New Times: Who were the most important mentors in your musical career, and what did you learn from them?
Michael Bolton: Ray Charles showed me the great joy of singing and taught me how to have a certain kind of freedom in interpretation, to make a song my own. Luciano Pavarotti made me realize I was a tenor and the discipline required to support my voice. Bob Dylan revealed the poetic genius in songwriting.
My father taught me to never give up and my mother to always believe in myself. And of course, Reverend King taught us all that the greatest truth in life is love, which ultimately compels everything I do.
Last year, you published an autobiography, The Soul of It All. What were the toughest memories you had to explore?
Most of the memories were very inspiring, and the process reminded me of what an amazing and blessed life I've lived.
The harder moments to revisit were the starving-artist years with a family and children to provide for -- things like rent checks bouncing and frozen peas for dinner. Those years of struggle, and the deep and powerful lessons that came with them, made success and everything else more meaningful.
You first made your name with Blackjack, a hard-rock band. Have you ever been tempted to revisit the songs or the genre?
There seems to be a lot of interest lately in my rock days. I could definitely have fun revisiting a project like that. Maybe it's time to give my old buddy Bruce Kulick [former guitarist of Blackjack] a call.
Your newest album is a tribute to Motown. How did you pare down which songs would make the cut?
It was a near-impossible task. I must have listened to over 100 songs and could easily make a few more volumes with songs that didn't make this first album. There are some songs that I'm vocally or lyrically very drawn to, and there are some beloved hits that you just can't leave out, like the title song.
Are you working on any music now?
I'm always working on ideas for new songs and albums. I recently wrote the title song for a forthcoming Russell Crowe film called Fathers & Daughters. What inspired that song was the theme of the story, which is a father-daughter relationship. I have three daughters and was very moved watching the powerful performances between Russell and Amanda Seyfried. It struck me on a deep level, and the song is written as a letter from a father to a daughter.