Michael Bublé spills the details on how an "All Too Well" nod ended up in his latest music video.

Michael Bublé may be a music star himself, but that doesn't mean he's not also a fan.

The crooner, who returns March 25 with Higher, adores The Beatles and Taylor Swift. Like much of the rest of the world. But when he started piecing together his new album, he wanted to push himself creatively in ways he never had before — that meant seeking out fresh producers and inspirations.

Bublé covered "Can't Buy Me Love" on a previous album, and he first met Paul McCartney about 10 years ago after a show in Toronto. But he was still astonished to receive a letter from McCartney asking him to take a stab at covering one of his songs.

"It said, 'I hear you're making a record. We're so excited for you! And I have this song that means a lot to me. And I really think you'd do a great job,' " he recounts. "And I thought, 'Wow, that's incredible.' And I knew the song. I wrote back, 'I would love Paul's help.' I said, 'I'm going to work. I'm trying to come up with a concept that's deserved of me interpreting this great song.' "

The song is McCartney's "My Valentine," off his 2012 album Kisses on the Bottom. Along with his arranger, producer Greg Wells, and his bass player, Bublé set up a garage band-esque studio to make a demo for McCartney. "The arrangement was based off of an idea that I always loved the depth and the dark sort of broodiness of Sinatra's 'When I was 17 [vocalizes]' — no movement rhythmically without the internal organs of the orchestra," he explains. "No guitar or drums, just all the movement coming from the symphonic writing. So we did this little demo and I sent it off to Paul's manager with my phone number."

A few days later, McCartney called him up to praise the demo, prompting Bublé to ask him if he'd consider producing the track, and he agreed.

Michael Bublé
Credit: Warner Records

Bublé says he's now watched all of Get Back on Disney+, but that he's happy he didn't watch it before they worked together, allowing him to go into the recording experience with no preconceived notions of his working methods. "There's certain things that he has that you can't put on paper," Bublé gushes. "It's his ability as a leader of men to walk into a studio and to bring a vibe that lifts everybody up. He's truly, genuinely interested in the human condition, which probably makes him an even greater musician."

He still can't quite believe that he got to work in the studio with a Beatle, but he can't say enough about how down-to-earth and genuine McCartney is, expressing his wish to be a mentor like that to young musicians himself someday.

But first, there's a new album to put out into the world. Bublé broke down how his new approach radically shifted his view of making music, how he ended up paying tribute to Taylor Swift in his new music video, and why he'll never stop chasing the next great collaboration.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your last album, Love, you told me was built around love in all its mini forms, but specifically around rediscovering your love of music. Would you say Higher is similarly built around one particular theme?

MICHAEL BUBLÉ: Listen, when I made that record, I was struggling. I was limping back into the world. You saw a kid with a pretty broken heart trying to protect myself by choosing songs and making a record that felt really safe and warm and cozy to me. It was a beautiful process, and I needed it because I don't think I had the strength to reach any further than that. Not that it wasn't ambitious. But I've definitely healed. I can breathe. I'm starting to come out of the other end and not only am I living, but I'm loving life. I was able to reach and be ambitious and the opposite of protecting myself. Honestly, I tried to put myself in uncomfortable situations because I could. I tried to be ambitious because I could and because I felt good and I wanted to breathe and I wanted to celebrate life. What you hear on this record is joy, contentment, gratitude, and a lot of love, again, but a love of life.

That last album was your return to music after a very difficult time in your family's life. Now this one was recorded and came out of this lockdown and pandemic period. Are you like, "Can the next one just be normal?"

[Laughs] No. It's interesting. The process was really exceptional for me. It all started with a man named Captain Tom Moore, who was this incredible veteran in England who had walked around his garden and raised 34 million pounds for people that who'd gone through COVID. I was really moved by it, so I recorded a song for him. I did a video with my kids and my family. I sang, "We'll Meet Again," the World War II song and his daughter played it for him. There was one copy. He passed away not long after that. His daughter asked if she could use something to play at the funeral. They wanted "Smile," and it got into my head of, "Okay, maybe this is the beginning of this new record. What a beautiful hopeful, brave man." He gave us so much and I thought, "What a wonderful way to start the record."

So I called up my co-writer Alan Chang, and I said, "Alan, I want have this idea of this really ambitious arrangement. I love 1940s MGM musicals." He said, "Mike, I'm happy to do it, but for 20 years, Mike, you've made these records the same way. You've basically been the producer. You have written, you have arranged, you have had your hands on everything." He said, "Wouldn't it be interesting to let go, a bit, and to work with people you've never worked with and to open up the process to sharing a little bit more?"

And I got hurt by it because I said, "What, Al? You don't think I've done good work?" He said, "No, Mike, you've obviously done good work. You've sold 70 million records." He said, "I just think it might be fresh for your audience to hear something that's just different." So I did. I spent this whole process making sure that I didn't hold things too close to my chest. When I got to the finish line, I realized I hadn't made a record that was just fresh for the audience, it was fresh to me.

