowed it down so much really works. I mentioned in the review I wrote on your album the Frank Sinatra quote on how a singer can’t hide with the slow tunes because a singer has no place to hide.
Michael – Yeah, I love that quote.
John – I think the intimacy of a live show can also do that, for instance, Diana Krall’s new ‘Live in Paris’ album did that for me. I’ve always liked Diana Krall but I couldn’t say it was a love affair until I heard her on that album. Like a slow song, a live show can do that.
Michael – That’s very true. You know the slower songs are my favorite things to sing. People always ask about Sinatra and I really loved him but for me personally I really liked the stuff he did with (Tommy) Dorsey and I loved his voice when he was a kid. I think when people talk about Frank Sinatra and they say, “Oh, he’s the greatest.” I don’t think they realize why he was the greatest. In his later stuff he could still really swing and he had that great age in his voice but when he was a kid he was the best. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice like that in my life. I aspire to be that good. I remember listening to him doing ‘Dream’ and ‘Stardust’ and thinking, “Oh my God, this is why they call him the great one.
John – It’s interesting listening to you talk about Sinatra and Louis Prima etc. You have so much excitement in your voice.
Michael – You know it’s funny I don’t personally live the lifestyle. I don’t wear a fedora and I don’t sit at the bar and have a martini and I don’t smoke cigars but the music to me was just so powerful. It was just impossible to get away from.
John – Let’s get back to Diana Krall you have to love the British Columbia connection. There are so many great performers in B.C. and interestingly you are both ambassadors of a brand of music that never went away of course but is catching on in the mainstream again.
Michael – (laughing) I think it’s all the rain man! I think we’re in our houses listing to this music a lot. I’m in L.A. today and there are so many Canadians here and so many successful people from our country. All of these people had to work really hard, harder than most just to get a chance because it’s just so much harder to get that break. You just have to work your butt off.
John – When did you actually start professionally?
Michael – I was 18. When you say professionally that was my grandpa doing free plumbing for guys so I could sit in with the band. So I wasn’t actually getting paid. I think one of my first paying gigs was when I was 19 and I played with a fellow named Linton Garner.
John – Yeah, he just died recently.
Michael – Yeah, he just passed on us. He was just one of the greatest piano players. He was the big brother of Erroll Garner and it was the first gig. You know how some Jazz piano players grunt when they play?
John – Yeah, it sounds like the cookie monster doing Jazz scat.
John – (laughing) Not exactly easy on the nerves! Did you really work with your dad on his salmon boat?
Michael – Yeah, for six years.
John – Let me tell you when I was growing up my dad was a lumberjack back in the days when it was politically correct to cut down trees and I worked with him from the time I was nine to nineteen years old. I always found that really heavy duty physical work like we both did leaves a lot of room for day dreaming but it was also a time that got me very focused on those dreams – on what I really wanted to do. Did you find that too working on that boat with your dad?
Michael – In a huge way. Oh yeah!
John – Where you thinking about singing on that boat?
Michael – Every single day and I sang and really I didn’t shut up. I remember sitting on the bow of the boat by the coaled ropes by the anchor and just singing away and just dreaming of this. You know sometimes I actually think that someone’s going to pinch me and I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be on that Salmon boat and this was all a dream (laughing). It was really hard work. I know what it’s like to have a tough job so it makes me really appreciate the fact that all I have to do now is get up on stage and sing with great musicians and once in a while talk to cool people like you.
John – Thanks. You know I wear my lumberjack days like a badge because it made me a better human being.
Michael – It’s true and I talk about it a lot too. It was so hard and nasty and a lot of the times I’d be terrified that this is what I’d have to do for my life. My father would come up to me and say, “Michael don’t use your hands please use your head. You don’t want to have to work like I do.” My dad loves this now this is so cool for him and the rest of my family.
John – You know who first told me about you working with David Foster was my old neighbor in Vancouver and a good friend of yours, Tammy Weis.
John – I ‘ve always thought of Tammy as one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. She’s extremely talented, very beautiful and a really deep thinker with a wonderful heart.
Michael – She has so much soul and if I didn’t know her I wouldn’t know that she’s a cute little white girl because she doesn’t sound like a white girl. She has just a beautiful rich big voice. I love going out and watching her.
John – The first time we did an interview Tammy and I started talking about the music but we quickly veered off to psychology and spirituality and psychic experiences and all kinds of things that I really love. It’s always a pleasure connecting with her.
Michael – I talk to Tammy a lot. She’s been doing really well in England. I have to tell you this you know what I’d like to see Tammy do? I’d love for her to get 15 songs together that were only made famous by men and with her voice it would sound fantastic. I know it sounds weird but it would work.
John – There you go maybe you can produce her next album. Tammy was just in Calgary and she came by The Breeze and sat in on the show with me. Are there any other Vancouver artists that you think could make it big?
Michael – Oh God, there are many but I’d say Beverley Staunton. Do you know her?
John – Oh yeah, I hosted her album launch show in Vancouver and she’s also on this site.
Michael – David Foster called me weeks ago and asked me for names of female singers and Beverley’s name popped in my head immediately. This girl has chops and sure enough he came back and he did love her. Also there’s a piano player who I’ve worked with called Bryant Olender who is amazing. He’s a cross between Michael Feinstein And Harry Connick Jr.
Michael – Yeah, Feinstein is great what a historian.
John – Yeah, an encyclopedic mind and all the great things he did for the Gershwin’s work and how he actually worked with Ira Gershwin.
