We are in a homely suite at the Sunset Marquis, in Los Angeles. It’s a classic rock’n’roll hotel where televisions have definitely been thrown into the swimming pool and late-night tantrums are commonplace. Not that Bublé has ever done that, of course.
His latest album, To Be Loved, is steeped in cosy contentment. It’s an almost ridiculously happy record. When he met his future wife he continued with his therapist. More importantly, though, he stopped eating and drinking. Bublé’s grandfather is Italian and he has an Italian passport, but he doesn’t even make his family’s cream-filled recipe for spaghetti carbonara any more. “You are who you hang out with and my wife doesn’t drink and is very healthy,” he says. “But four years ago I was tiny, so tiny when I went through the break-up. I was drinking every day, doing nothing, smoking cigarettes and I was really skinny. But I wasn’t healthy skinny, I was heart-attack skinny. I’m the kind who if I drink I lose my appetite, boom, and if I have a bite to eat I don’t want to drink, I feel full. And I don’t do one drink. I’m like Barney from The Simpsons – once it begins it begins.” The trick these days, he says, is he doesn’t let it begin.
The promotion schedule for this record includes flying from London to Melbourne and back to LA without an overnight stopover in either city, just enough time to perform a show. Bublé has always been driven. His work ethic is handed down from his father Louis, a fisherman, and his grandfather Mitch, a plumber. Everyone loves Bublé. He’s sold more than 40 million records and when tickets went on sale for his UK tour (10 nights at the O2 in London) they sold out at the rate of 1,500 per minute. Now worth a reported £26million, he has huge homes in Vancouver and Los Angeles. He spans generations, both cool and uncool.
But doesn’t he need a rest? “I’m not thinking like that. I’ve got the baby coming and then I might take some time off or I’ll try acting so I can have my wife and baby with me on set. Right now my priority is all those fans, those people who’ve supported me.” Bublé doesn’t believe in getting something for nothing, he believes in thanking people wholeheartedly. His values are as old-school as his big-band music. “I used to open for [American talk show host] Jay Leno and I used to say, ‘Jay, what is the secret?’ and he’d say, ‘Go to their backyards, don’t go to the hubs and expect everyone to come to you. Go to their backyards and when you are in those little cities that’s how you build relationships, that’s how you build loyalty.’
“And that’s the truth. You can’t put out a record and say, ‘Germany, France, Japan, thanks for buying my record. Of course I love you but I’m not going on tour.’ You’ve got to, you’ve got to go,” he says with urgency.
Does he find it difficult to say no to people? “Yes, I do.” And is there part of him that’s now completely reassured with his success or is part of him thinking, what if this record doesn’t sell, what if people don’t turn up?
“Do you know what’s weird? That’s not happening, that insecurity. Everything has changed. It’s all changed because of the baby. I’m having a difficult time doing these interviews. I’m proud of the record, it’s a beautiful record, possibly my best record. It’s different and I was brave but being brave stemmed from not caring. That sounds cold but I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
“When my manager says, ‘I wonder if we’re going to sell two million or eight million,’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, either is a great bonus, but let’s hope my wife is healthy and my kid is healthy.’ I’m 37 years old and I’m starting to think, what’s it all about? It surely isn’t about how many records I can sell or how many stadiums I can fill. My perspective has definitely changed. I have no drama to tell you about. I wish I could say these songs came from misery or heartbreak.”
It is, of course, a wonderfully sentimental record; Bublé’s version of Young At Heart is especially moving. He has always loved old people, and is extremely close to his grandfather. He still loves to do family sleepovers where they all lie on the couch and sing the old standards together. That song, it turns out, is particularly special to him. When Bublé was due to record it, he had a huge group of musicians assembled, an expensive LA studio booked and even a bar ready for a post-recording celebration. “And the night before that day my mother called and said, ‘Mike, your grandpa is not good.’ So I just told them all, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t be there,’ and I just left and flew home to Vancouver.” His grandfather pulled through, and he made another attempt a week later.
Bublé deemed his performance “emotionless, cold and dead”, so he scrapped it. After another month he found himself in the studio and tried again. “So I thought about my grandpa and I thought about myself. It was the first dance at our wedding. I love the song. I’ve just Skyped grandpa now. I Skype him all the time. I thought about him while I was recording it because I could. Before, I was too upset. This time I smiled through the whole thing, and it took two takes. It’s not perfect but there’s the emotion in it. It just shows if your head is not in it and your heart is not in it, it’s just not there.”
On this album he’s written more of his own songs. Does it worry him that his songs have to stand up against timeless classics? “Yes, sometimes. I just took my favourite songs but for every album you record you could make 50 others. But for this one I was in a good place and I wanted to make it authentic and gentle.”
