Michael Buble returns to music with new purpose, passion
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Michael Buble is feeling the love.
The love of family, friends, fans and God.
The love is borne of unimaginable pain. In 2016, Buble’s oldest son Noah, then 3, was diagnosed with liver cancer. During a recent chat, the singer says his “life ended” with the news of his son’s illness. It’s clear the topic is still a rough one for the 43-year-old entertainer, who pauses for an audible deep breath. The emotions are still too raw.
Now 5, Noah is doing well and in kindergarten. Buble and his wife, actress Luisana Lopilato, also are the parents of 2-year-old Elias, who’s started preschool, and 3-month-old daughter Vida. The family dynamic is stronger than anything he could have imagined, says Buble, adding he is blessed beyond measure.
He says that’s why it was easy to walk away from from music, social media and the noise he says clutters up lives.
“Life has become very simple,” says Buble. “It’s about time and love and relationships and family. It’s given me great clarity about who I want to be as a person. . . I’m grateful for people’s compassion and their prayers and love. But I’m most grateful for the perspective I’ve been given through what was the roughest experience anyone can imagine. … I’m a religious man, but I wasn’t always that way. This experience brought be back around to that.”
The time away from the spotlight gave him time to look inward, especially when it came to his second love, music. His new album, out Nov. 16, is titled “love.”
“I don’t think I ever fell out of love with music,” Buble says. “Everything just had to be put aside to be with my family.”
They moved temporarily from Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles, where Noah underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
“And then there was that moment that clicked [early in 208], and I asked my band members to come to Vancouver, and we ordered pizza and got drunk and played video games and just started jamming again. I was reminded how much I love music and how much I love creating.”
Buble has been creating music in earnest since 2000, when he was the guest singer for then-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter’s wedding. One high-profile guest would change his life that night: producer/composer David Foster, who soon afterward signed Buble to a record deal. His 2003 debut album of standards catapulted the singer to stardom. His 2011 Christmas album is one of the best-selling holiday albums of all time.
The new album — its title rendered as a stylized heart emoji — is Buble’s 10th studio effort.
“A lot of the new record was finished that day,” Buble says, referring to his pizza/beer epiphany. “It was such a loose, fun process that I said, ‘I have the concept for an album.’ That was the moment I realized I would go back into the studio.”
He called Foster, a close friend of the family who has worked with him on five albums. But, after four decades, Foster also had walked away from the recording studio, focusing on touring and writing a Broadway musical.
“He told me flat-out, ‘Michael, I’ll never go back into the studio,’ ” Buble says. “We talked about all the stuff I was going through, and David said that, if he did go back in, it would have to be for something natural and organic and beautiful. It should be about love: making the music you love, the songs you love to sing. In retrospect, that sparked something in both of us.”
Foster signed on to the project, to co-produce alongside Buble and his longtime collaborator Jochem van der Saag. The album is a return of sorts to Buble’s early “crooner” days, awash in Great American songbook standards boasting Foster’s signature lush arrangements and Buble’s contemporary spins. Take for example, “Unforgettable,” the Nat King Cole classic reborn in 1991 as a virtual duet with daughter Natalie Cole decades after the legendary singer’s passing — and produced by Foster. Buble takes the song in a whole new un-Fosterlike direction.
“I fought him on that song,” Foster says, laughing. “I thought he was making it too hard, too edgy. So we fought. And he prevailed.
“He was right, and people are loving this new version of it.”
“I’m really grateful to Michael for getting me back into the studio,” Foster continues. “He’s made some good records without me. But I think we both realized this was the right time for us to get back together again. … He’s truly fearless when it comes to music. And he’s not lying when he says he’s a changed man. Imagine the emotional rawness he was able to draw on from the last few years.”
The album’s first single, Charlie Puth’s “Love You Anymore,” is already making huge waves on streaming platforms. The Rodgers & Hart classic “My Funny Valentine” gets a dramatic overhaul. An emotionally charged “Forever Now,” written by Buble, touches an emotional chord. “La Vie En Rose” is a charming and sweeping duet featuring jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” a duet with “The Voice” alum Loren Allred, surprises with a generous dose of mariachi. A gorgeous, strings-driven arrangement on Lorenz Hart’s haunting “Where or When” is a perfect reminder of Buble’s prowess with the Great American songbook.
Buble knew what he wanted to say musically. It was all about giving back to his fans for their outpouring of support and also a reminder of the music he loves making.
“My last album [‘Nothing But Me’] was released two years ago,” he says. “I’m not even close to being that same person I was back then. The experience I went through changed my perception of life. I realized that so many things I thought really mattered really don’t.
“Time is everything. You can buy things and buy more things. But you can’t buy time. “I will never let my insecurities, my ego have an impact on my happiness.”
No more tweets or posts except about his work, which also now includes being an advocate for Stand Up to Cancer. That led him to a recent episode of “Carpool Karaoke with James Corden” that was fun but also hugely moving.
“I pray to Jesus Christ to let me care about [things] I can change. I’m not interested in chart positions or the numbers. I did the very best job creating the very best message musically that I could with this album.
“At the end of the day, love is everything. It’s the only thing that matters.”