10 Questions with ... Bret Michaels
May 10, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Bret Michaels is a singer-songwriter, musician, actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and reality television personality who first gained fame as the lead vocalist of the band Poison. As a whole, Poison has sold over 45 million records worldwide and 15 million records in the United States alone. Michaels and Poison also charted ten singles to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, including six Top 10 singles and the number-one single, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and fan-favorite "Something To Believe In."
Outside of his career as lead singer, Michaels has several solo albums to his credit, including the soundtrack album to the movie "A Letter from Death Row," which Michaels starred in, wrote and directed in 1998. Additionally, Michaels released "Songs of Life" in 2003. He has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including his time as a judge on the talent show "Nashville Star." which led to his Country-influenced album "Freedom of Sound" in 2005. He starred in the hit VH1 reality show "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels" and its sequels, which inspired his successful solo album "Rock My World." Michaels was also the winning contestant on NBC-TV's reality show "Celebrity Apprentice 3" and was also featured in his own reality docu-series "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It," which inspired his highest charting album as a solo artist, "Custom Built." Michaels has a Country single, "Girls On Bars" available to radio now with an upcoming Country project, "True Grit," on the way.
1. Bret thank you for taking the time to talk to us about the new single. You are no stranger to the Country scene with plenty of crossover hits and songwriting credits. Can you tell us what appeals to you about the format and what makes "Girls On Bars" the perfect crossover single for you, in your opinion?
Thank you for having me. I'm really excited right now; there's a lot of big doings going on! To answer your question about what appeals to me about Country music... A lot! Like Rock, it gives me the opportunity to be part of a genre that has longevity as well such great singers, songwriters, story tellers, and performers. Country music, like Rock, has an audience that truly wants songs they can connect to and relate to, and those are the kind of songs I like to listen to and like to write. The possibility of having a hit in that world with those fans is awesome to me, because I truly feel as if I am a fan as well as a writer. I am an organic hybrid and passionate about all I do, and I have always believed that music is the universal language. Not only do we all have a soundtrack that defines our lives, but music is therapeutic to me. Country music is not about whether you live in the city or country it's a state of mind, it's an attitude, and it's about being real. It's a way of life, and I certainly subscribe to that way of life after all my ups and downs. Thanks to great fans, radio and video play, a lot of hard work touring, and songs people can relate to, I have been fortunate enough to have had number one hits in Pop and Rock. I crossed over in the Country format and crossed over to Top 40 with several songs, including "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "All I Ever Needed," and now hopefully with "Girls On Bars," which is truly that American, Country-esque Summer anthem type of song. I think it works perfectly, not only for Country music, but for the time and world we are living in today. People work hard and want to play hard, and that's what this song is all about; the pay off at the end of a hard work week. As a performer, writer, and producer, I've always bet on myself, but it's important to surround yourself with great people that have the same vision, and there are so many great people here in Nashville. Like ACM Songwriter of the Year Luke Laird, who most importantly I consider a friend, who co-wrote this with me. I think we did a great job in the studio with a have-fun, get-it-done attitude. The song is meant to put you in a great party mood, have a great sing-along chorus, and remain true to my sound.
2. There's no doubt you're doing it right; partnering with Luke Laird to pen "Girls On Bars" is a great direction for you in the realm of Country and a great collaboration came from it. How did that partnership come about?
Luke is a native Pennsylvanian just like myself. We have a mutual friend who informed me that he was a fan of my songwriting, as I was of his, and that we should get together and write. It was that simple. I write very organically, I don't force anything, and Luke is the same way. We sat down, and I said I had been through a long cold winter with several illnesses and trips to the hospital, and that for my own soul, I needed to write a feel-good Summer anthem. I told him, "I don't wanna change then world or get political in anyway." I had a guitar riff and the phrase "Girls On Bars," and he knew exactly where I was going. We laughed and had a great time. I mouthed a drum beat, then he mouthed it into the mic and recorded it, and we went from there. The beatbox drums ended up making the cut and appear throughout the track. It really was a great experience, and I think we came out of it with an awesome Summer feel-good party anthem.
3. You aren't new to this town or this format. You've released Country-leaning tracks and were even a judge on "Nashville Star" ten years ago. How has your music evolved in recent years, and how long have you been working on this particular Country project?
I had such a great time on Nashville Star with LeAnn Rimes, and yes, I have been a part of the Nashville community for quite a while. I have owned homes here for years, including a 30 acre ranch and a building on Music Row. I have always loved and embraced this town and its energy.
