More than 15 years ago, Michael Bolton cut his hair and people are still talking about it. Those reinventions meant to shock the public perception are supposedly what keep celebrities’ images interesting. Yet Bolton, that same artist and performer for more than 40 years, is back in the limelight less for a reinvention than a revelation. Over the past two years, a never-before-seen Bolton has come to light, exposing a truth on which fans and nonfans can agree: Michael Bolton is a lot more fascinating than the public may think.
You may know he’s sold more than 53 million albums. You may not know he got kicked out of Hebrew school, got high instead of attending high school and opted for the school of hard knocks by bumming around Greenwich Village in his early teens and hitchhiking penniless across the country.
You may know he co-wrote the hit “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” and has also written songs for Cher and Barbra Streisand. You may not know he co-wrote songs with Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga and has also written songs for artists from Conway Twitty to Kanye West. He also wrote the U.S. Army jingle, “Be All You Can Be.”
You may know he’s a two-time Grammy winner who’s earned three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist. You may not know his AMA record is matched only by Barry Manilow, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson.
You may know that “Dancing with the Stars’” judge Bruno Tonioli called his jive the worst in the ABC show’s history. You may not know that he’s a sports all-star and that his golf benefits for Michael Bolton Charities have helped raise more than $10 million for at-risk women and children. He recently told Katie Couric on her eponymous daytime talk show that growing up, his family was an “inch away from being homeless.”
He’s also a relentless jokester, a revelation that stunned the public in May 2011 with the music video release of “Jack Sparrow,” a collaboration with The Lonely Island comedy trio that to date has more than 100 million views. The hilariously irreverent and unequivocally goofy track defied his one-dimensional, gossamer soft rock image by, really, just revealing the Michael Bolton authentic.
A vault of these revelations rub pages in his new book, “The Soul of it All,” a breezy read packed with entertaining accounts of his coming of age, plus some downright shocking tales of his hazy, crazy days playing street corners for change and how he inexplicably survived some legit brushes with death. He recounts with humor and tenderness – along with the poeticism of a songwriter – how playing ball with Dad inspired his lifelong competitive streak, how Mom had to co-sign his first contract with CBS’ Epic Records when he was 16, and the down and dirty intricacies of his rise from a New Haven garage band singer to performing with Luciano Pavarotti and B.B. King. And yes, he certainly speaks of his relationship with longtime love Nicolette – Sheridan, for you Bolton newbies – on whom he bestows a flood of admiration and accolades, including, how “she’s the only person I’ve met who can kick my ass in Scrabble.”
Last month, Bolton, a Motown devotee, launched his new tribute album, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and a week later returned to his home state’s Ridgefield Playhouse for a Valentine’s Day performance in front of a packed house. Amid his frenzied schedule, the legend revealed to WAG some details of his current life that readers can’t find in his book – specifically, his home life in Westport. Here you can read where he finds R&R, what it’s like at home with his three daughters and two granddaughters, who of the crew does most of the crying and how he looks dressed as a woman.
Michael, you’re currently on tour around the country. How much fun have you had with fans so far?
“My fans are the best and most loyal fans in the world. Being able to see them when I am on tour is the best part of performing. We have fun onstage and off. I wish I had more time to spend with them in each place, but we are usually moving on pretty quickly after the shows.”
You live in nearby Westport. When you perform in Ridgefield, do you experience a feeling of homecoming?
“Absolutely. Coming back home to perform always feels great and brings me kind of full circle – performing in my home state, where I had my first fans when I started out, in Connecticut and New York. This time the enjoyment came with a feeling of sadness, knowing that people affected by the recent tragedy in neighboring Newtown (would) be in the audience. We hoped to bring some light and love on Valentine’s Day and celebrate the meaning of the day, loving each other.”
You’re originally from New Haven, so is that what drew you to settling down in Westport? What else makes you call the area home?
