With more than 53 million albums sold, two Grammy awards and eight top 10 albums — there is arguably no bigger star in the soft rock genre than Michael Bolton.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Michael Bolton will sing all of his biggest hits — likely all nine of his No. 1 singles — and songs from his newest album Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A. when his tour stops at the Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center in York.
I recently caught up with Michael Bolton to talk about his York concert, his newest album and also his plans for the future.
Jeff: The Feb. 26 concert at the Strand-Capitol in York falls on your 60th birthday. Do you have any special plans for the concert? I know your fans in York are excited to celebrate with you.
Michael Bolton: I think it would be more accurate to ask if the fans and my band and crew have anything special planned for me … I have celebrated my birthday on the road for years now, and I know enough to know that this celebration will be completely out of my hands. I have the best fans in the world, and I am sure that things will be thrown on stage to me … cards, stuffed animals, flowers and some things that are best left to the imagination.
You’ve been on the road for about 40 years, what keeps you going?
Being on the road, performing live is one of my favorite perks of my success as a singer/songwriter. I love touring and feeding off of the energy of the audience, so my audience and fans keep me going, always. I also have a large family of band and crew on the road who depend on me to help keep their families going as well, but ultimately, it is my love of the music I sing and the people who embrace it that keeps me going on.
On Feb. 8, you performed a live concert with Motown legends to kick off a multi-concert marketing deal between HSN and The Venetian Las Vegas. That has to be exciting, how did you become involved with that partnership?
The HSN live concert at The Venetian in Vegas was an incredible way to debut the new album while celebrating the writers, producers and artists who created this timeless body of music from Hitsville Detroit. When I was thinking about recording this album, I went to the Motown Museum and shared the idea and thankfully they loved it. Next thing I knew I was getting the chance to talk with the people who inspired this musical movement, like Smokey Robinson, Holland Dozier Holland, Valerie Simpson, Martha Reeves, Paul Riser and Barrett Strong, and receiving their blessing to render my own version of their hits. I can’t help myself, if I love a song, all I want to do is sing it. And they knew I would give it my all. So when HSN learned about this journey, they were excited to get on board and produce a live event that would capture the spirit of this collaboration and we were able to bring everyone together for what turned out to be a very magical moment in time!
You’ll also be releasing your latest album, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A., to go along with the concert. Were these songs and artists some of your musical inspirations early in your career, and was a Motown tribute album something you’ve always wanted to do?
I idolized and listened to most of these artists as I was growing up and learned to play guitar and sing along with their songs on the radio and 45s. Later on in my career, I had the great pleasure of working with and recording the songs of some of the greatest Motown legends of all times on my albums like Timeless and my Greatest Hits CD. A Motown record has been on my “to do” project list for me for a long time — the songs are still so loved and bring so much energy to the audience, performing them it still feels like the first time I heard them.
Many people might be surprised to find out that your first band, Blackjack, was a hard rock/heavy metal band that once toured with Ozzy Osbourne – which I’m sure was quite the experience. Your music has really changed over the years, why did you ultimately decide to change your style?
I recorded a ballad at the suggestion of my record label at the time, Columbia/Sony records. I recorded a song I had written, which had been a hit for Laura Iranian, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and when it became a No. 1 hit, I realized they were right. On my end, achieving musical success with songs I had already written for other people was incredible. Although I kept my long hair, I began to develop a more classic style of dressing, another suggestion from the label and the rest just developed. My overnight success took 40 years — lots of changes and growing and all so worth it.
Your biography, The Soul of it All, was recently released. Congratulations on that. How did you decide that it was finally time to document your story, and did you have some reservations about opening up like that?
Thank you. I had been working on this book and writing it for many years. There was so much in the book that I had never revealed, things that were incredibly painful for me to talk about. The timing felt right — whether it was age or wisdom or the need to address more and more aspects of my life and climb, I’m not sure. But it was time and writing this book was one of the hardest things I have done. I have new-found respect for anyone trying to write a book. It is as grueling a process as it is a revealing one. Of course I had reservations about some of the things I discussed … it is a process during which, if you are honest, will leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable.
You’ve sold more than 53 million albums, have number one hits, two Grammy awards and a seemingly endless list of other accomplishments — Are there any goals you haven’t met yet in your career that you’re still working toward?
I have a project and to do list that is long and keeps getting longer. I am working on a musical for Broadway, already have a new CD in process, am writing for and interested in doing films, documentaries, another children’s book — the possibilities are endless, creatively. I have two granddaughters now, and I want to be able to do so much for them, to help them navigate this world and help to make certain that their world is one that is safe and allows them to grow and realize their own dreams. To that end, as well, I have much more that I want to accomplish through the Michael Bolton Charities, to assists all women and children to have a chance to live without poverty, fear and violence.
Tickets for the Michael Bolton concert at the Strand Capitol are still available online.