Ever since the first Poison album and on to "Every Rose," right up to today and the release of "Girls On Bars", I have had a Country influence. It is and always will be a part of my writing. My father, who was a Navy veteran and worked at Armco steel in Pittsburg, played pedal steel, and the first instrument I learned was the harmonica followed by guitar and piano. I played along to traditional Country songs as well as Southern and Classic Rock. I'm constantly writing and working on music, so in a way I've been working on this album and all my previous albums my entire life. Some ideas are brand new, some I may have had as far back as when I was a teenager, and I put it away till the inspiration comes to finish it. I am inspired by everything at any time. For years, I have really loved the music that has come out of Nashville, the story telling, the melodies, the production, all of it. So it's certainly poured into my creativity and the music I'm making today. In fact if anyone was to check out my Country demos made in Nashville in the mid-90s they'd hear many of my traditional memories including, "The Other Side of Me" written by Gary Baker & Frank Myers, the team that wrote "I Swear."
4. The forthcoming album will be titled "True Grit." Who, besides Luke Laird, have you worked with on the project, and what can we expect to hear.
The album has a long list of awesome guests on it. Brian Nutter from Keith Urban's band plays on a great new Country song called "The App Song." We redid some of the Poison classics as well. "Every Rose" has American music icon Loretta Lynn as well as guitar hero Joe Perry, and Bon Jovi bassist Hugh McDonald. "Nothing But a Good Time" features Rock and Roll legends Ace Frehely and Michael Anthony, and the remake of the American Classic "Sweet Home Alabama" features original Lynyrd Skynyrd member Gary Rossington as well as current Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ricky Medlocke, also of Blackfoot, and Peter Keys. I have a song I wrote on the album called "Nothing to Lose" that features Miley Cyrus, and my good friend Edwin McCain sings on the song "Raine." Also my great friend and Def Leppard guitarists Phil Collin plays on the album.
The album is a collection of songs from my start until right now, along with some classic covers, like the remake of "Sweet Home Alabama." That song is part of my earliest memories and defines some of the best times in my youth. And the remake of Sublime's "What I Got," which was the first song I played on my iPod after my brain hemorrhage. Each song means something special to me, regardless of who wrote it or when it was written. It's like a musical trip through my history that takes you right up to today.
5. You are a familiar face to the masses with numerous film and television credits to your name, even claiming the victor's crown on the third season of the wildly popular "Celebrity Apprentice." How do you think that recognition works for and/or against you with this new music release?
When trying to have a successful album today in such a fast changing industry, I don't think the support from any kind of other media - TV, social, or other - can hurt. Both "Rock of Love" and "Apprentice," along with "Nashville Star," "Life As I Know It," and "Rock My RV," exposed me to people who may have not known my music, or for that matter been music fans at all, that gave me a chance and have now become lifelong fans. And it works both ways. It was my three generations of music fans that made those shows hits. It all works together, and I think it certainly helps drive people who aren't looking for new music to that world.
6. You've also landed a line of pet supplies at Pet Smart and a home décor line at Overstock! Is there such thing as "too busy" for you, and how does it all play in to the Bret Michaels brand?
I don't look at it as busy, as much as it's just being creative and driven. I call it "The 6 Ps" - Passion, Purpose, Product, Partnerships, Profit, and - most important - People. I like to let my creativity spill in to many outlets beyond just music and reality TV. I'm like a mad scientist creating stuff in the middle of the night that may never see the light of day. As a lifelong pet lover and pet parent, it was really a simple and obvious choice when PetSmart approached me. I was able to personally create one of their most successful product line for dogs and cats, and also have one there biggest charitable fundraising event/products in the company's history with my "Chance" plush toy. As far as Overstock goes, like PetSmart, it was a great opportunity to let me develop and offer products from furniture and luggage items to fitness, health, and cooking stuff, that I actually created, use, and are a part my life.
7. We know Operation Homefront and the American Diabetes Association are charities close to your heart. Can you share a bit about your work with each of those organizations?