You wanted to be more open and creative and not keep so tight a leash on things. How do you feel that ended up manifesting itself?

Through COVID, it naturally and organically manifested itself. There were moments over and over and over again, whether I'm meeting with Jules Buckley on Zoom for "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," and I send it to him and it comes back and instead of micromanaging and sitting and working piece by piece, I'm taking two days with it. I'm putting all my ideas in it and saying, "Now, here you go. Now you take two days and you put your ideas." So it's all building, no destroying. It just ended up working like that in the pre-production and it was so different for me. I like the process so much that I think I would like to continue down that path.

In addition to the McCartney produced track, you also have a duet with Willie Nelson on his song, "Crazy." How did that happen?

Well, this came from the "dude." I call [producer] Bob Rock, the "dude." We were in the studio and I always loved Willie's single, "Crazy." The truth is, I held Willie in the same regard as I did Sinatra and Nat [King Cole] and Ella [Fitzgerald]. For me, the record he made, the Stardust record, was for me one of the most important, great American songbook albums. I was friends with his son, and I had always been so effusive with how much I loved dad and everything. Bob said, "You know we're neighbors in Maui?" I was like, "What?" And he said, "Yeah, dude. Do you want me to call and ask if maybe he'll play the guitar on the track?" I said, "Sh--, Bob, if you're going to ask him to play guitar, will he sing with me?" And they said yes. It's my favorite duet of all time. It's one of two songs on this record that I could listen to over and over.

Michael Bublé
Credit: Andy Prevezer

You and your wife did the "I'll Never Not Love You" music video together and I feel that your albums always kind of have a cinematic shape, but this one takes that quite literally. How did you decide what films you would feature in that?

The idea came from a girl named Amy Foster, who wrote "Haven't Met You Yet" with me. She's a daughter of [producer] David Foster, and she's like my sister. I had all these different concepts I liked. She said, "Mike, you love cinema more than anyone else I know. Why don't you take a journey through a bunch of movies into your favorite films?" I was like, "Oh, Amy, this is amazing. What a great idea. Now I just need to cast the right lady." Amy said, "You're an idiot." I'm not lying, that's exactly what she said. And I was like, "Why?" She said, "Your wife is the greatest actress, the most beautiful. And by the way, you happen to be madly in love with this woman. What are you thinking, idiot?" I was like, "Oh my God, you're right."

It was one of the most moving things that's ever happened in my life. Because I thought [my wife] would say, "Oh cool. Yeah, that sounds cool." But she didn't. She said, "You want me?" And I died. I mushed inside. I said, "What do you mean I want you?" She said, "You really want me to do it with you?" I said, "Oh my God, yes." [starts getting choked up] Why do I cry all the time and everything to do? I got to get my sh-- together.

How'd you end up with the snippet from Taylor Swift's "All Too Well" in there?

Well, I'm a Swiftie. I love Taylor Swift. I really do. She's an amazing singer and songwriter and entertainer. That 10 minute film is beautiful. it's funny, I was talking about a friend of mine named Gerry Graph, who's in one of the great marketing guys in the world. We were talking about it, and he was like, "What about that? That belongs in those great love stories. And how cool is it to be able to include something that's so current?" I had no idea that it would have the effect it did. I wondered if it was just me where people would go like, "What's this?" By the way, my wife killed it. It was really important for her to get that moment as close as she could. She loved the challenge of recreating these scenes from our favorite films. I think she really liked me in the wig of The Notebook. She said to me, "I get to have my fantasy of going home with Ryan [Gosling]."

You worked with a lot of new people on this album, whether it was Paul McCartney and Willie Nelson or all these new producers you teamed up with. Clearly it's had an impact on you. Are there now people you're looking ahead to the future where you're like, "I want to work with this person. I want to work with this person"?

I would very much like to work with Jon Batiste. He's a great soul who just happens to be an incredible musician. One of my good friends is a young guy named Sebastian Yatra. He's a great singer. I've worked with him before. We did this song with Gary Barlow together, but we're great friends. He's another one I love. I've gone to someone like Cécile McLorin Salvant, who I sang a duet with on the last record. I've asked her in the future, if she would ever be interested in producing for me. I've had those conversations with Diana Krall, as well. Because I'm a big fan of Diana as a person and as a musician.

I'm open. I think of myself as a soul singer, who loves jazz and the American songbook. The roots of jazz grow into the tree of everything that we love. It's rock and roll. It's R&B. It's soul. It's rap. It's hip hop. It's country. There's this great ability to connect organically with all these kinds of music, if it's done right. You don't want to turn "Paradise City," or whatever, into some bad swing thing. That's just terrible lounge [music], but there's so many things you can do tastefully that allow you to infiltrate different styles and genres. For me, as long as I love what I'm doing and I believe in what I'm doing, I hope that I can continue to just grow and fight the categorization that all of us human beings need and want.

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