Even Michael Bolton has been affected by record label downsizing, which has, among other things, shrunk the influence of adult contemporary radio, the format that made him a star. Bolton plays Merrillville, Ind., on Saturday as part of a lengthy tour to promote his new-ish "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" and last year's long-in-the-making "One World One Love," which contains a collaboration with, of all people, a not-yet-famous Lady Gaga.
Bolton spoke by phone from Atlanta about his run-in with Lady Gaga, his recent turn on "Dancing With the Stars" and the brave new world of record-making.
Your new record went through quite a difficult birth.
You could say that, though almost every project has a difficult birth in this new world of the music business. … Nothing launches like in the old days. The machine that used to kick in was 10 times the machine that you have now. … The process (these days) is you go to television. TV is our new radio. You can go to adult contemporary radio, of course; I've had a lot of No. 1s there, but you can't possibly get into as many homes as a television-driven campaign. Top 40 is no longer (my) format. Even my own audience will say, "So, when did you put out the new record?" They're texting at red lights; they're picking things up. They're not waiting for the next new things on the radio.
Aren't you glad you don't have to establish yourself as a new artist in this climate?
I would find it a very loathsome experience. I don't want to dishearten anyone who's a new artist, but I would hate the experience.
Does something like "Dancing With the Stars" actually help sell records?
They know you're not a dancer — that's why you're on the show. So your fan base, your core audience is watching the show, and you're also gaining a new audience by being on the show, and there are many (viewers) whom you're reminding that you've made a career of selling 50 million albums, and you're probably in their homes. It's impossible not to have some kind of benefit come from 21 million people watching you.
Were you very nervous?
No, I was so far beyond nervous. Everyone backstage is in a state of trauma. … (There are) Olympic athletes, Super Bowl winners, people who have handled tremendous amounts of stress. Everyone back there, you look in their eyes and see the same look. It's like we were all in Vietnam together. And we all look at each other like, "This is crazy. We're not dancers. What are we doing?" … But that's the challenge you take on, something outside your comfort zone. It's something that I had feared and avoided all my life.
Your new album got a lot of positive reviews, one of the main themes being that your vocals were very understated. Do you agree?
Yeah, for the most part. The concept of being reserved is something reviewers tend to prefer. … (It's funny), a lot of the producers I was working with were in their mid-20s, which is like working with kids. They loved all the big notes. They got to know my voice by going to YouTube and clicking and saying, "Listen to this!" It's like a surreal experience for them to be working for someone they know through YouTube, because they weren't listening to Top 40 when they were 5 years old.
You worked with Lady Gaga with this album. You two fit together better than anyone might have expected.
She's got a lot of talent that people don't know about. She was a professional songwriter before she took off as an artist. She knows my range. She said, "I have this idea," and started playing these parts and singing in front of me, which was something that impressed me, because she has a real voice, not something that was created in a laboratory. She was singing her butt off right in front of me. … Her album wasn't coming out for another two or three months, but you could tell she was a star about to happen. I could almost see the beginning of her career, and I was walking her through some of the pitfalls and kind of advising her. And she knew all the answers. She has it all within herself. … She's like a young Madonna.
You've also been sampled by Kanye West (on the Jay-Z collaboration "Never Let Me Down").
My kids had to tell me who Jay-Z was. He was rapping on the Kanye record, and I said, "Well, should I check this out?" I wanted to make sure the lyrics were acceptable, because they need the rights to add lyrics to your music. My kids were, like, over the moon. I just felt so ignorant. I just wanted to make sure the lyrics were something I could be OK with, and they were. They were great.
Oh Gail, thank you so much sweetie, you're an angel! Terrific article, thanks for posting it, I really appreciate it. Girl, off-topic, I'm listening to the radio right now and "Don't make me wait for love" by Kenny G is on! This is from the November 7 1987 American Top 40 countdown and it was Michael's first appearance on the countdown at number 40 with "That's what love is all about"! Very nice way to wake up at 6:00 a.m.! lol Thanks again sweetie, God bless you. Hugs, sincerely, Sylvie from Canada
You don't have idea what
I love when I read Michael's
interview like this, thanks a lot !!!
By the way, in my humble opinion
I think it was right closed the reply
the OK concert.
On the Keith Middleton Radio Show (BBC Radio Shropshire)"This Saturday, November 13th is an 80s Night on 'The Extravaganza'. He will be talking to Michael Bolton, Richard Marx and Glenn Gregory. The interview isn't live but just done a few weeks ago.
Hi Gail, thanks a lot for letting us know sweetie, I guess we'll have to check for what time it's on? Do you know if this will be uploaded or streamed live? Well, hope someone reports on it. BTW, thanks for the other BBC link you've posted in the other thread, it worked, I was shocked! lol I haven't taken the time to listen to the whole thing but thanks to Pilar, I'll know when to expect Michael when I do. Thanks again for posting girl, take care. Hugs, sincerely, Sylvie from Canada