It’s obvious Bublé could talk about his wife for hours. One song on the album, Close Your Eyes, is dedicated to Luisana, and Bublé seems proud of the fact that he wrote it sitting at the piano while stone-cold sober. It’s meant as a tribute to how much “she helps carry me… How she shares the load with me. I was just thinking, ‘You’re always the one that pulls us through.’” It’s an unashamedly heartfelt tribute to the strength of women, and how much men depend on them. “And people call women the weaker sex,” he says. “How foolish is that?” Quite a turnaround for someone who, just a few years ago, admitted that his chief motivation in becoming a singer was “to get laid”.
“I notice the stability my wife has given me in simple ways,” he goes on. “In other relationships I would think, ‘Let’s go on vacation,’ and the girl would say, ‘Let’s go to Hawaii,’ and I would say, ‘Who do we call, what couple do we get to go with us?’ It’s like I always needed someone else there. With my wife it’s just… we’re good together.”
His parents have just been visiting from Canada, and Bublé says that at one point, late at night, he said to his father: “‘Thirty-nine years. How do you make it work?’ My dad said, ‘I love your mum. But more importantly I like her too.’ That’s really something.”
Although he won’t name names, he thinks his past relationships were more obsession than love. “I’ve lived that a million times.” Does he think that with some of those women, although he loved them, he didn’t actually like them? “Yes, absolutely.”
There is no doubt that what drove Bublé in the past was a need to be loved, and now that he feels that he is loved the dynamic of everything he does is different. Even though he’s his record company’s biggest-selling artist – bigger even than Madonna – he’s never thrown his weight around, although he’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes. There’s one song on the new album, called I Got It Easy, that the record company hates. Bublé says it was inspired by all the terrible things going on in the world: “Economic crisis, disasters, shootings. There’s all of this darkness. But for the rest of us, if you can afford to download a track from a CD then you’ve got it easy.” He was told it was too dark, that it didn’t sound like him and wouldn’t be a hit. Bublé didn’t care. “For me it’s a thoughtful, personal, important song. I told the record company, ‘If it doesn’t get on the radio, you deal with it.’ It’s a polarising song. My mum hates it, my sisters love it.”
His wife is currently home in Argentina making a film and shooting a lingerie campaign. He shows me a picture of her on his phone. She is blonde with a goofy smile and pregnant belly. “Look at how happy she is to show me this. I think she’s sticking it out. She’s definitely a rambunctious girl.” She also has giant breasts, I note. “She does! Always! Giant!” he says with a big smile. “That’s the question most people ask. Are they real? They are real, of course. They are big ’uns, though…”
Luisana often visits him when he’s on the road, but for other people Bublé has very strict rules regarding women and touring. He doesn’t, for instance, like women crew or musicians. “I say, ‘There’s no relationships on the road,’ and they say to me, ‘Of course we’re not going to have relationships. We are professionals and we have a boyfriend at home.’ The next thing you know they’re sleeping with the sound guy. And then the sound guy is fighting over another girl and it becomes a drama. It’s an incestuous life. Let’s make it easy. Every time I’ve had female crew we’ve had serious break-ups and yellings. Obviously I love women. It’s not about not loving women. It’s about I don’t want to be surrounded by drama.” (Bizarrely, he’s also banned saxophone solos because “they creep me out. It’s like when someone takes a poop on a piece of paper and goes, ‘This is abstract art.’”)
He and his wife have recently taken over a charity called FreeHand to help dogs about to be euthanised because their owners can no longer afford to feed them. It’s an apt cause for someone who’s always considered himself an underdog.
“I’ve sold a bunch of records,” he says. “I’ve never been asked to be on the Grammys or any of that stuff. I do big business. I sell more records at any point than…well, I am in the top five touring acts in the world.
“But I don’t show up at the parties. I don’t have a reality TV show. I’m not seen shopping in Beverly Hills.”
We meet during Oscars week, and there’s a party or a dinner every night. Bublé could go to any of them but chooses not to.
“I hate the idea of showing up to those society dinners,” he says. “It’s weird. I’ve done enough of them to know they are really hard on the soul, where you show up to dinner and there’s a bunch of celebrities.
“There’s a difference between being famous and being a celebrity. Maybe I’m just too normal for everything like that. But my manager always says, ‘Hey kid, keep being the underdog. You’re doing the right thing.’”
‘To Be Loved’ (Warner Bros) is out today. Michael Bublé’s UK tour begins on June 30, at the O2, London. Buy Michael Bublé tickets at Telegraph Tickets.