Ol' Green Eyes
By David Ciminelli
'Just in case you're planning to ask, I'll tell you: Michael has a beautiful penis,' announces power publicist Liz Rosenberg before disappearing into the next room giggling. Rosenberg's brash, sexy sense of humor makes it clear why she's Madonna's confidante and now one of 29-year-old Canadian crooner Michael Bubl's biggest supporters. But hanging out with Bubl' in his suite at West Hollywood's chic celebrity hideout, Le Parc Suites Hotel, we're not here to discuss his penis. We're here to talk about something even more impressive, something that sets Bubl' apart from mere mortals: his multi-platinum pipes, which turned him into a star virtually overnight via his 2003 self-titled debut of standards that would make the Rat Pack proud. But it wasn't necessarily the Rat Pack that Bubl' was looking to impress.
'If you can reach the gay audience, that's it, you've made it,' says Bubl', who was named after his gay uncle and who is in L.A. taking a break from his heavy tour schedule. 'If you're lucky enough to have them support you, you're in. I mean [he picks up a Confessions on a Dance Floor promo calendar that's sitting on the coffee table in front of him and points at Madonna], it's the truth.'
Bubl' is indeed 'in.' His smooth-as-crushed-velvet vocals did more than just win over gay audiences as well as a few new fans like pals Liza Minnelli and Josh Groban'they turned him into a star virtually overnight. It was one influential fan in particular who steered Bubl's career up the Billboard charts: David Foster, the Grammy-winning producer behind hits by Celine Dion and Groban, who became Bubl's Svengali-like mentor after hearing him sing at a friend's wedding in Toronto. Bubl' took the gig hoping to make enough money to get him back to his hometown of Vancouver, B.C., after he decided his bread and butter days in Toronto had gone stale. Gigs delivering singing telegrams and serenading drunk wedding guests weren't cutting it on the cold streets of Ontario. As fate would have it, Foster called him the next day and gave Bubl' reason to cancel his travel plans.
Nowadays, when he sings the songs of legendary artists, he's usually standing next to them. Bubl', who will be featured in upcoming duets with Tony Bennett and Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland, plans to again collaborate with Foster and follow up the success of his hit 'Home,' from his Grammy-nominated sophomore release, It's Time, by showcasing more of his original tunes. The creative freedom to include his original work on his own albums wasn't always the case. Looking to stick with a full album of standards, Foster rejected the idea of including original songs on Bubl's debut.
'I was frustrated,' says the singer. 'David wasn't mean about it, but he just said to me, 'Listen, I just put my balls on the line, and the record company put their balls on the line, and there's a lot of money at stake. I need to make a record that I know will work commercially. So if you have success, then you can put your balls on the line on the next record.' And that's what I did.'
Among the mix of standards and original tunes planned for his next album is 'a nice, poppy John Mayerish kind of song,' says Bubl'. 'It's a really sweet song. I sort of compare someone to all of these things that I think are great: 'You're a carousel; you're a wishing well; and you light me up when you ring my bell. You're a swimming pool on an August day; you're the perfect thing to say...' But honestly, I'm in a bit of a rut writing-wise. I'm just too lazy right now.'
With his new live CD/DVD combo, Caught in the Act, climbing the charts and recent performances on the hit shows Dancing with the Stars and Ellen, Bubl' doesn't have much time nowadays to stay in a rut for long. However, despite his growing popularity, ironically, it's his neighbors in a place he calls home that, unlike us taste-makers, seem to be his toughest sell.
'It changes from country to country,' says Bubl' about his popularity as jazz-pop's new crown prince. 'Like today, if I was in Italy, I couldn't go outside. And then if I hop to Germany, I'm fine. But then when I get to London to see my girlfriend, it changes again. You go from feeling like [with comical Mighty Mouse'like bravado] 'I am the champion!' to 'I'm such a loser and nobody cares about me.' I was in 26 countries this year, and in half the countries I was famous, and in half the countries they didn't give a shit,' he says with a laugh.