As if the Grammy Awards-winning Michael Bolton isn’t a complete enough package for his fans, in a career spanning nearly 40 years he’s sung with Pavarotti and Céline Dion, written songs with Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga and had his lyrics turned into hits by Barbra Streisand and Cher.
Yet the American singer-songwriter will be unwrapping a whole new box of delights for us with the release of his new album Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville USA, accompanied by a tour bringing him to Newcastle City Hall on May 14 (and including a date at London’s Royal Albert Hall).
It’s a foray into Motown for Bolton, a world he has loved since childhood and throughout his career which saw him start off in heavy rock in 1975 and enjoy huge success in the 80s and 90s with songs of a more easy-listening tack.
He tells me: “It takes me back to my childhood, and what it was that I enjoyed and loved about these records which were all about composition first. There were so many great singers coming into studios with no shortage of talent and claim to great voices, distinct voices.
“They also understood better than anybody that it was about the material. They needed songwriters and had teams of writers competing against each other about who was going to write the first songs for The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye - there was one after another.”
The album title is a nod to the place where Motown was born, explains the now-60-year-old.
“Hitsville is the studio and offices where the songwriters wrote the catalogue which would become Motown.
“Hitsville is really the home in Detroit and where Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson - who wrote a lot of great hits like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing and many others - said when her car first pulled up outside ‘oh no, we wanted to go to the real recording studio’ and she was told ‘this is the real recording studio’.
“The basement became a studio and a lot of hits came out of there.”
In its writing rooms history was born and he adds: “It brings home the fact that great music is not necessarily created by people working in state-of-the-art studios with every computer programme available to them. This is true creativity - and the music lives on.”
The album title’s other reference - to that Ashford & Simpson classic made into a hit first by Marvin Gaye then by Diana Ross - is his latest collaboration, this time with our own Leona Lewis.
The X Factor winner recorded her contribution to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough separately and Bolton recalls the first time he heard it: “She came into the studio and sang the night before I got to Los Angeles. I was going to work with her the next day and make whatever changes I might want to make. I went to the studio, met her and said ‘well, let’s give it a listen’ - and there wasn’t anything I would change. It was a really pleasant surprise.
“She was phenomenal. She brought this different dynamic to it and she was very respectful about the original version, remaining true to the classic, but she definitely brought her own personality and her own amazing talents, such beautiful talents, and control. And she just completely nailed it. It was so good. I was very, very happy.”
The album, which includes favourites such as Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, a duet with fellow Grammy Award-winner Melanie Fiona, alongside new songs like Gotta Keep Dreamin’ which he co-wrote, is out in February. For tickets to the gig visit newcastlecityhall.org or call 0191 277 8030.