Michael – Yeah, he can tell you what the cat was doing the day the song was written. He’s actually here right now at the hotel I’m staying at playing at his club and he’s doing songs from the Academy awards.
John – So are you living in hotels now?
Michael – Actually, I feel like I’m living on planes.(laughing)
John – Are you meeting any big stars?
Michael – Well I got a strange phone call today, my manager Bruce Allen called me and said, “Kevin Spacey is coming down to see you and he’s doing the Bobby Darin movie and he wants to watch you for a bit.” I thought okay no pressure for me. (Laughing) I’m playing in a room with maybe 150 people and I’ve got Kevin Spacey maybe two feet away from me. I’ll try talking about Keyser Soze’. (Laughing)
John – Yeah, ‘The Usual Suspects’ was such a cool film. He really pulled that off well. I hear he’s a nice man.
Michael – Well, I hear he can really do Bobby Darin. I hear he can sing. So I might ask him to get up and do something with me.
John – Speaking of acting you have been doing a little acting yourself. You were in the movie “Duets” and you appeared on “Days of our Lives.” Did you enjoy it?
Michael – I think from what I am doing it is pretty easy work. I am just playing myself so it is not much of a stretch. (Laughing) I enjoy it though and I get a kick out of it. I don’t have to do a lot of real acting and I am doing a page of dialogue and then I get to sing. I recently did the “Chris Issac” show.
John – I love that show!
Michael – let me tell you that man is just the coolest guy. He is very supportive and he is really giving as an artist. The first thing he said to me was, “Hey man, it’s T.V. and if you can’t do it within the first ten takes we will do it at eleven.” So, I was comfortable right away. He was hilarious he really has a great sense of humor.
John – Is he as laid back in person as he is on the show? He has this persona on the show of being really calm and collected with a dry sense of humor.
Michael – Yeah, that is him. He is laid back and he is very nice with a great dry sense of humor.
John – And his band can act! (Laughing)
Michael – (Laughing) Those guys are great. It was a love fest down there. We actually did a duet together. I sang a duet of one of his songs, “Somebody’s Crying” and then he did a duet of “Sway” with me.
John – When is that coming on T.V.?
Michael – I think it is in a couple of months. We actually did the Dean Martin version of “Sway.” It is going to be fun to watch I can’t wait!
John – Tell me about Paul Anka, how did you meet him?
Michael – After September 11th, Jay Leno had called me to open for him. They wanted to get people back in the seats in Las Vegas. The next day, David (Foster) said Paul wanted to meet me. So, I went to his hotel and met him and it was just great. He is a super nice guy and I have enjoyed having him as a friend. It is an amazing thing to be able to pick up the phone and say, “Hey Paul, how are you, I am a little nervous about this gig and what do you think I should open with and do you think I should talk here or there?” How cool is it that I get to call Paul Anka who has done this for so long and is so great at it and I get to ask him advice on what I should do. God has been good to me.
John – Paul Anka strikes me as the type of guy who will never bullshit you. I think he has been in the business long enough that he doesn’t sugar coat his advice.
Michael – That is right, he doesn’t. He is so damn good at what he does. I saw his show in Vegas one night and I saw a lot of people walk in and I could tell on the faces of some husbands who were looking at their wives thinking, “Thanks a lot, here I am at a Paul Anka concert when I could be playing black jack right now.” You know what, by the time the show ended these same gentlemen had their hands in the air yelling, “Anka! Anka! ” He is the master.
John – Well, look at his string of hits like you he is a guy that started very young. Paul Anka had quite a track record.
Michael – Look at some of the things he has written from “Puppy Love” to “Put Your Head On My Shoulders to “My Way” and “The Tonight Show” theme. He is a brilliant guy.
John – You have a lot of great elders in your life who have been good support systems for you. Like Paul Anka, the Mulroney’s, David Foster and your father and grandfather.
Michael – I just get to sit back and do nothing. (Laughing) I am lucky I have my publicist as well. She is a heavy hitter and she actually works with Madonna as well. Her name is Liz Rosenberg and like the others she is at the top of her game. When you work with them you understand quickly why they are the best.
John – Are you tired at the end of the day because you are going 24/7 right now?
Michael – You know because I use to be a fisherman this is easy. The Warner Brothers people will be driving me around and sometimes they will ask, “Mr. Buble, are you okay with everything?” And I will just laugh and say, “Keep it coming, this stuff is easy compared to Salmon fishing!” At night I get up on stage with wonderful musicians and I have to sing and make music and you know how physically demanding that is – not at all. Then I do this kind of stuff like talking to people like you. Here you are asking me what I think and what a luxury that is because everyone wants to be heard.
John – I know you’re working with Bruce Allen now but you’re also still with your first manager Beverly Delich.
Michael – I was in an airplane with her coming back from a talent contest that she had taken me to and I asked her to be my manager on the plane. I said I will give you fifteen percent. So, Beverly looks at me and asks, “Do you know how much fifteen prevent of nothing is?” (laughing) So, that is how it started. She is actually writing a book called “Fifteen percent of Nothing” and it is a story of her life. Beverly has had an amazing journey.
John – Michael, I am glad we could track you down and finally do the interview.
Michael – John, I can’t tell you how pleasurable this has been. I have to go have a cigarette now it was so damn good. (Laughing) You are so easy to talk to I forgot at times that this is going on a website and on the radio. You are the leader man. You have done so much for this music.
John – Thanks Michael