Q&A: Michael Buble on Covering Randy Newman and Duetting With Reese Witherspoon

Rolling Stone
Q&A: Michael Buble on Covering Randy Newman and Duetting With Reese Witherspoon
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Q&A: Michael Buble on Covering Randy Newman and Duetting With Reese Witherspoon

Michael Bublé's To Be Loved comes out today, and if it hits the top of the charts it would be the fourth straight Number One for the Canadian superstar. These are good times for the singer, who is about to become a first-time dad. But before he and his wife have a son (due in August), Bublé will celebrate the new album's release with 10 nights at London's O2 Arena.

"They wanted 20 nights," Bublé told Rolling Stone of his massive stand at the same venue that hosted Led Zeppelin's 2007 reunion show. "But then it felt like a residency."

Bublé spoke to Rolling Stone about his new duet with Reese Witherspoon, his fandom for Randy Newman and how his wife influences him musically.

You were just in Miami at the same time as Ultra Music Festival. Coincidence, or are you a fan?
I went and talked to [Warner Bros. Chairman] Rob Cavallo and we talked about that, because I've actually wondered why more of my shit hasn't been sampled. To me, it would be perfect to take it and do something with it. I've taken stuff to people like Junkie XL early on and had him do stuff, but the truth is I'd love to see what somebody like Deadmau5 could do. I think it would be awesome. Bob Rock and I had a long talk about it, and Bob said he was gonna call him and see if he'd be interested. I don't know if he would be, but I would love that – I think he's great.

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Are there any tracks on To Be Loved in particular you'd love to see somebody remix?
Actually, the single, "It's a Beautiful Day," or even something like "Who's Loving You," Something with a nice heavy groove, a great backbeat, I think, works pretty well.

I always love those collaborations people wouldn't necessarily expect.
Totally. Years ago Mike Shinoda called me and he asked me to do something with a band [Styles of Beyond] he was working with. It was called "Damn," and actually all my buddies say it's one of their favorite things I ever did. It was a lot of fun. My buddies still ask me about it. When they come over and they're having drinks, that's the one they want to hear. Surprisingly, my friends don't want to hear "Home" when we're getting wasted and playing poker.

What is their poker music of choice?
These are the boys I've known since I was five years old. I've had the same friends, and so they're really excited about the stuff. So for this record they like to hear "It's a Beautiful Day" ad nauseam, which I'm pretty much over at this point, and I think their favorite song on the record is "I've Got It Easy," which I did not expect. But that's kind of the favorite.

Why did you not expect that one?
Out of all the other songs I've ever written with my co-writers, it divides people – they either absolutely love it or they don't like it. There's never really much of an in-between. It's weird – I find people of a certain age, after 50, don't like it, and people under, that's their favorite song on the record.

What kind of musical taste does your wife have?
I'm 37 and my wife is 25, and the stuff that moves her, it's fascinating to me. Last night we went to this really great restaurant in Miami and there was this kind of swing version of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," and I thought my wife was gonna get on the table and start dancing. She loved it. It's something I wouldn't have expected her to go nuts for – it's so different for me.

Will you be touring before or after the baby is due?
In July my tour starts. I do 10 nights at the O2 in London and then I do five nights in Ireland, and then I come home, and I've taken off that whole month so I can be with her and be part of it. I've even changed my tour schedule – I changed it to three weeks on and two weeks off so they're in bite-size pieces. I might have to tour a little longer – it might be like a Thirty Seconds to Mars tour, the two-and-a-half fucking year tour – but if I have to do that it's better for me than to have be gone too much.

Are there people you've gotten advice from that you still use?
I used to open for Jay Leno, and he used to say to me, "Play the backyards. If you play the backyards, they own you, they feel ownership." So that's what I did. The worst Jay Leno ever.

What are some of the new songs you're excited to get onstage?
I think a lot of the Motown stuff, "Who's Loving You" and "To Love Somebody," is gonna be a blast for me, because I recorded this record with Naturally 7, and these boys have become a big part of my life. They kind of come with me all over the place and they're the support act, but they're not just a support act – they're part of a subculture that I want to be part of and be part of building. So having them with me, it's a blast. It's a blast for me to be able to get up there and have these guys come up there in the middle of a show and sort of change the whole dynamic of a show, because it changes the whole genre. It allows me truly in this show to be as schizophrenic as my records are. I'm just a music lover. I was talking to buddies of mine on a message board and they were asking me what I was listening to, and in the last two days I went running, and I was listening to everything from Guns N' Roses and Eminem to Otis Redding to Harry Connick Jr. And so the fact that I get to go on stage and sing and do some awesome standards and pop songs and do some soul and R&B and rock is amazing. It never gets boring for me.

Have you ever heard from any of the artists you've covered?
I think the Eagles dug it. I did "Heartache Tonight," and some of the boys seemed to like it. I covered a song called "End of May" by a group called the Actual Tigers, and it was just a great indie group, and the feedback I got from them was amazing. They really loved it, and I think that one of the men got to buy his retirement house or something, so that was really cool. I always wonder, too, when you cover somebody's song and it's so close to them, like on this record I'm covering "You've Got a Friend in Me," the Randy Newman song. I love Randy Newman and I hope when he hears it he thinks, "This is a cool rendition, that the life I breathe into it is fresh and I've done something with the song he likes." But it's not often you hear that.

How did the duet with Reese Witherspoon come about on "Something Stupid"?
It came about because I've always loved the song, and when I started thinking about the concept of how to do it the first thoughts I had were pop stars – Katy Perry, [Lady] Gaga, anybody. I was just throwing out names to my manager, and he's the one who said, "What about Reese Witherspoon?" He and I kind of have a fascination with Johnny Cash – we love Johnny Cash, we loved Walk the Line, and we loved her in that, and both of us had huge crushes on her. I told him, "It's an incredible idea, but good luck getting her." And lo and behold he called CAA, we got in touch with her husband, and I ended up getting on the phone with her. And she was understandably nervous – it's not her world. I told her I was gonna take care of her and if it wasn't right and didn't come out the way she hoped it would, I'd scrap it. She came into the studio, she was prepared, and it was nice for me, because she was one of the few people who I've ever talked about the song with who understood the premise of the song so well. She understood the subtext.

What do you take from To Be Loved, and what do you hope others take from it?
I get sentimental about it because I'm so proud of Bob Rock, because he believed in me, and this guy was a genius. I hope Bob gets a Grammy nod. He deserves it. It had to be scary for him – I put him in a position where he had to go out and do something that he'd never really done, and he didn't just do it, he did it better than it's ever done before. To me, it's the most natural, authentic record of my life, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing it. 

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: Q&A: Michael Buble on Covering Randy Newman and Duetting With Reese Witherspoon
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