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Thursday 16 August 2018

Buble: King of the swing

He’s the ladies’ choice, and he knows it. On the eve of his two sell-out Dublin gigs at the Aviva, Michael Buble reveals to Paul Byrne why he’s on top of the world

The ladies like Michael Buble. A lot. At the last count, there were at least 25 million who like Michael Buble. That's how many albums the man has sold. His live appearances tend to be jam-packed, too. With screaming ladies. And more than a few stylish fellas, of course. It must be hell for you, Michael?

"Oh, it is, it is," laughs the 35-year-old Canadian crooner, "but someone's got to do it. Someone's got to be there for all these beautiful ladies. And I'm happy to sacrifice my good self to that cause.

"Actually, having that kind of fevered response, it does add a certain electricity to the live gigs that takes me and the band that little bit higher than we might achieve otherwise. It's that wonderful alchemy, where they feed us their passion, and that feeds our passion, and that feeds their passion more, and before you know it, you're just somewhere you probably wouldn't have reached without one another. Something happens live, and it's the most incredible feeling."

Sold! Or, as is often the case with Michael Buble concerts these days, sold out. Certainly, the Grammy award-winning singer's two dates at Dublin's Aviva Stadium tomorrow and Saturday didn't take long to attract the maximum number of bums on seats, with tickets selling out in just two hours.

Yet, for Michael Steven Buble, it's all a long way from Burnaby, British Columbia, where he was born on September 9, 1975. His father, Lewis, was a fisherman, and his mum, Amber, went on to give birth to Crystal (now an actress) and Brandee. All the way through, the young Michael knew he wanted to be a singer. Since, he told Oprah Winfrey, the age of two. Which seems pretty young to be planning your future career.

"What can I say?" says Buble, "I've always been someone who likes to plan ahead. I'm sure lots and lots of kids dream of becoming a singer, an actor, an action hero, whatever -- once it involves fame and glory, I guess."

And is it true that the young Michael Buble also took the Bible to bed each night, and said a little prayer in the hope that God would get him those all-important music industry breaks?

"Something like that, yeah," he agrees. "Didn't quite use those words, mind you. I guess it's all about the power of positive thinking. If you really, really want something badly, there is always that element of dreaming hard enough to make it happen. I think anyone who has achieved their goals just held on to a belief that it was always going to work out that way."

Not that young Buble was completely obsessed with singing. Being Canadian, he was also hooked on ice hockey. Like Canada's answer to our own national sport, hurling, hockey brought father and son together (and grandpa, too), as they followed the Vancouver Canucks together. This was the team that Michael dreamed of playing for, stating recently: "If I was any good at hockey, I probably wouldn't be singing right now." Still, that would mean missing out on all those screaming ladies, right?

And being a hockey star would mean a lot less travel, too. "I'm guessing I wouldn't be playing to packed-out stadiums around the world, and I wouldn't be visiting beautiful places like Ireland quite so easily.

"In life, disappointments can often be the turn your life needed to take, and I learned a lot from getting over not being a National Hockey League contender -- of not being the new Jiri Bubla [legendary retired ice hockey player], despite the similarities in our names -- and just having to accept that, and moving on.

"I try and apply that to everything in life now; if it doesn't quite work out the way you want, see what you've gained, what you've learned, and use that for your next step in life.

"You're always learning in life. Or, at least, you should be. If you think you know it all, or done it all, it's over. If I ever felt that way, the thrill would be gone for me."

Not that the thrill of hockey ever left Canada's most successful male solo artist of the past decade, and the only maple-leaf musician to score back-to-back No1 albums in the US charts.

His tours often take into consideration his need to catch as many games as possible. Buble also co-owns the Vancouver Giants, and his touring contract specifies that "a local team hockey puck" be in his dressing room. Oh, and he sometimes rents out arenas, so he and his crew can have a few games.

When Canada won the Olympic gold medal, Buble was there. "It's a perk of the job," he smiles. "I can squeeze some time out here and there to indulge my fantasy career."

Buble's other fantasy career started when, as his parents were out fishing for salmon, the seven-year-old Michael Buble would be babysat by his plumber grandfather -- "who just had this great collection of jazz records". Later, when it was clear that the boy had talent, Buble's grandpa would offer to fix any plumbing problems a bar might have in return for letting his grandson get up and sing a few numbers for the punters.

"All good, basic training," Buble says now. "If you can win over a crowd in a pub, you can win over a stadium. It's all the same, really. You're just tapping into a shared emotion."

That shared emotion harks back largely to the Rat Pack ideal -- sharp suits, smooth jazz, and sweet nothings whispered in your ear. Some heartbreak helps, too. Some of the songs on Buble's last album, 2009's Crazy Love, deal with the break-up of his engagement with English actress Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada) -- something he refuses to discuss.

Things with Blunt may have ended in tears but the album gave him his biggest success to date, selling more than seven million copies -- and counting -- in less than a year.

Despite his reluctance to discuss his personal life, it's been well reported that Buble has gotten engaged to his girlfriend, Luisana Lopilato, an Argentine actress, model and singer. They met in November 2008 at a party thrown by Buble's record company after a gig in Buenos Aires.

But perhaps wary of giving too much of his personal life away, Buble would rather let his music do the talking.

"I'm certainly not trying to reinvent the wheel here," says Buble, "I'm just trying to entertain, to give audiences a good time. And a great song can lift you out of the moment, and just transport you. That's what you're always hoping for -- being lifted on to some kind of universal high. And if it's got a good back beat, all the better, but it's the emotion that really counts."

Having said that, it don't mean a thing . . .

". . . if it ain't got that swing. Exactly."

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