On Monday, the New York offices of Warner Bros. Records were decorated with the same yellow caution tape that graces the cover of Michael Bublé’s fourth studio album, Crazy Love (which just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart). Perhaps because they knew he’d be stopping by to do some press — and to interrupt a meeting of the top brass.
“It’s quite amazing actually,” he says after crashing that conference room gathering next door. (We heard the applause through the wall.) “I walked into the office in L.A. seven years ago and I did the same thing, and they had no clue who I was. I’ve been told the first thing I said was, ‘Hello, I’m your bitch, Michael Bublé, and I’m going to work so hard for you.’ I’m sure I was like the 10,000th person who came in, and they were like [mumbling under his breath], ‘Alright, let’s see what you can do.’ It turned out pretty good.”
After the jump, the crooner who earned a Grammy for his last effort, 2007’s Call Me Irresponsible, shares the stories behind some of Crazy Love‘s memorable tracks, his 30 Rock vocal cameo, the song he considers his finest performance (which you still haven’t heard), and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You didn’t come up with the caution tape concept for the album art, but it’s a great metaphor for love.
Michael Bublé: It’s strange for me that the question I’m most asked is, “What do you mean? Love is crazy?” I’m like, “Have you been in a relationship before?” Naturally, we think of love as being happy and like butterflies, but love can also be full of anger, jealousy, and control. There are negative aspects of love. There’s a wonderful bright light and a deep dark. It’s fun to explore that. But with [“Haven’t Met You Yet,” the lead single and one of two originals he cowrote on the album], I wanted to give people the hope that there’s the potential out there. The potential sometimes is enough to keep you going. My girlfriend [Argentinian starlet Luisana Lopilato, who appears in the song’s video] called me to tell me that she was looking on iTunes, and there were so many people going “Ohmigod, this is my song.”
On the flip side, you’ve got the album opener, “Cry Me a River.”
Anger. Bitter. Bitter Bublé.
It sounds like a Bond theme, with full symphony orchestra and timpani. Listening to it, you can see the graphics of the film’s opening credits. Is that what you were going for?
I wrote that opening — what would you call it? a fanfare? overture? — and I wanted it to be John Williams-esque, very cinematic. That’s where we started, and then David Foster wrote the rest of the arrangement. I’ve said from the day he started working on it till now, I think he deserves a Grammy. He’s written some of the greatest arrangements I’ve ever heard, and this, to me, stands out as one of the best.
You wanted to record this album, as much as you could, like your Motown heroes, with the band and background vocalists live with you in studio. You wanted to feel that presence, hear the space between the music, and I think we do on “Stardust” [which features a capella group Naturally 7].
That’s the first song we recorded. [Engineer] Humberto Gatica walked me into the studio, and he said, “Look at this,” and there were microphones all over the ceiling. Me and Naturally 7, we all sat in a circle around three hanging mics, and then my rhythm section sat about five feet away from us. We did, like, three or four takes. I ended up taking the second one, I think. There’s gonna be some people — I hope most people — who get a lot of joy hearing it because they really feel something. Maybe they won’t be able to articulate why, but they’ll get it. Then there’s gonna be people who are going to hear that not everything is perfect tempo or perfectly on pitch. I’m a human being, the Naturally 7 are human, the clarinet player’s human. If I have to give up the perfection for organic beauty, I’ll make the trade.
I wanted to do this song, and [arranger] Bob Rock said, what about Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and my first thought was, Well, they’re so cool. Will they want to do this with me? We asked them, and they went for it. I showed up in Brooklyn, and for the first time ever, recorded to eight-track. She came up to Vancouver to do the vocal, and I had a blast. I could listen to her tell stories all day. She was a guard at Rikers Island, for god’s sake, and the stories just about that are incredible.
When I saw “All I Do is Dream of You” on the track list, I was hoping you did it slow like Gene Kelly had done for a scene that was cut from Singin’ in the Rain.
[sings opening line that way] I never heard it.
So you always knew you wanted to swing it like Dean Martin?
When I was a kid, Dean Martin’s version was one of my favorite recordings. Actually, that’s my shower song. It always has been. If I’m in the shower and I’m in a good mood, I’m singin’ that. I love that song. It’s so sweet, isn’t it?
You must also love “Whatever it Takes” with Ron Sexsmith.
