Revisiting one’s own heartache onstage night after night for 30 years is no small feat, but Michaels says he has no hard feelings about performing “Every Rose” regularly. On a phone call shortly before the song’s 30th anniversary, the singer reflects on his expectations for the chart-topping smash, urging Capitol Records to give it a push and its enduring legacy. Michaels says that through it all, “Every Rose” continues to resonate with him 30 years after its release. “When I say my life is roses and thorns… this song isn’t just about this moment in my life,” he says. “It encompasses my entire life.”
Did you really sit down at the laundromat and write all the lyrics to “Every Rose” in one sitting?
No, it wasn’t just one sitting. It was a period of a couple days. You go through a gamut of emotion, because—and I want to say a very strong statement—when you’re going through that, you’re not thinking of it being a hit. I wrote it because music was therapeutic to me. In other words, it helped me to get out my broken heart. It helped me to deal with what I was going through. And so, what happens over a period of a couple days, I remember sitting out in the mini Winnebago, just sitting out there for hours and hours on the guitar, and I wrote a ton of lyrics. And then I narrowed it down to what I felt kind of encapsulated, what I felt within a three- to four-minute song was gonna capture the feeling. It’s like [Poison’s 1990 Flesh & Blood hit] “Something to Believe In.” I’ve probably got 10 pages of lyrics, but I tried to then go back and capture the story so that it didn’t become a 28-minute song.
It’s pretty impressive that a song you didn’t even think would be a hit has come to define a certain era of American music altogether.
The toughest songs to write are good-time party songs. And let me explain that. People are always like, “Oh man, ‘Nothin’ But a Good Time,’ that must have been an easy song to write.” It’s not an easy song, because when you’re partying and having a good time, there’s no emotion in you that says, “Let’s sit down right now and write a song.” But you have something break your heart, you have a best friend like “Something to Believe In,” one of your best friends that you saw their face every day for years and years and years, die instantly over Christmas… what I’m saying to you is those moments are the toughest moments in your life, but oddly enough, the most defined songs and easier songs to write because you have an exact emotion.
How did the band react when you showed them the song?
You know what, it was strange. The reaction was, “Hey, great, you know, we’re friends, we grew up together.” They’re like, “Yeah, it’s a good song. It’s a really good song. It’s an emotional song.” And there was no bad reaction. I don’t know that a couple of them were… they’re like, “Well, it’s kind of a ballad and we’ll see.” But honestly, they were supportive. No one fought it, and they knew that me—as writing the lyrics and a good percentage of the music on all of our songs, but especially that one top to bottom—they were very supportive knowing what I was going through. I’d like to give you a dramatic statement, but no one was against it, if you know what I mean. They were like, “Okay, if you’re feeling it.” But I don’t think they ever thought that it was coming out as a single.