Bublé to showcase originals, interpretationsWritten by Alan Sculley | | ASculley@toledofreepress.com
Michael Bublé knows a thing or two about expectations and pressure.
He recalls how he felt going into his second CD, the 2005 release, “It’s Time.” Bublé was coming off of a 2003 self-titled debut CD that sold some 3.5 million copies and had turned him into the hottest of the “Great American Songbook” singers.
But in the press, his success was frequently being dismissed as a fluke, and plenty of people were predicting that the whole “Great American Songbook” craze would soon fade into oblivion.
Bublé knew what was at stake. As he told this writer in 2005, he felt he had to hit a home run with “It’s Time.”
“All I thought about was I need to make a great record, not a good record,” Bublé said then.
Music fans, obviously, liked the way Bublé responded. “It’s Time” became another major hit, with a single, “Home,” that topped Billboard magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart. Since then, the singer’s career has done nothing but gain momentum.
The 2007 CD, “Call Me Irresponsible,” topped the Billboard album chart and boasted another chart-topping Adult Contemporary hit in “Everything.”
Now his current CD, “Crazy Love,” has become another multiplatinum blockbuster, notching another number one hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in “Haven’t Met You Yet.” In addition, a deluxe edition, featuring the hit single, “Hollywood,” was released in late October.
He will play Toledo’s Huntington Center on June 7.
So now that Bublé has four hit studio albums in his catalog and has proven himself to be a genuine arena headlining star, is the pressure off? Hardly, although Bublé said it’s a different sort of feeling now.
“I think I’m more confident in what I’m doing, confident in my decision-making process and what my instincts are telling me,” Bublé told a group of five reporters during a telephone call. “But the truth is I have to believe that you’re only as good as your last record, especially in this business now. It’s a volatile business and it’s harder than ever to sell records. I just don’t think you can pat yourself on the back too much. While I appreciate the moment and I smell the roses, each time out I put pressure on myself that it’s got to be better.
“This record took longer than any of the previous ones,” he said. “The next one will probably take even longer. It’s got to be right. And it’s not right until it’s right. So I definitely still put a lot of pressure on myself. I hold myself to a high standard.
Perhaps Bublé is sensitive about the potential ephemeral nature of success because his popularity didn’t come quickly or easily.
In fact, by the late 1990s the native of Burnaby, British Columbia was on the verge of giving up his musical ambitions. At that point, he had released three self-financed albums and had played clubs, dinner theaters and corporate events for nearly a decade with little to show for his efforts.
“I had tried everything and I had met all the people you’re supposed to meet, and it wasn’t happening. People didn’t really want to take a risk,” Bublé said. “They didn’t think this type of music had a chance to have commercial success.”
But a chance meeting in 2000 changed everything. At a corporate gig he had accepted only because he needed the money, he was approached by a man who complimented him on his show. Bublé gave the man his latest self-released CD, thinking nothing of it.
It turned out his newfound fan was Michael McSweeney, the speech writer and assistant to former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. McSweeney played the Mulroney and his wife Bublé’s CD, and before long, the Mulroneys asked Bublé to perform at their daughter’s wedding.
The guest list at the wedding included a family friend, David Foster. That would be David Foster, the producer famous for his work with Céline Dion, Chicago and Whitney Houston. And after seeing Bublé perform, Foster took the singer under his wing, paving the way for a record deal with Reprise, which had Foster produce Bublé’s debut album.
It’s been one success and triumph after another ever since.
What’s ironic about Bublé’s success is that while he is known primarily as an interpreter — not only of “Great American Songbook” material spanning roughly 1930 to 1960, but of more contemporary pop songs as well — Bublé’s greatest success has come with songs he wrote himself.
“Haven’t Met You Yet” is one of two Bublé originals on “Crazy Love” (a CD that otherwise features Bublé’s interpretations of such familiar standards as “Georgia On My Mind,” “Stardust” and “Cry Me A River”); “Home” and “Everything” were also songs he co-wrote.
Bublé said he takes the challenge of writing his own songs very seriously, often spending six months or more before feeling a song passes muster.
But if his songwriting process seems meticulous, Bublé said his approach toward how to perform a cover is even more challenging.
“With the standards, it’s a different process,” he said. “I would say it’s a more difficult process because in a lot of the songs, what I’m really trying to do is obviously interpret them well and bring them to life again, but by doing that, I really need to conceptualize.
“It’s much more difficult to do a standard for me than an original because you can compare the standards to the hundreds of other ways that they’ve been done,” Bublé said. “But with an original, you can’t.”
Bublé said he has been putting his share of work into his live show.
“Obviously, the production is going to be a lot bigger,” he said. “When I spoke to my people that are organizing it and doing all the production, I had said that I wanted it to be a big show and bombastic and grandiose, but at the same time I needed it to be even more intimate than it was before.
“A good entertainer should be able to get up there with a chair and a balloon and entertain people,” Bublé said. “So I don’t want to overdo the production. I want to make sure it’s still a show that has heart and a show that still touches people. I want there to be authenticity.”