“Are you comfortable? You don’t look like you’re as comfortable as you could be,” says Michael Bublé, who is standing bedside on one leg as he slips off a shiny black loafer. “You want to lay back? Lay back.” Before I know it, he’s untucking the bed covers and fluffing the pillows behind my head. “Get comfy,” he says, now lying a foot or so away. “I’m wearing TV makeup,” Bublé whispers, sounding seductive as ever.
Who can blame the Canadian superstar for wanting to take a load off for the final interview of his international press day inside a suite at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood? After all, he’s spent all morning and afternoon talking about his new heart emoji-titled album (pronounced “love”) — his first in two years and eighth overall for Reprise Records — to various media outlets from around the world. The new album blends smooth standards by Rodgers & Hart such as “When I Fall in Love” and “My Funny Valentine” with surprising tracks like Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and Charlie Puth’s “Love You Anymore,” two duets (including “La Vie En Rose” with jazz chanteuse Cécile McLorin Salvant) and one original tune, “Forever Now.” Bublé even managed to lure David Foster
out of production semi-retirement to co-produce the record with him and longtime collaborator Jochem van der Saag. Foster, whom Bublé considers a mentor, discovered the singer 18 years ago while he was performing at a wedding.
Today, after winning four Grammy Awards and selling out arenas as well as (by Warner Music’s count) 60 million albums worldwide, Bublé is finally getting the star treatment on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the same day his album drops. His name will be engraved on the street next to the W Hotel at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, next to Mariah Carey’s star. “I love Mariah,” Bublé says, hesitating as he considers for the first time who his new neighbors might be. “I’m honored? It’s an honor? I don’t know what to say… It’s surreal.”
Bublé’s earliest memories of Hollywood are from his first family trip to Los Angeles. “Palm trees, sunny weather, the Hollywood sign,” he recalls — idyllic compared to the city he’d later experience as an unsigned 25-year-old trying to make ends meet while slowly giving up hope that his big break was coming.
“Most of my later years in L.A. were this mix of exhilaration and fear,” Bublé confesses. “I had spent 10 years doing this stuff in clubs and scratching away for someone to take ownership of me, and for some record company to say, ‘Oh, yeah, we see value in what you do.’ It was pounding the pavement and having those doors closed.”
Bublé paid his dues and then some, as he recalls: “I started at these small bars and restaurants. I was doing musical theater tours. I was living paycheck to paycheck, and I had come to the assumption that it wasn’t going to work out for me. I had already met people like David Foster
, and David had said the same thing every other single person had said to me — even the manager I have now [Bruce Allen]. Everyone would go, ‘You’re a really nice young kid and you’re very talented. I just don’t know what to do with you, and if it will be financially rewarding.’ I kept hearing that over and over again.”
And so he moved back to Canada, settling in Toronto, where he had to take a corporate gig to pay the bills while he continued releasing music independently. “I had run out of the money to press [CDs] and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go back to school… I was on that edge of ‘I’m doing that,’ and then I got a really lucky break, and it all started to domino slowly.”
But even when Bublé’s ship had come in, it appeared to be more of a tugboat than a yacht. “When I got signed to a major label, finally, at 26 years old, there was a woman whose job it was to project and budget for how many albums I would sell in my life as a career artist.” He remembers a projection that they hoped to sell 50,000-100,000 copies of his label debut… which, at the time, felt like an overwhelming goal. “There was this sense of optimism and it was electric, like, ‘Whoa! My dream is becoming a reality.’ But then, it was also the record company saying to me in a very logistical way: ‘Welcome. You know, if you don’t sell 50,000 copies, there may not be another record.’ And so of course I’m still very nostalgic about that feeling, even now at 43 years old.”
And now that his star will be permanently marked alongside his heroes Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby? “That’s a very romantic, nostalgic way to look at it,” he says, warming at the thought. “Mostly I’m excited to have my family with me because there is never enough time to have those kind of moments where you can actually share it. If there’s an accolade or an award, you stand up there to receive it and you thank everyone, but it can be a very lonesome kind of moment. For me, it’s really cool that I get to have them all there and see it through their eyes because I know that they love me and they’re proud of me.”
For Bublé, family is understandably important at this point in his life. In 2016, his then 3-year-old son, Noah, was diagnosed with liver cancer. Bublé, who also has a 2-year-old son, Elias, and 4-month-old daughter, Vida, with Argentinian model and actress Luisana Lopalito, is thankful that Noah’s cancer is now in remission. And while the emotional rollercoaster may be behind him, some of that experience seeped its way into music in the form of the album’s one original song, “Forever Now.”
“It was inspired by my kids and being a parent, and it’s about the fragility of time and of unconditional love,” he says. “It was a really heavy, beautiful way to express the feeling I had as a parent.”
Adds Bublé: “I know what going to hell is. Going through the trauma, I have found this great freedom in realizing that it isn’t my business what people think of me anymore. It has given me the freedom to be so comfortable in my skin and not let insecurity and the worry about perception have anything to do with how I interact with [people] and how I go onstage… I think I used to care, but now I just can’t afford to. When you feel angry or people say things and it hurts you or you feel that resentment towards what they’re saying, that is power. And I just realized one day that I didn’t want people to have power over me.”
That includes social media. “I’ll never look at it again,” he vows. “I will never look at my name in print. I will never watch [TV interviews] back… Why should I worry and be negative and hate on myself when there is nothing I can do? I can have integrity in my work. I can be kind. I can be a loving human being who just tries to give love. If it works, that’s great. And if it doesn’t? I don’t want sleepless nights. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” (An apt metaphor considering that Bublé’s father was a commercial salmon fisherman in British Columbia.)
And with that, Bublé leaps out of bed. “I had a really interesting conversation with a girlfriend of mine the other day,” he says, slipping his shoes back on and rebuttoning his shirt. “She said, ‘You know, Mike, I’ve known you for 15 years, and my friends always used to ask, “What is Michael really like?”’ And she would say, ‘The Michael I know is jealous of the Michael he plays on stage — he wishes he could be that smooth, that cool.’ And she came to see me a few weeks ago and she said, ‘You know something crazy? That guy doesn’t exist anymore. Because tonight when I saw you, I only saw the Michael Bublé that I know. The goofy Michael Bublé that I know.’”
With age comes even more wisdom. “As anyone who goes through any kind of health scare knows, shit gets real,” he adds. “We all, every single one of us — and sometimes people find that place at different points in their life — [have the same experience]. It’s funny how clear you become, and how you go, ‘Oh, I thought this and that were important. Oh, shit.’ No, none of it is important. For me, that thing that matters is relationships. And happiness. And love.”
Which brings us back to his latest album, which Bublé says could only have been titled with that particular four-letter word. As he soliloquizes while tucking his black dress shirt into his slacks and slipping his shoes back on: “It’s all about love. What else is there? I’ve always been fascinated by the subject. I’m fascinated that we are all fascinated by the subject. I love how inclusive it is: Gay, straight, young, old, rich, poor, black, white — it’s the thing that all of us know and all of us can relate to.”