Bret Michaels might be out on the road with Poison on the band’s first tour together in roughly half a decade, but the jaunt hasn’t slowed him down one bit in his solo pursuits. The singer-songwriter continues to record and tour year ‘round with his own Bret Michaels Band, and he recently cut a new song, “Jorja Bleu” — written for his 12-year-old daughter of the same name — which Billboard is premiering exclusively today.
The track finds Michaels not just in solo mode, but truly going it alone. “It’s just my voice, some guitar and a drum machine — the old-school 808 — and I’m doing all of it,” Michaels says. “I started by working up a drum pattern thing with my mouth, then I sat down with the 808 and laid it down. It’s very simple and very voice-driven, with a good drum track. And we did it all on the bus.”
“The bus,” as it turns out, is looking like the place where Michaels will more or less spend the remainder of 2017. In addition to Poison’s arena tour with Def Leppard and Tesla, which kicked off April 8 in Manchester, New Hampshire, and runs through June, the band will perform a handful of headlining dates on off nights. And there are also more Bret Michaels Band gigs on the near horizon as well. “It’s gonna be awesome,” Michaels says. “I love playing music, and I love being on the road and getting to do what I set out to do in the first place. So I’m excited.”
Michaels recently took some time to chat with Billboard about getting back together with Poison, what fans can expect on this tour, and the inspiration behind the new “Jorja Bleu.”
How did “Jorja Bleu” come together?
I wrote this on the road at the end of last year. Sometimes the best music you can write is inspired in the moment. And if you were on the road with us, we have the mobile studio, which is the bus. And thank god for new technology, because you can literally demo up a song right then and there.
You wrote the song for your daughter, Jorja, and I know you also have a song on an earlier solo album, 2003’s Songs of Life, named after your older daughter, Raine.
Yes. I love both daughters completely and they’re both awesome, but they’re different kids with different personalities. “Jorja Bleu,” it’s always been there to do, but the timing just felt right this year. I felt inspired. Jorja’s a great kid, and we’ve been through a lot together. She has a lot of my personality traits. She’s got this sort of road-dog personality. Raine is a little more of an old soul, but Jorja, she’s a little crazy like her dad. [Laughs.]
You sing and play everything on the song.
Pretty much. I’ve become my own little studio. And Pete [Evick, Bret Michaels Band guitarist], he’s incredible at capturing my music insanity. I’m never in a rush but I know what I want to do. So I’ll lay down something with the drum machine, and then I start laying down the guitar mixed with the vocal. And you can hear that in the tracks — my first rhythm track on the guitar, you hear me singing along.
That adds the character.
One-thousand percent. It’s like when [Poison] was doing “Every Rose Has It Thorn,” you hear that little [makes throat clearing sound] in the mix. I did that because I was nervous when we were recording it, because I was excited about the song. And in the studio everyone wanted to clip it out and make it really clean. I said, “Don’t do that — that’s the stuff when I was growing up listening to the music that I loved.” You could hear these imperfections in the background, and that was the exciting stuff.
Will “Jorja Blue” be part of a new Bret Michaels solo album?
Absolutely. But for right now, with the way the world works, you sort of put the songs out as they come and eventually you get the whole collection together. Plus, with the Poison opportunity, to be able to go out this year is amazing. To do both when you’re out on the road… it’s okay when you’re doing “Jorja Bleu” with the solo band, because we sit in the back of the bus and we have the studio. When you’re out with Poison it’s just, the day gets filled differently. But when the time is there I absolutely plan to make a new record.
It’s been a while since Poison has done a full-scale tour together.
Absolutely. And let me say that in spite of ourselves, meaning the guys in Poison, it doesn’t mean we haven’t tried to do it. But the timing feels right. [Guitarist] C.C. [DeVille]’s in. [Bassist] Bobby [Dall]’s in. And [Drummer] Rikki [Rockett] is feeling much better. He’s completely in. That guy’s an inspiration. [In 2015 Rockett revealed that he had been diagnosed with oral cancer.] So we wanted to make this happen. And along with the Def Leppard dates we’re mixing in standalone Poison shows and also my solo dates.
Any chance of new recorded music from you guys?
I will never say never. I’d love to do it. Whether or not we will do it is yet to be seen. But I’d love to say yes. To come out with an updated, new “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” “Talk Dirty to Me” or “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” I would love that. It’s no one’s fault it hasn’t happened. And if it does happen, that would be great.
There’s been some friction within Poison over the years that has been well documented.
It comes with the territory. But let me add that when we argue, it’s an argument worth having. We don’t argue about the stuff that doesn’t matter. We argue about the stuff that does matter. And, you know, C.C. stills plays like there’s no PA system. He still thinks he’s in Blue Cheer or The Who. [Laughs.] I’m the singer but I’m also a guitar player. So I’ll be like, “C.C.! You can’t play that loud! I can’t sing over the top of that.” But you know, our band is completely live. There’s no Pro Tools going on. There’s very little in-ear. I still like the feel of the crowd and the monitors. But that’s what makes it great. That’s what makes a Poison show a great live experience.
What can people expect from a Poison show in 2017?
As I’ve always said, it’s an audio-visual experience. We are one of those bands, we get together and we have such an amazingly great time. Contrary to popular belief! But 99 percent of the time we’re having the time of our lives. And we try to make the crowd feel the same way. So we get out there and we plug in and the set list, we’re hitting them with “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” then “Ride the Wind,” then “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Something to Believe In,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance”… it’s all hits. So far, the tour has been awesome. And you can capitalize “Awesome.”
And after the Poison dates wrap in June you’re right back out with the Bret Michaels Band.
Yeah, immediately. There’s not even a break. I come from that last show with Poison and two days later the Bret Michaels Band is out on the road. But I love it. I feel blessed that I get to do what I love to do, which is play music and travel, and then I balance that with the personal life, the kids, all of it. I’m still giving 1,000 percent and it feels amazing. It feels just like it did when I first started out.
Listen to “Jorja Bleu” below.