Philanthropy and charitable work have been a part of my life since I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 6 years old; taking at least five shots and ten blood tests a day, whatever it takes to find a cure is always in the forefront of my mind. But I go much further than that. I created the "Life Rocks Foundation," which is a unique umbrella that covers my work with many charities. I personally raise money and send kids to local diabetes camps just like the one my mother started in Pennsylvania when there were none, along with donating money to research and development, and speaking at many fundraisers. As far as Operation Homefront goes, I come from a long line of veterans, some of whom lost their lives. Supporting the military has always been a priority. My foundation, along with Operation Homefront, has given away over seven mortgage-free homes to veterans in need. My foundation also focuses on and gives to pediatric cancer and breast cancer organizations, as well as to pet and animal charities and shelters and many other great causes.
8. Going back to "Girls On Bars," how did you select this song as a single, and where do you think it fits in the current radio landscape?
First let me state that "Girls On Bars" is a fun Summer anthem type of song. I have a few songs on the new album that are like that, like another track called "Undone," but I just feel like the song has a great fun vibe that is perfect to kick off the summer. It has a unique verse and a catchy chorus; it just felt right. As far as the current radio landscape, the competition is obviously immense. But it's also a fun time. The music is great - it reminds me of a musical version of the old Wild West. You have such great artist in a format that provides great opportunity and versatility, ranging from Kenny Chesney to Florida Georgia Line, or Lee Brice to Brad Paisley. Listeners are open-minded, but you still have to work hard and take it to the streets. I expect no "gimmies" - just a chance. I realize it's not supposed to be easy to have a hit song. Even though I've sold over 35 million records, I treat each song with care and love, and just ask for the opportunity to have a station to spin it and give it a chance to be heard. I'm a realist; I dream big, but I stay grounded. With "Girls On Bars," CMT embraced the video and took it on as an exclusive. It instantly became the highest viewed debut video and is still gaining momentum. Because I'm also as passionate about the visual as I am the audio, I helped direct and produce the video, and I was thrilled and thankful that it was accepted and embraced so fast.
9. We've seen you pop up in photos with Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and many others, and we've noticed your name as part of several Country music festivals like Toad Lick in Alabama recently. Will there be a tour forthcoming for you, or will you continue on the festival circuit? What can you share with us about any upcoming appearances?
Me and Kenny have been friends for a while. Whenever I get a chance I go see him, he always invites me out to do "Every Rose." Last time we did it, he was on tour with Tim McGraw. It's always a great time. I've known a lot of great musicians in Country for a long time. I always have a great time when I get to see Toby. Just last week at the Toad Lick Festival in Dothan, Alabama, which had the biggest crowed they have ever had, the night I played, Lee Brice and Craig Wayne Boyd both joined me for "Every Rose" and "Nothing But A Good Time." As far as the festivals go, I have always done them and absolutely love them; the people and the parties are great. I am always on tour, over 200 dates a year, and we incorporate the festivals in to the tour. It's a perfect way to cross populate multiple artists' fan bases. I have headlined several Rock and Country festivals where we have had record-breaking crowds like Toad Lick, Rocklahoma, Country On The River, and Bamboozle. All amazing times and memories.
10. What is really next? Is Nashville a new home base for the Bret Michaels brand, and what other ventures can we expect from you in coming years?
Nashville has been a home base for a long time for me. I bought a 30 acre ranch here many years ago. My main office is also here, and I have always loved the time I spend here. And although I have homes in Arizona and California, Nashville will always be a home base both personally and professionally.
1. There are a lot of Country "young guns" who grew up with Rock influences - including Poison. Are there any of the young Country stars you would consider collaborating with in a fashion similar to what CMT-TV does with their "Crossroads" specials? If so, who?
There are so many talented artist I wouldn't know where to begin. I'd love to work with Lee Brice, "The Voice" winner Craig Wayne Boyd, or Dean Alexander. There are so many great new and current artists with such amazing voices and talent - Billy Currington, Chris Young, the list goes on. I love surrounding myself with talented and creative people; I'm all in!
2. You have 12 hours to show someone your version of Nashville. Where would you take a newcomer to show off your favorite parts of the city?
Obviously, the first thing you do is take the right down to Broadway and 2nd get out of the car, walk the streets, and let them truly entrench themselves in the spirit of the city - the sounds and the sights. There is nothing like it. Then you have to have them experience the Country Music Hall Of Fame Museum, Music Row, Printers Alley are all a must. Vanderbilt is an amazing college. Then let's not forget the festive eating and drinking that goes on in this city, for example the Tin Angel or J Alexander's, The Palm, maybe Five Points Pizza for lunch. If time and security allow, try to stop by CMT, SirusXM, and all the media outlets that expose the rest of the world to this amazing city.