Music Interviews
5:09 am
Sun April 28, 2013

Michael Bublé On Fishing, Sinatra And Auto-Tune

Originally published on Sun April 28, 2013 6:40 pm

In some ways, Michael Bublé is just of a different time. The songs the Canadian crooner sings are the Motown, jazz and swing classics he grew up listening to with his grandfather. Bublé says he misses the pure, unadulterated sound of music made back then — though he is willing to use a little Auto-Tune once in a while.

"I use it as a means to get onto pop radio, onto Top 40 radio," Bublé says. "It's kind of an effect, I guess, that you hear so much on modern radio that if you don't have it, you don't really get played."

"People's ears are so tuned to it now. It's almost cosmetic surgery — you can fix little things. I think if it's not overused, it's okay. I have a feeling that if Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were alive today, they might just use it once in a while."

Bublé's latest studio album, his eighth, is called To Be Loved. Here, he discusses singing — in the New York subway, in the shower, and as a way of staying in touch with his emotions — with NPR's Rachel Martin.


Interview Highlights

On spending time in the family business

My father was a fisherman, and I was a fisherman, and my father's father was a fisherman. My great-grandfather emigrated from Italy, and he was a shipbuilder. It's hard work, but I found great camaraderie in it."

On what's changed since the heyday of the male crooner

"These guys ... sang these incredibly romantic songs, and you know what? It was macho. There was something that was very manly about having the strength and having the courage to sing about love and romance. And I don't know what happened in our world where that was turned into being soft, because I don't think it's soft at all."

On why he won't cover Frank Sinatra's "My Way"

"I just — I haven't lived enough to sing the song yet. I'm a 37-year old kid. I haven't lived enough to sing that song with the conviction that it deserves to be sung with."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hip, edgy, cool. These are not words often used to describe Canadian singer Michael Buble. But he's over it. After all, he has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.

(SOUNDBITE OF "COME DANCE WITH ME")

MICHAEL BUBLE: (Singing) Here that, cutes? Put on your dancing boots and come dance with me...

MARTIN: Michael Buble is out with his eight studio album. It's called "To Be Loved." He went into our New York studio to talk with us about it. And before he knew I was listening in, I caught him warming up his voice.

BUBLE: (Singing) I don't think, I don't think I'm going to make. All of my life, all my life...

MARTIN: Hi, it's Rachel Martin.

BUBLE: Hey, Rachel. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm eavesdropping on you.

(LAUGHTER)

BUBLE: I was just singing some Jackson 5 stuff.

MARTIN: In some ways, Michael Buble is just of a different time. The songs he sings to himself and to his audiences are the classics he grew up listening to with his grandfather. Buble says he misses the pure, unadulterated sound of music made back then - Motown, jazz, swing. Today, almost all pop music hits are produced to the hilt, even Auto-Tuned to erase any musical imperfections.

Buble says it's a compromise he is willing to make, sometimes.

BUBLE: I'll be honest with you. On my original songs, if you listen, like, my new track called "It's a Beautiful Day," I have Auto-Tuned that.

(SOUNDBITE OF "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY")

BUBLE: (Singing) I don't know why you think that you could hold me when you couldn't get by, by yourself. And I don't know who would ever want tear the seam of someone's dream...

I use it as a means to get on to pop radio, onto Top 40 Radio. I mean, it's kind of like an effect, I guess, that you hear so much on modern radio that if you don't have it, you don't really get played.

MARTIN: So you can't really compete in that kind of place in mainstream radio circles unless you have that really polished sound?

BUBLE: Yeah. Well, you just sound - you sound out of place. People's ears are so tuned to it now that it's almost cosmetic surgery - you can fix little things. I think if it's not overused, it's always OK. Listen, I have a feeling that if Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were alive today, they might just use it once in a while

(SOUNDBITE OF "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY")

BUBLE: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, hey. It's a beautiful day and I can't stop myself from smiling. If I'm drinking, then I'm buying. And I know there's no denying...

The thing is I love Motown and I love those old, great records; listening to Frank and Basie and Dino and they didn't have that. And to me it sounded really natural and authentic, and that's what I want to do. That's what I want to bring people.

(SOUNDBITE OF "HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY")

BUBLE: (Singing) Have I told you lately that I love you? Can I tell you once again somehow? Have you told with all my heart and soul how I adore you? Well, darling, I'm telling you now...

MARTIN: I wonder how music infiltrates the everyday moments of your life. I mean, do you sing in the shower? Do you sing in the car? Are you the guy at family gatherings who stands everyone up during "Happy Birthday?"

BUBLE: No. It's strange. You know what? When it becomes your job you don't do as much. You know, it's funny. Today, I'm - really happy mood and I was just - you know, I just actually did something really amazing. I went out into the subway in New York. And its like been a dream of mine to go down into - you know, you haven't made it till you sing in the subway in New York.

MARTIN: You just stood there and busked?

BUBLE: You know what? I brought a group called Naturally 7, this incredible group that do all the stuff a cappella. They call it vocal play. We went down and did a song called "Who's Loving You." And it's probably the most fun I've ever had singing. I had a blast.

(SOUNDBITE OF "HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY")

MICHAEL BUBLE AND NATURALLY 7: (Singing) Don't you know I sit around with my head hanging down and I wonder who's loving you. Yes...

MARTIN: Is there a song you dare not cover or have been told not to cover?

BUBLE: Yes. there is Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

MARTIN: Just too big.

