Michael Bublé: Dark side of the croon

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      Success hasn’t spoiled Michael Bublé, but it has made the singer more guarded with his answers

      The last time I sat down to talk to Michael Bublé was in 2003. We hit it off immediately. Him: an eager-to-please wedding singer turned recording artist promoting his debut album. Me: a fresh-faced intern on my first big assignment for the Straight. I remember spending endless hours prepping for my interview, listening to every nuance of every croonified cover on that CD.

      It paid off. Our Q & A session turned into an afternoon adventure, with me tagging along for part of his Van City junket. No question was off-limits. We laughed; he cried (well, almost—if you want a Barbara Walters moment with the Bubster, ask him about his gramps). I was really feelin’ the all-access love.

      Two CDs later, it’s a different story. For starters, there were no advance copies of his third full-length studio album, Call Me Irresponsible, released in May 2007. Instead, his label hosted top-secret private listening sessions for individual reviewers.

      “Can I tell you how much I think that sucks shit?” Bublé says, calling from Los Angeles. “If I was one of you guys, there would be a part of me going, ”˜What are they hiding?’ ”

      The Juno Award–winning crooner clearly hasn’t lost his sense of humour. But there’s an edge to our baby-faced Burnaby boy. Almost every question I pose is met with a somewhat prickly response. I jokingly tease him about how he’s gone all Hollywood on my ass, what with his beautiful starlet of a girlfriend, Emily Blunt. There was a time when he would have rolled with it, but not anymore. “She wasn’t a star when I started dating her,” Bublé says of Blunt, the inspiration for his hit single “Everything”. “I thought she was a producer at the BBC. Of course, later I found out she was an actor. She went, ”˜I’m an actor,’ and I went, ”˜Yeah, okay—you’re an actor.”¦’ I mean, I’ve dated enough actors that
      happened to be waitresses as well. But then I saw her movie My Summer of Love, and I went, ”˜Oh my God, you’re an actor, like you’re a real, live kick-ass actor!’ ”

      Fair enough.

      “You don’t believe me, do you? You think I’m some big, shoddy, dick guy now?”

      Like I said, I’m not exactly feeling the love from David Foster’s beloved discovery. I change the subject to his latest album and innocently touch on the topic of Boyz II Men backing him up on the jazzed-up toe-tapper “Comin’ Home Baby” (not to be confused with his 2005 adult-contemporary megahit “Home”).

      “All I know is that they’re great singers,” he says of his dated, boy-band collaborators—and in a rather defensive tone, I might add. “They’re artists. They know what they’re doing, know what they want. And I just don’t give a shit who’s hot or who’s not.

      “On the last record I did, I wanted to do a duet with Nelly Furtado, and I had people saying, ”˜Oh man, why don’t we get Beyoncé—like, she’s really hot right now,’ ” Bublé continues. “But I want to work with someone because I think they’re stunning and because I think they’re great, and they’re gonna get what I’m doing and it’s going to complement what I’m doing. So yeah, there are some weird choices on this record.”

      One of his more ambitious collaborations is a bilingual cover of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” with Brazilian jazz legend Ivan Lins.

      “I thought, ”˜How wonderful and endearing is this—here I am, a kid from Burnaby, singing this song with my life experience with a man across the world from another generation who’s 60 years old,’ ” Bublé says. “Both of us singing in different languages about the exact same thing and having it [the song’s sentiment] mean the exact same thing to both of us. I thought it was really kind of cool.”

      That said, he does play it safe with several tracks, including the silky-smooth rendition of “Me and Mrs. Jones”, a song tailor-made for Bublé’s G-rated Rat Pack voice.

      Along with the covers, Call Me Irresponsible also offers the requisite Bublé-penned numbers, such as “Lost”, a breakup ballad he cowrote with Jann Arden. And then there’s the aforementioned Bob Rock–produced “Everything”, which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s adult-contemporary chart faster than any other single has in the last three years. With so much luck in the songwriting department, will the ratio of Bublé-penned songs to covers ever shift in his favour?

      “I think it has to be an organic thing,” he says. “It should be a natural progression. I don’t ever want to have a record that’s all originals. That would bore me as much as it would bore me to have an album of all covers. I’m a lucky boy. Right now, I get the best of both worlds. I get to sing stuff that I love, the stuff I’m passionate about. But at the same time, I get to come out with new songs. It’s a lot of fun for me.”

      Nice! Maybe next time, he won’t get so defensive on the phone.

      Michael Bublé plays G.M. Place on Saturday (January 12).

      In + out

      On why his label was so reluctant to send out advance copies of his CD: “I think they’re just pooping ’cause of Linkin Park and stuff. Somebody got ahold of it [Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight], and it was released [on the Internet] before the record was released. Of course, that’s not a really good thing.”

      On the moment he knew Emily Blunt was hitting the big time: “I saw The Devil Wears Prada, and about 15 minutes in, I turned to her and said, ”˜Your life is going to be changed forever.’ Apparently, both our lives changed together.”

      On his initial reaction to David Foster’s suggestion that he cover “Me and Mrs. Jones”: “I was like, ”˜This is so cheesy, David.’ But it turned out to be one of my favourites on the record.”

      On the many sides of Jann Arden”¦and himself: “She’s a wonderful person. She’s very funny. Yet she can be very serious, intense, and emotional, and so can I.”

      On how one music writer blew it on the first question: “She just said, ”˜This is whoever from the Province, but what are you wearing?’ ”