A reverence for romance
Crooner Michael Buble finds it impossible to resist the beautiful melodies of the standards — and their messages that speak, with timeless appeal, to the heart.
By Naila Francis
There are moments as Michael Buble speaks when it is easy to imagine the mischievous grin on his face, his eyes flashing with humorous challenge as he does a quick scan of the room, checking to see who’s listening — and inevitably rolling their eyes or groaning despairingly — to his conversation.
The singer, it seems, has a penchant for unfiltered garrulousness, and while it may cause the various members of his entourage — one of the dubious perks of rising fame — alarm on occasion, it is obvious that he delights in his own, sometimes off-color candor.
He recently had the pleasure, he shares, of taking his grandfather, the man who was perhaps more influential in guiding his career than anyone else, to Italy.
“There, swing is almost like a brand new thing to them,” says Buble, who comes to the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton Sunday night. “It’s this fresh thing that they’re discovering, which is cool. And we’re Italian, so for my grandfather to be able to go to the homeland where all our family is from and to be able to hang and see firsthand what it was like to be in my shoes — he just loved it.
“He’s 78 years old, and he got off the plane and instantly became 14, and all of a sudden, he’s staring at all these girls. … He almost got into an accident.”
Buble laughs recounting the experience, something he does easily and often in conversation. Despite critical acclaim and impressive sales of his albums — a self-titled debut in 2003, a Christmas EP and 2004’s “Come Fly With Me,” a CD/DVD featuring live performances from several of his tour dates, as well as two new tracks — he is refreshingly humble and engaging.
Buble, one of a growing crop of young singers infusing their own style and personality into some of music’s best-loved jazz and pop standards, has said there is a certain expectation that comes with the music he sings.
He should be polished and coolly elegant, debonair in the ways of the many whom he admires — Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, the Mills Brothers and Mel Torme, to name a few.
But despite culling his musical gems from a catalog of classics, the Vancouver native is very much of this time — and of his age, an accomplished but breezy 29.
“I don’t take myself too seriously,” he says. “My story is so similar to so many people’s. It felt right for me to struggle and it felt right to not have it happen so fast because now I appreciate it. You play enough crappy weddings and enough bar mitzvahs and then you can have fun.
“I feel for people who are really young and explode because you can’t pace yourself or even know just how to be,” he says. “You get to 3 million records and I thought I was pretty hot stuff. But then I have my mom call me and say, ‘Hey, Michael, did you think you got any more charming or better-looking this year?’
“If this would have happened to me when I was 23, I would have been an –hole.”
After years on the club and corporate circuit, performing with local bands and touring in a musical review, “Forever Swing,” across the United States, Buble scored his big break when he sang at the wedding of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter. Grammy-wining producer David Foster, the man who also helped launch Josh Groban’s career, was there, and Buble made enough of an impression to land his first major record deal.
Although he says he never imagined he would one day be singing the songs his grandfather played for him when he was a boy, his voice, smooth and rich, seemed a natural fit for such standards. And his heart was definitely in the music.
“I grew up with a middle-class family that threw out unconditional love,” says Buble. “These songs are timeless, and they’re timeless because the message in most of them is love. And we can all relate to love. The melodies are so damn strong — so beautiful and catchy. It’s hard not to love those melodies.”
But while he can croon with the best of them on songs such as “The Way You Look Tonight,” “My Funny Valentine,” “You’ll Never Know” and “Sway,” Buble is equally at home interpreting more contemporary songs. George Michael’s “Kissing A Fool,” The Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life” all become fresh and new with his signature grace and sophistication.
His choices, he says, are as much a tribute to the enduring popularity of the songs as they are an ode to their unabashedly romantic nature. Buble will readily admit that a good “cheesy” movie can move him to tears and that singing some songs — a recent recording of “Try A Little Tenderness” comes to mind — can get him choked up.
“I’m mushy. I’m a love. I’m a momma’s boy,” he says. “I’m soft. I’m a guy’s guy in a way in that I like to play sports, but I also like being in love. If I sang these songs and I didn’t love it, you’d so know it and see right through me …
“But I bring my own passion to them and close my eyes and mean what I say. And if I believe what I’m doing, then you’ll believe what I’m doing, too.”
– The Intelligencer