Crazy For Bublé
Michael Bublé’s big boyish eyes are a little droopy, and he is sniffly with a summer cold but the Canadian singing sensation is always up for a friendly chat with reporters. He wears his signature off-stage look: jeans, T-shirt and a ball cap worn backwards. He is holed up in a trendy hotel in his hometown of Vancouver doing interviews for his fourth release, Crazy Love, which came out in early October.
In the next room is his girlfriend Luisana Lopilato, a 22-year-old Argentine actress, model and musician. Lopilato speaks little English, but Bublé, who also knows Italian, has learned enough Spanish to make the relationship work.
It’s no wonder he’s sick. Since the release of his debut album almost seven years ago, he’s worked a breakneck cycle of recording and touring. With record sales only making up what he figures is 10 per cent of his earnings, the touring is all-important to his pocketbook. These days, record sales can’t compare to what an artist can make on the road, even if that artist has, like Bublé, sold in the order of 22 million records.
Around the release of his second album, It’s Time, he had flown from Los Angeles to London, England, to Chicago for The Oprah Winfrey Show. When he returned to Vancouver that night, his manager told him he had to get back on the plane for a one-day trip to London. Bublé says, “I cried.”
In truth, he doesn’t have to do any of it. He could refuse.
Relentless drive has its rewards. The 34-year-old son of a fisherman from the suburb of Burnaby, B.C., is in a position in his young life where he now calls the shots. And he knows it. When touring, he now pulls in about $8 million gross a month. Last year he figures he grossed about $70 million — and, yes, he is the rare breed of entertainer who will disclose such lucrative earnings.
“I think it’s neat that people know because I think I’m the most famous guy you’ve never heard of,” he says. “In my country, people know who I am but, in America, the profile isn’t as high.”
That might be about to change since the album debuted at number 1 on Billboard Charts in the U.S., as well as reaching number 1 in Canada.
Bublé strolled through the hallowed corridors, pointing to pictures of Frank Sinatra, Keely Smith, Nat King Cole and other famous recording stars. When he finally got his turn to sing, an excited Bublé would pop a cough drop, snort on a nasal inhaler, go into the booth and most often nail it. Meanwhile, a low-key Foster propped his feet up on the soundboard and bopped his head to Bublé’s rendition of “Pennies From Heaven” (a track that does not make the final cut). He’d then praise Bublé, telling him, “You swing harder than anybody I’ve met.”
Early in their careers, many artists relinquish creative control in order to get a record deal. Bublé was no exception. But as record sales have mounted, he has asserted himself further into the director’s chair.
Before starting the record, Bublé says he had dinner with Foster at a Vancouver steak house. He recalls how the conversation went.
“He asked, ‘So are we going to work together?’ I said, “Yeah, but I want it to be different.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘I want us to engineer differently. I want us to set up the microphones. I don’t want this to be mechanical. I want this to be old school and have edge and some kind of vibe that I need for myself so I can listen to these records.’
“He said, ‘That is not what I do.’
“I went, Bullshit, you’re the greatest producer in the world. Don’t tell me you can’t do this. You won’t leave your comfort zone?’ I pumped him up and I think it worked.”
So, with a songwriting career in mind, he is gradually making the crossover into pop territory, securing a broader and younger demographic. He co-wrote the pop single for the new album, “Haven’t Met You Yet” and a brooding ballad called “Hold On.”
His decisions aren’t met entirely without opposition from his producers and management, who are, after all, hired to guide him. For example, Foster was opposed to the inclusion of “Stardust” and the heartbreak hit “At This Moment.”
The latter song, in particular, resonated with Bublé because of his breakup last year with his girlfriend of three-and-a-half years, British actress Emily Blunt. Blunt recently confirmed rumours of her engagement to The Office actor John Krasinski. Bublé was so torn up by the split that a member of his team from the record label slept on his couch for a couple of days and talked him through it.
He has called the breakup “the best thing and the toughest thing that’s ever happened to me” because of the pain he endured and the revelations that made him face up to his own insecurity and fragile ego.