By Maureen Lee Lenker
November 16, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST
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Michael Bublé is feeling sentimental.

About a month before his tenth studio album Love debuts, the 43-year-old Canadian crooner is in a suite in West Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis running through his return to the studio, alternating between playing music on his phone and only half-jokingly referring to our conversation as a form of “therapy.” It should come as no surprise that a man who rose to fame singing standards would possess the same earnestness and nostalgic outlook in his response to interview questions as he does in his music.

“For the first time, I really hadn’t thought of it as a song-by-song thing,” he says about recording the new project. “I had allowed the songs to choose me as opposed to me choosing the songs.”

Love (out now) is his first album since the career-halting 2016 cancer diagnosis of his son Noah. For awhile, it seemed Bublé might not return to music at all. The singer had refocused his priorities on being a dad and wasn’t interested in public life. But sitting across from me at the dining table, he looks me in the eyes and makes a solemn pledge. “I never fell out of love with music. Not for one second,” he swears. “It was more about wanting to heal enough, so that [my family] would be able to take on the responsibility of [my] being a public person.”

There’s a sincerity when Bublé speaks, a reverence in his words that expresses the deep love he has for his music, his fans, and, most of all, his family — an affair that’s present in every note and song choice on his new album. It’s certainly there in the title: Love, expressed by a heart emoji because, for him, it’s an emotion so complex and big that no words can possibly define it.

The idea of Love originated a year earlier, with — what else? — a beer and pizza-fueled jam session between Bublé and his friends. He whips out his phone to show me videos of this, with him riffing on lyrics and making bawdy jokes. “Every song you hear on this record conceptually began that day,” he says. “When we [jammed], we all started to share ideas and that’s where the record was born. Not just born — it’s where I reconnected and I remembered how much I loved [music].

That love is what drove him from the start, when he drew producer David Foster out of retirement to float the idea of them both returning to the studio. He told Foster, “If I do come back, I don’t have room in my heart for anything but love and happiness and positive things. I want it to be joy. I want to do the songs I love with the people I love in the rooms I love.”

Reprise

Much of the album’s influence was also inspired by an unlikely source: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. “It’s this group of short stories that are his hypothesis on success, and it inspired me to make a record that would be my theory of love built within short stories,” the singer explains. “Each song was this journey, this through-line from the very start that [brings] you into my theory of this complicated, complex emotion we all feel.”

Bublé says the 11 tracks on the album (plus two bonus songs on a deluxe edition) were the only ones he ever considered. He chose them all during that tipsy hangout. “Forever Now,” a track Bublé wrote for his children, is the most personal, inspired by how much he loves being a dad. “It’s too much fun, I laugh all the time, it’s the best thing that ever happened,” he says. “I’ve never written a more succinct song talking about what many of us feel we’re brought to this earth to do. It was about time and sentimentality.” Though, he hopes listeners who aren’t parents will connect to the song’s message of unconditional love in any relationship, whether for a pet or best friend. “The most beautiful thing about music is people interpreting it, and it making their lives better,” he reflects. “One of the things I missed most was having that connection.”

While he’s eager for fans to hear it, he won’t be paying attention to its reception. One of the major things that’s changed for him is his new desire to let the music speak for itself. “I can make great music and I can give everything I have in a show, and I can be completely myself and be comfortable in my skin and have joy, but that’s where the control ends,” he says. “I can’t control how much it sells, what the streams are, so I don’t want to know. Because that part is not the important part. I sound like some purist guy, [but] that’s how I cope to survive this and do it in a pure way.”

He smiles. With Noah’s recovery and a romantic album set to launch him back into a career he adores, Bublé has a new lease on life. “I feel like when I was gone, there might have been a small part of my identity that I was losing,” he admits. “What I went through hasn’t just changed my perception of life, but I really want to live in a different way. I’m enjoying the moments of just getting to really be here with you and be present. Getting to go and be with beautiful people making the music I love has become more joy than I ever hoped it could be.”

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