Yes, he’s recording a duet with Reese Witherspoon. No, he didn’t for a moment worry about Elmo being on his Christmas special. But, while we’re on the subject of holidays, his wife can be tough to shop for. Michael Bublé, on his way out of town for New York and Europe, is chatty – maybe too chatty.
“Should I have even said ‘yes’ there?” he asks his assistant after confirming that he will, as rumoured, be recording a track with the actress.
“I have no censor,” he explains. “And it’s getting worse, because I’m starting to get more comfortable.”
Tis the season (well, just about) and Bublé is leaving Vancouver to promote his Christmas CD, being reissued this year with one additional track, The Christmas Song .
First released last October, Christmas was a juggernaut, the second-biggest selling album of the year after Adele’s 21, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and a personal highlight of Bublé’s multiple Grammy and Juno Award-winning career.
A master at the art of the interview, Bublé, 37, projects the guy next door, warm and funny and self-deprecating, joking about being the only artist he’s ever heard of doing a publicity blitz to promote an album that’s more than a year old.
But there he was, first thing in the morning, opening the door to his immaculate West Vancouver house for yet another reporter. Done up in shades of white, the house could be a show home, looking flawlessly unlived in, with the exception of two open suitcases by the door.
Bublé’s been travelling and his wife, Luisana Lopilato, has been in Rome shooting a film. And after a brief stop at home, he’s on his way to the airport for New York.
If he didn’t have a journalist in the SUV’s back seat firing questions at him, Bublé would probably, he muses, be spending the ride talking sports with his driver.
Instead, he’s telling me stories – he’s a great storyteller – and talking all things Christmas, including his second NBC holiday special, airing Dec. 10.
“Can I show you something?” he says, getting his laptop out. “Want to come snuggle? Oh, you have your seat belt on. You’re so safe!” He slides over to the middle of the back seat and plays the Christmas special’s Elmo segment. It’s sweet, and funny, and leads to the inevitable discussion.
Last Monday, allegations surfaced that Elmo creator Kevin Clash had had sex with a 16-year-old. The man, now in his 20s, recanted the story the next day, describing his relationship with the puppeteer as adult and consensual.
Did Bublé have second thoughts about including the Elmo segment?
“No, I didn’t. Honestly, I was more concerned for Kevin. I felt bad because it’s one of those things: If it happened, of course you go, ‘Oh God,’ but if it didn’t happen, it’s horrible. Now this [man] has recanted, but you’re asking me the question, so it’s obviously affected this guy’s legacy and it’ll never be the same and isn’t that terribly sad?”
The special will also include, thanks to the magic of special effects, Bublé singing a duet with his White Christmas-crooning idol, Bing Crosby. He hadn’t yet seen the segment, but dismissed worries – expressed by his mother and others – that it would be cheesy. In any case, it’s pretty meaningful for Bublé, who says White Christmas is probably the reason he’s a singer, along with Bryan Adams’s Cuts Like a Knife – which his parents bought for him on cassette.
“It definitely inspired me that a Canadian guy that I knew was in Vancouver [could be a successful musician]. If he did it, I could do it.”
(Bublé, who was born in Burnaby, B.C., now lives across the street from Adams’s former West Van house.)
Other artists, he says, put out Christmas records because they’re lucrative, but are “deathly afraid” of the artistic implications, preferring to distance themselves from the project. “They think it’s soft. It’s not edgy. It’s not hip.”
Bublé sees it differently. He says he could have let someone else look after the arrangements and just shown up at the studio to sing the songs, but he wasn’t interested.
“That’s how Christmas records are done because artists don’t care,” he says. “Well, I couldn’t.”
Instead, it was a collaboration that took months, resulting in what Bublé believes is his best record. He seems utterly sincere, and though I’m surprised by this assertion, he also has me convinced.
And for the record, he claims he’ll never record another holiday album.
A new studio album, however, is on the way next year, and will indeed include a yet-unrecorded duet with Witherspoon. “She’s sexy, but she’s humble and she’s really smart but dorky,” he says. “One of the few women out there, celebrities, that men find very attractive but women absolutely love.”
Perhaps Witherspoon will be a guest on next year’s Christmas special – he hopes to do them for 10 years, from a different city every year – but on this year’s Home for the Holidays, recorded in Vancouver, his guests include Rod Stewart (his mom’s favourite singer); Blake Shelton; and British Columbian Carly Rae Jepsen – a fellow alumnus of the Pacific National Exhibition Youth Talent Search. “She was funny and cute and down-to-earth and so very Canadian.”
Bublé, famously a rabid Vancouver Canucks fan, recently participated in player Kevin Bieksa’s charity game, donating $100,000. He didn’t skate – he would have been up against the UBC Thunderbirds and he’s not a great hockey player, he’s the first to admit. But in the aftermath, he was irritated that coverage of the event was focused on him having cold feet rather than the donation. “It just shows you,” he says. “You can’t win.”
On the hazards of fame, he tells a story – going back a few years – when, walking along Robson Street after buying jewellery for then-girlfriend actress Emily Blunt, he was approached by a guy who accused him of plagiarizing his mega-hit Home (the man said he and a friend had written it). “I owe you a shot,” the guy said, as Bublé recalls, and then swung his bag at the singer. Bublé punched him in the face, dropped the jewellery and chased the guy into a packed bookstore. “I was screaming and people were looking at me and I swear to you, he yelled, ‘Help! Canada’s favourite crooner is gonna kill me!’” Bublé recounts.
It’s unclear what happened to the jewellery, but these days Bublé is shopping for his wife. Last Christmas, their first as a married couple, he bought her a horse. Or at least he tried. While she loved opening all the horse-related gifts meant to hint at the big present, when it came time to pick out the actual animal, she couldn’t do it. She burst into tears (as Bublé tells it) and said she is away so often it would be unfair to the horse, who would miss her. “So now I’ve got a shitload of [expletive] saddles and helmets and brushes,” he says. “If anyone wants it, honestly.”
This year’s gift has not yet been purchased.
By this point, the SUV has pulled up to the departures level. When Bublé gets out of the car, his backpack slung over his shoulder, a couple of guys standing outside appear to recognize him. They watch, but don’t approach. Before closing the car door, Bublé wishes me my first Merry Christmas of the year (along with a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Kwanzaa). And with that, he strolls into the airport, for another airplane, another sunny place.