I’m the one who fought for that 13th track. It’s in my contract that I’m supposed to have 12. If you put a 13th song on, the artist pays for the mechanicals and royalties. I couldn’t help myself. I was gonna lose a song like “Whatever it Takes” or “At This Moment,” and it’s such a complete record for me thematically.
NO, I DON’T. I’m the only freakin’ person who doesn’t think about it. Alex P. Freakin’ Keaton. I was a big fan of Family Ties, but I never connected it. But that song, I was just a kid, and it was heartbreaking.
“If you’d stay I’d subtract 20 years from my life.”
Oh, dude. We’ve all been there where you love someone so much and they just aren’t in love with you, and there’s nothing you can do. But if there was just one thing you could do to change their mind… It’s heartbreaking. And when I sang it, I sang it. I felt it. Not the easiest. There’s — [stops himself, possibly from speaking about his break-up with actress Emily Blunt, which he’s admitted fueled the emotion of the album]. Yeah.
And he begins to cry. [He leans into tape recorder and pretends to wail.] But that lyric destroyed me, too, and I was also just a kid. Is there another lyric that cuts you to the core like that?
Yeah. There’s a song that didn’t make the record, that could be my favorite vocal I’ve ever done. I covered “End of May” by a group called the Actual Tigers. This tune is too beautiful to give away. I’ll use it for something special. You can look up the lyrics. They’re absolutely ridiculously real and beautiful, and I had a helluva time getting through the song. A helluva time.
A happier topic: How did you end up singing a ditty for 30 Rock last season?
[sings “Mr. Templeton”] I don’t know. They called me up and said, “They’re takin’ the piss out of ya on 30 Rock.” [Jack was ridiculed for the number of Bublé albums in his CD collection.] I love that show. I just got in trouble from an airline hostess on a flight from Chicago to Toronto because I was watching the Christmas episode, where Mother comes in to visit Jack, and I was laughing my ass off and I think people were trying to sleep. But I couldn’t help it, it’s beautiful, so hilarious. Anyway, they asked me to do it, and I took off to Bryan Adams’ studio in Vancouver, he’s a buddy of mine [who also provides background vocals on Crazy Love‘s second original tune, “Hold On”], and I did it there.
So your initial reaction was…?
This is awesomeness. One time I was watching King of the Hill, and they made fun of me. Peg came in to buy one of my records and basically, the guy at the record store was like, “Oh, I thought this was something that you’d, like, want to buy online.” I laughed. The truth is, I’ve been asked to do different shows, and my stipulation is that if I have to play myself — which I don’t want — then I have to make fun of myself. Every single time they say, “Okay, so you come on and you’re really sexy, okay. And the lead girl here, she likes you.” And I’m like, “No, no, no.” I went to Australia and did Da Kath & Kim Code. Kath and her husband, Kel, are in the mature-age dancers — it’s f—in’ hilarious — and they’re dancing behind me as I’m singing “Sway.” I’d flirted with her before the show, and now as I’m on stage, he’s giving me the evil eye and they’re arguing. All of the sudden, he takes a swing at me, I trip him, and as I finish the song with a big note, he knocks me out off the stage. I just did a TV show in Canada called Corner Gas. [Watch the clip.] That’s the stuff I want to do.
Last question: I’ve heard stories about Motown artists making bets on whose latest single would hit No. 1 first. Is there a community for that in your genre?
No. It would be lovely. My number-one guy, the guy I idolized more than anybody else, was Harry Connick Jr., and I’ve yet to meet him. I’m just a huge fan. As a matter of fact, I went for a nice hour-long jog in the hotel gym last night, and the thing that kept me moving was listening to [Connick’s 1991 album] Blue Light, Red Light and the song [“Stompin’ at the Savoy”] from When Harry Met Sally… where he just plays piano. I’m on the treadmill, literally [stands up, runs in place while humming and air-playing various instruments with great gusto]. So I’d like to meet him. I’m obviously in love with Tony Bennett, who I’ve had the great fortune of getting to work with. I’m in love with Diana Krall, and I know her and her husband [Elvis Costello], and they’re awesome… So I guess there is a weird little community. But if you ask those people, they probably wouldn’t give a damn about the commercial. They’ve seen it, they’ve done it. It’s only me who’s that shallow.
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