Michael Bolton became one of the world’s biggest singers by the late 1980s, thanks to his incredibly soulful voice and fantastic songs. However, this wasn’t always the case. After nearly a decade as a struggling singer-songwriter and lead singer of hard rock bands, Michael finally tasted success by the end of the decade.
His albums including Soul Provider and Time, Love and Tenderness ended up selling millions around the world, and he is known to have one of the most powerful and recognisable voices in music.
Speaking to Smooth’s Jenni Falconer, Michael opened up about his past struggles in the early days of his career, as well as how important a role his mother Helen played, and the excitement for his UK tour in 2021. Speaking about his family’s musical background, Michael said: “My brother’s a really good singer. He’s been writing songs for years as well. My sister played in the school orchestra.
“My mother was really the driving force in keeping us inspired at home by playing Nat King Cole and Sinatra and big band music – a lot of great singers. She was wanting to be a singer most of her life. “But at a time when, you know, a wife’s responsibility – a wife and a mother had the responsibility of, overriding everything else, taking care of the kids, and providing a home for the family, and providing what feels like home. So I was sad for her not to be able to pursue her career. I mean, a career in music.
“But in a way, she kind of lived out her dream through me, because she would come to all the shows, and she was the first to get the new music. “I was fortunate in that way that my mother and father were my biggest fans, including going through a pretty rough divorce. They didn’t have anything in common after the divorce except for the love of us kids.
“They supported what we wanted to do with our lives. They supported my music, my pursuit in music. And a lot of parents weren’t that excited about their kids saying they’re going to make music for a living. It doesn’t feel like the most practical decision of your life. “But usually your number-one passion as a kid is your number-one passion when you’ve raised your own family and are an adult. In all the years of your life, music is your first passion.”
On how he struggled to pay the bills back at the start of his career, he explained: “I guess it really tested your mettle. It tested how much you really wanted this career, because I saw my friends kind of saying, ‘OK, well, I’m done with this. I’ll do gigs every once in a while as a hobby, but I’ve got to feed my family.’ “The reality of that follows you until you finally have success, basically. You don’t know if you’re going to get another eviction notice. And I had a very friendly landlord, but he was carrying his parents… his in-laws were living there.
“So if one of my cheques bounced – and they did from time to time – it wound up costing him. One night, he came over, and said, ‘I’m really sorry, but I have to ask you guys to leave by the end of the month.’ “That’s something that’s, you know, kind of burned into your memory, into your cells. That’s a place you never want to go back to.”