After working with some of the biggest names in the business, earning some major awards and becoming a multi-platinum selling artist, Michael Bolton seems to have done it all.
Now he's returning with an album of mostly covers with two original tunes, and he's gone down the motown route for this latest venture.
Female First got the opportunity to catch up with Michael about the inspiration behind this record, his relationship with Sam Bailey and Leona Lewis as well as his favourite career moments and just what to expect from him in the future.
Why did you choose to go down the classic motown route for your new album 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'?
I have always been moved by many of the incredible songs and singers that came out of Hitsville USA, a little house in Detroit, Michigan, where Motown was born. As a kid I found my ears drawn to great singers and to Rhythm and Blues. The Motown sound defined what would become a huge part of contemporary popular music. It was R&B drawing from gospel, with the great powerful voices of singers that often grew up in the church. There is a deep soulfulness that comes from this tradition. The songs tell true stories that everyone can relate to, and the melodies are so compelling and still irresistible to all of us.
What is it about music that you love?
That's like asking what is it about air that you love. It's everything to me, my inspiration, my solace, everything my career has become which is what I live and breathe. Music is how I express myself personally. I believe it's one of the most powerful forms of artistic expression, in the way that it both touches people on a very personal level and also unites them across their differences.
You've collaborated with both Sam Bailey and Leona Lewis on this record, how was that experience?
I was a fan of Leona since I first heard her sing on her massive hit 'Bleeding Love' and it was a pleasure to finally meet her in the studio and discover her sweet, gentle nature. She has a real gift with her voice and knew exactly where to go in our duet of 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' to honor the original melody while also making it her own. Her first performance was perfect and I didn't want to change a note.
I had newly discovered Sam from the XFactor and we actually connected through twitter when I found out that she was a fan and wanted to sing with me. She's a very genuine, kind person and we became friends as I offered support or advice throughout the competition. We had the opportunity to perform together on the NTAs and then I asked her to record 'Ain't Nothin Like the Real Thing' as a duet with me for the new album. She nailed it in the studio and we laughed a lot and had a lot of fun. Sam Bailey is an astounding singer.
You also work with Orianthi on 'Money', how did you find that?
Orianthi is a phenomenal guitar player, who has performed with the likes of Michael Jackson, Santana and Alice Cooper. When I was recording my duets album GEMS, I wanted to recreate some of the guitar lines on the song 'Steel Bars' which I co-wrote with Bob Dylan. Ori was a fan of the song and she laid down some amazing tracks. We became fast friends and she's shown up for me at various events or fundraisers. For the recent Hitsville album, I wanted to find a way to slightly modernize the track 'Money' and Ori once again laid down her signature. We also performed it live at my broadcast concert in Las Vegas and she killed it. She has such great energy on stage and is so fun to perform with.
There are songs you co-wrote also featured on the album, where do you draw creative influence from when you write?
I'm always writing lyric ideas and song titles as I travel and often I get ideas from my experiences on the road or just from daily life. 'Gotta Keep Dreamin' was a song I wrote specifically for the Hitsville album which has a musical feel that fits within the body of the entire CD. The story of the song harkens back to a time, maybe in a relationship, maybe in music history, maybe in all of our best years when everything seemed golden and filled with promise, beyond the nostalgia, we draw inspiration from our past and look with faith to the future. 'Somethin Out of Nothin' is a song I co-wrote with Lamont Dozier, of Holland-Dozier-Holland, so we were inevitably tapping into the source of motown. Again, there are two layers to this song, one is about a relationship, finding someone and discovering a feeling there, but also it's about the songwriting process, creating something out of nothing is what we do!
This year you're touring the UK, what can fans coming to those shows expect?
Fans can always expect to hear my Greatest Hits at the concerts and then I also introduce a few new songs from a recent album. Since releasing GEMS, I have been performing a few duets from that album which the audiences seem to love, and now with HITSVILLE we'll pull a few songs into the setlist which hopefully will get everyone out of their seats singing and dancing.
Your first memoir has also been recently released, for fans who haven't picked it up yet what can they find out in the book?
'The Soul of it All: My Music, My Life' is my first autobiography, and I say first because I suspect there will be a sequel. This book tells the story of how I grew up and my '18 year over night success story'. The book is full of fun and funny anecdotes with a whole host of characters I've been blessed to meet and work with from Ray Charles to Luciano Pavarotti, Cher to Bob Dylan, and Rodney Dangerfield to Bill Clinton. But the real underlying message is about finding that one thing that drives you and staying true to it, no matter what happens.
An Evening With Michael Bolton will take place at London's Royal Albert Hall - can you tell us about any of the special guests who'll join you at this event?
I am touring with two amazing duet singers, Kelly Levesque and Amanda Brown, and we just might have a surprise guest at the Royal Albert Hall.
Are there any shocking moments from your career so far that you can share with us?
Yes, many, which I have written about in my book! A recent one was the massive viral success of the 'Jack Sparrow' video I did for Saturday Night Live with Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone aka The Lonely Island, which now has over 120 million Youtube views. I guess it was shocking for everyone else, too, since they discovered my sense of humor.
What have been the standout moments for you to-date?
Also, these are written in my book. But I always highlight performing with Luciano Pavarotti because it was not only such a surprise and honor, but it profoundly impacted the way I sing, train and protect my voice. The standout moments in my book also range from Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga, and Zelma Redding to Coretta Scott King. There are more and far more than I dreamed.
Are there any other projects you're currently involved with that you can share some details about?
I am developing a comedic series as well as a powerful drama and I'm thrilled about both. I am also starting to conceptualize my next album as well as my Broadway songbook.
Michael Bolton's 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' is released May 5.
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