BUBLE: No, not too big. Just I haven't lived enough to sing the song yet. And I'm still - I haven't lived enough to sing that song, I think, with the conviction that it deserves to be sung with.

MARTIN: You grew up in British Columbia. Your dad, I understand, was a fisherman and you tried your hand at fishing?

BUBLE: Well, I didn't just try my hand. It came - it was a family business. I was a commercial fisherman. And if you've ever seen a show like "Deadliest Catch," that's kind of what we did. We went out and - when we didn't crab - but we went on to salmon and the herring and stuff. And that was my father was a fisherman. And my father's father was a fisherman. And my great-grandfather emigrated form Italy. He was a shipbuilder. Its hard work but I found great camaraderie in it.

MARTIN: I've read that you had a close relationship with your grandfather. He was someone who introduced you to a lot of music.

BUBLE: He still is. I still am really close to him. And, you know, it's part of the reason that I bookend into the record like this. The first song of record is "You Make Me Feel So Young." And the last song on the record is "Young at Heart." And so, when I sang "Young at Heart," I honestly, I sat with about 40 - something like 46 pieces - musicians, excuse. I think we took the very first take.

(SOUNDBITE OF "YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG")

BUBLE: (Singing) You make me feel so young. You make me feel that spring has sprung. And every time I see you grin, I'm such a happy individual...

I remember asking my grandpa. I say, Gramp - he's 85. And I said Grandpa, how does it feel to be 85? And he said, Sunshine, my body is 85. He said, But my mind is 17. That's kind of what moved me. And I closed my eyes and I smiled through the whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF "YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG")

BUBLE: (Singing) You and I are just a couple of tots, running along the meadow, snatching up all those forget-me-nots. You make me feel so young. You make me feel there are songs to be sung, bells to be rung and a wonderful spring to be sprung. And even when I'm old and gray...

MARTIN: There is a fundamental optimism in your music. Even if your song is about a breakup, the arrangements are just bright and the whole feeling is really positive. You are a pretty positive person in general, I'm getting that vibe.

BUBLE: I'm just as negative as you are.

MARTIN: Are you?

BUBLE: And it's...

MARTIN: I don't know, Michael, You don't know me.

(LAUGHTER)

BUBLE: Yeah. You know, to be frank with you, hon, I think it's just a really cynical world. And you know what? If there's horrible things happening and it's sad and depressing enough without having to make it more depressing, and if I can be a small part of giving people a vacation from the hard times, I'd rather be a part of that. And I would rather have people be even cynical about me than to feed the negative vibe. You know? There's enough stuff going on.

MARTIN: We also live in a time I think it's pervasive in our culture is a sense of irony. Everything has to be kind of a little bit biting in our pop culture and ironic. And I wonder if you've thought about that. Your music is not that. It is not ironic.

BUBLE: No, it's not. And I think that that's why I will never be the critics' darling. And when you're an artist, you're - I'm sensitive. You know? Like, I'm like as anyone else, you know? You go inside-out and you get naked for the whole world and you get judged. And I'll never be a critics' darling. And I always - I mean, you hope for it. You want to be commercially successful and critically acclaimed. But the truth is, there's only a few Bruce Springsteens and Paul McCartneys out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF "CRY ME A RIVER")

BUBLE: (Singing) Now you say you're lonely. You cried the whole night through. Well, you can cry me a river. Cry me a river, I cried a river over you...

I don't know what happened to this world where - look it, there was a day when these guys from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack sang these incredibly romantic songs. And you know what? It was macho. You know what? There was something that was very manly about having the strength and having the courage to sing about love and romance. And that was looked at as mucho. And I don't know what happened in our world where that was turned into being soft, because I don't think it's soft at all. I think a man can be in touch with his emotions.

(SOUNDBITE OF "CRY ME A RIVER")

BUBLE: (Singing) You were through with me and love. Now you say you love me. Well, just to prove that you do, why don't you cry me a river, cry me a river 'cause I've cried a river over you...

MARTIN: Is there one song that you think changed you life?

BUBLE: You know what the weirdest thing is? It might be Christmas song.

MARTIN: Oh, really?

BUBLE: You know what? I loved that Bing Crosby Christmas record so much growing up that I would listen to it through the year. I mean, I guess that was my introduction to probably jazz and melody. I was probably five years old or four years and I would listen to "White Christmas," and I just thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. The musicianship and his voice and the melody of that song; it's almost like I wish it wasn't a Christmas song because I wish that you were allowed to listen to it all year.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, we get to make our rules. And just because it's about to be summertime, would you mind just giving us a couple bars of that song?

BUBLE: Oh, my gosh. Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF "WHITE CHRISTMAS")

BUBLE: (Singing) I'm dreaming of a white Christmas with every summer card I write. May your spring be merry and bright and may all the rest of your summertime be hot.

BING CROSBY AND MICHAEL BUBLE: (Singing) I'm dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write...

MARTIN: Michael Buble, he joined us from our studios in New York. His new album is called "To Be Loved." It is out now.

Michael, it's just been a pleasure. Thanks so much.

BUBLE: It was my pleasure. Thanks so much. I really enjoyed the conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF "WHITE CHRISTMAS")

BUBLE: (Singing) And may all your Christmases be white...

MARTIN: That's Michael Buble in 2012 singing his favorite song with his idol Bing Crosby.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin dreaming of a white Christmas. What the heck?

(SOUNDBITE OF "WHITE CHRISTMAS")

CHORUS: (Singing) Just like the one I used to know...

BUBLE: (Singing) Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.