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Michael Bolton Focuses On Positivity, Hopefulness With Spark Of Light Album

We caught up with Bolton to talk about his new album, his songwriting process, and the early days of his career.

Michael Bolton – Rock Confidential Cover

Nearly five decades since he was playing hard rock with his band Blackjack, Michael Bolton is creating and performing at the same high standard he’s pursued throughout his entire career.

Bolton’s latest album, Spark Of Light, is optimistic and upbeat, grounded in classic songcraft and elevated by contemporary sonics and sensibilities reflecting his collaborations with a cadre of cutting-edge young creatives. “Really, Spark Of Light is everything it comes in contact with – positive energy, hopefulness, happiness,” Bolton explains. “It’s kind of a wide array of events that brought all these different characters and elements together.”

Bolton’s cast of the aforementioned characters include contemporary new forces such as Australia’s Tushar Apte (BTS, Blackpink, Demi Lovato), Morgan Taylor Reid (Backstreet Boys, Shane Harper, Plug In Stereo), American Authors’ frontman Zachary Barnett, Walk the Moon’s Nicholas Petricca, Jared Lee (Jason Derulo, Louis the Child, Markus Schulz), Grammy Award winner Jonas Myrin (Matt Redman, Tomlin, Streisand and Bocelli) and Robert Marvin (Adam Lambert, Matt Kearney, TobyMac, Tove Lo). Another current talent, Justin Jesso, had randomly introduced himself in a restaurant to Bolton as a fan and a decade later the two found themselves collaborating on the single “Beautiful World” that’s featured on the new album.

“The pandemic actually wound up inspiring me to work,” Bolton explains. “I found a connection with other songwriters and producers and artists that we were all chomping at the bit to get back to work, ’cause we love what we do. It was a very exciting experience, even if we were doing it by Zoom or whatever until we could all be together again. It always comes back to what the strengths are that somebody brings to the table, and you find that out when you’re in the studio. It’s just as exciting as it’s ever been to collaborate and bring these songs to life.”

The process, for Bolton, resulted in “some of the greatest songs I’ve ever been involved in writing and working on.” In fact, this is the first ever album of all original music co-written by Bolton, the artist. That starts at the beginning with Spark Of Light‘s title track, co-written and produced by Apte and Petricca. With its smooth vibe and anthemic chorus, it sets a tone that spreads throughout the rest of the album. “We all got on this theme of spark of light as being a real super bright point in our lives and in the world,” Bolton recalls, “and it started other conversations about how important keeping that light alive is in all the aspects of our living and the world, as fragile as it is. The level of positive energy that came around “Spark of Light” was very high and very exciting, and I was looking forward to getting back to the next session and picking up wherever we left off. We wound up working a lot of late nights together.”

“It’s been, and it is, an incredible ride – and incredibly creative, amazing ride,” Bolton says. “I’ve recognized how fortunate I am, to have worked with so many talented people who keep my level of enthusiasm up. That’s as true now as it’s ever been, and it makes me excited to do even more.”

Rock Confidential caught up with Bolton to talk about Spark Of Light, his songwriting process, reflecting on the early days of his career and what’s next for the accomplished performer, songwriter and producer.

How was your songwriting process different for Spark Of Light?

Well, to begin with, most of the sessions were done remotely which was a first for me. I’m very used to being in the same room with my collaborators and, especially if you’re working together for the first time, a lot of the session is getting to know each other during the creative process. But during the pandemic everything had to get transferred to online and we still made it work.

Did you go into this album with a clear decision to focus on all original material? Did you have a particular direction in mind?

I didn’t even realize that was a thing until someone from my team told me, ‘do you realize this is your first album of all original music co-written by you?’ I guess it’s less a big deal to me than to others because to me it’s always about the song, wherever and however it comes to be. If it’s honest and powerful and memorable, I’m going to want to put my voice on it.

How did you choose collaborators?

My manager is primarily who puts together my writing sessions. She’ll bring me some ideas for collaborations and we’ll discuss it and I’ll go into a room — or in this case a Zoom — with a sense of what each person can bring to the table that’s going to be complementary and result in a sum that’s much greater than it’s parts. I like working with contemporary writers, artists and producers because they bring something fresh and new energy. For them, I think they’re going for a copyright that’s going to be around for decades. So we are all striving for that hit song.

As a songwriter, when working with other artists and producers, what do you contribute? Music, melodies, lyrics, or all the above?

My primary instrument is my voice and my primary contribution is melody along with titles and chorus lyrics. I like to tweak verse lyrics until they’re just perfect in saying something very relatable just in a new way. I tend to like traditional song structures but with unexpected lyrical twists within an overall story that will resonate with anyone anywhere.

Which artists influence your songwriting?

As a singer, my single greatest influence is Ray Charles. I also loved singing along to Stevie Wonder as a kid. As a songwriter, I love Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye.

Do you write everything before heading to the studio?

The writing and recording process for me usually happens around the same time. We’ll be in the studio laying down basic tracks and writing or rewriting lyrics and melodies on top and once we have found he chorus or more, I’ll lay down a demo and try to get as close as possible to a great vocal performance so we can really hear if the song is powerful, but I’m usually tweaking it quite a lot up to the last final moments.

How long did Spark Of Light take?

The basic songs came together quickly actually but then the refinement took quite some time, probably because we were all remote. But we just kept dialing in the production until it felt right.

What music affected you growing up?

I grew up listening to a lot of Motown but also right during the British Invasion. It’s all of that plus the Blues really affected the way I bend and hold my notes.

What do you enjoy most – writing or performing?

They are so different and cater to very different moods or energy. There’s nothing like singing, for me. But songwriting is something I have also done my whole life and is very gratifying on another internal level. I love that they can go hand in hand.

Do you have a collaborator wish list?

There are a few people on my list but the truth is I have been blessed to have collaborated with some of the greats of all time, including Cher and Streisand, Dylan and Pavarotti, Ray Charles and Dominguez. It’s pretty shocking to me that I’ve gotten to meet and work with so many of my heroes.

What’s your first musical memory?

There was always music in our house growing up but for me personally the memory that really stands out is when my parents both chipped in to get me my first acoustic guitar. A friend taught me a few chords and then I was off to the races writing in every moment I could steal away.

Blackjack, Michael Bolton, Everybody’s Crazy. Rock fans find great pleasure in telling the world about that material. Like it’s “our little secret.” Are you aware of the current love for those albums? What would you like to say to acknowledge your fans from that era of your career?

It’s amazing to revisit where I started and I’m honored to be embraced by rock fans of the era. It was a crazy time for sure but I can definitely say no matter what the genre I have always given it my all.

How were your goals as an artist different then as opposed to The Hunger and Soul Provider?

My goals as an artist have always been the same — to keep creating and as much as possible on my own terms. For that, you have to have a certain degree of success. With success comes a kind of creative freedom that you might not feel otherwise.

You recently celebrated your 70th birthday. What’s left you want to accomplish?

There is always so much to do. I love the path I’ve taken down the comedy road since collaborating with The Lonely Island on “Jack Sparrow.” And any project where I can marry comedy to music is a dream come true. But I will say that since the pandemic slowed things down, I really have enjoyed being able to spend time with my family more than perhaps ever in my career.

What will be your legacy?

Of course I hope it will be my music, my songs and songwriting. But I also hope it’s the positive impact on lives through the music therapy program we’ve created with the Michael Bolton Charities.

Spark Of Light is out now. Signed copies are available at

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