“I wanted a safe place with great schools to raise my daughters. We have the privacy we need in this small-town setting. When I was shopping for homes over 20 years ago, I fell in love with this charming, beautiful town and most importantly, its close proximity to New York airports. I love getting the chance to drive my own cars around town when I am home.”
We imagine you wrapping a packed tour run and not wanting to leave the sofa for weeks. Is that accurate in your case, or do you find it hard to slow down? When and where do you get your best R&R?
“That is a very accurate description of my touring life, and R&R is hard to grab. I stay active all of the time, even when I’m home. I have a home office and studio and I rarely stop working. The couch and I don’t get together very often. Golf and tennis are my R&R outlets.”
Any favorite eateries or hangouts?
“One of my closest friends, Tommy Febbraio, owns amazing restaurants. One of his newest in downtown Westport (Spotted Horse) is my favorite. I also love Italian – I am a junk-food vegetarian, and pasta, eggplant, etc. are available – and I have two real favorite Italian restaurants, one in Westport, one in Greenwich.”
When you retreat to your home, do you find it a quiet refuge or a bustling abode?
“My house is definitely bustling. My girls come and go and there is noise and laughter and crying – not the babies, but me, trying to work in the midst of love and chaos and lots and lots of squeals and jumping up when they try to eat a pen, or get too close to the stairs. Millie and Gwen, my granddaughters, steal the show. There is baby gear everywhere, lots of pink and horses on wheels and tricycles and things they jump up and down in. It is crazy and wonderful. And yes, pets included. My girls rescue Boxers and two of them come and go as well.”
Beside your music career, do you enjoy particular hobbies at home?
“Golf. Hands down, golf. I also have a tennis court and friends come over and play. I do not cook or garden, but I read, write and enjoy driving my own car freely around town, stopping at Starbucks or a juice bar. I am also a bit of a referee. With three daughters – all bright, beautiful and very independent thinkers – things can get … interesting.”
As an artist, what kind of creative inspiration do you glean from your home surroundings?
“My inspiration comes from different sources, in different ways. At home, the love I have for my girls and family and the heartbreaks that all families experience, speaks to me. I live on a lake and the view is breathtaking. Sitting on my own patio, enjoying my home on the rare occasions I am home creates the perfect backdrop for writing.”
How did you enjoy collaborating with The Lonely Island on the sidesplitting music video “Jack Sparrow”? How did the process compare with other recordings?
“Surprisingly, it was not much different. Behind the scenes when I am recording there are a lot of jokes and laughing and irreverent behavior. With the Lonely Island guys it was that times 10. They are crazy and we had a lot of fun … laughing till it hurt.”
Not only did you lend your world-famous vocals to “Jack Sparrow,” you also dressed like the Johnny Depp pirate character, Forrest Gump, Scarface and even in drag as Erin Brockovich. We can only imagine … what was that like?
“Much different than I thought it would be. It was actually fun. I loved ‘Scarface’ and ‘Forrest Gump,’ so portraying those characters was really enjoyable. As far as the Erin character is concerned – that was scary, because I looked just like my mother.”
How much did you enjoy revealing your sense of humor to the world beyond your typical fan base?
“Immensely. I am a shameless jokester. For so many years, many people did not see this side of me, but it is definitely a huge part of who I am and I have so much fun revealing that to my fans. A huge perk is that I have a whole new set of fans as a result of the comedic side.”
People magazine recently named you one of their Sexiest Men Alive 2012. It’s not the first time you’ve been given the title, but you’ve mentioned in the past that you were an “ugly kid”” How does it make you feel – newly 60 – to still make generations of women swoon?
“Very humbling. I am an incurable romantic and I feel that comes through in my music and is a big part of how women see me.”
We can’t avoid the question: How do you stay looking so fantastic?
“Thank you! I do have a home gym, but am hardly ever home to use it. I work out in hotels, in my dressing room, wherever I can. I do not work with a trainer. I play tennis whenever I can.”
What can your fans look forward to on the horizon?
“I have other projects I am working on but not quite ready to reveal those.”
Clearly, fans will just have to stay tuned.