Michael Bolton has written and performed with the likes of Bob Dylan, Pavarotti, Patti LaBelle, Ray Charles, BB King, and Wynonna Judd. But he still gets excited—giddy, almost—every time he works with a new artist he admires.
“It’s like being a kid,” Bolton, 58, told Parade.com. “You get to do these great things and sing with these great singers and perform this music you love—it’s like…Christmas or something.”
If that’s true, Bolton’s latest record, Gems: The Duets Collection, is the ultimate gift. Out today, the album finds Bolton collaborating with a host of acclaimed musicians—among them, Rascal Flatts, Chris Botti, Seal, Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), and the late great Eva Cassidy. “This CD was just one different intoxicating moment after another,” Bolton said. “It was a surprising labor of love. I probably shouldn’t even use the world labor.”
Here, he shares some of his favorite experiences from making the record.
On bonding with Seal, his duet partner on “When a Man Loves a Woman”/”It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
“You know, I loved the idea of doing something with Seal—I’m a big fan. And we hit it off right away. We wound up talking about our roots and our favorite composers and what touring is like—why it feeds us, why we love it—what’s crazy about the business, the ups and downs of our careers, family, and coming home to our kids. We had so much to talk about, and he’s just so gracious and charming and cool.”
On having his own “fan” moment with the singer.
“Something I hope I never, ever lose is the thrill of singing with somebody or working with somebody or even meeting somebody you admire so much, especially when they live up to it personally. I had this moment while we were rehearsing—the band was building, the orchestra was building, the horns were building, and I realized, ‘I’m singing with Seal.’ On top of that, Laura Fabian [Bolton's partner on 'The Prayer'] was there, so when Seal and I found out she was performing, we hid out alongside the stage to watch. There was kind of this little love fest going on. “
On the album’s most poignant collaboration.
“There are different special moments on the record, and there are beautiful songs, but ‘Fields of Gold’ [with the late Eva Cassidy] was far and away the most emotionally powerful experience I had making this CD. And probably any CD. There were a couple of times when I couldn’t sing because I was too emotionally overwhelmed. I’ve never experienced this with another record. It was reverential. My vocal performance [on that song] isn’t the greatest performance I could give, but it’s the most honest performance I could give. I was just trying not to lose it.”
On writing “Love Is Everything” with country supergroup Rascal Flatts.
“That had to be the most fun writing experience possibly of my entire career. Half of it was us laughing so hard that I didn’t think we’d get any work done, and the other half was laying down this song and writing this groove. And then they started harmonizing, and I thought, ‘Wow, this could be really great.’ It’s such a feel-good record.”
On his dream duet partner.
“Well, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me to sing with Celine. Celine was my opening act for three months in ’92 or ’93. She was just breaking out with “Power of Love,” and I had such a good feeling about where she was going. After that, it was just hit after hit after hit for her. And, you know, we’ve done events together, we’ve done fundraisers together—but we’ve never actually sung together. That’s something I’d like to make happen in the future. Put that out into the universe for me.”