The current state of our world has opened our eyes, shifted priorities, compelled us to action and levelled society’s playing field. Recent events call upon all of us to, both, embrace and acknowledge our vulnerabilities and muster our collective strength. Regardless of what race, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic circumstances we hold, we are forever bound together by these extraordinary times we live in. Words by Allison Kugel.
While our essential workers on the front lines keeping the nuts and bolts of society running and keeping us informed; elements like nature, family, friends, and the arts lift our spirits. Music has the power to inspire, heal, help us process our anger or heartbreak, prompt reflection, or make us grow nostalgic. Therefore, it should continue to be celebrated, even in the tensest of times.
Talking to Legendary Poison frontman, Bret Michaels, we discussed his now four-decade multi-platinum-selling music career, how some much-publicized health challenges have strengthened his spirit and resolve, his love of touring and his inexhaustible energy for new projects.
AK: This is the first interview I am releasing since the start of this pandemic. I have been reticent about putting anything entertainment-related out there. But if I am getting back into it, you are a good person to start back up with!
BM: We use the words “tough times,” but these are also confusing times. Some people are saying “Don’t worry about it,” while others like me and you are saying, “Are you and your family safe?” I’m in the highest risk category for COVID-19, being a Type 1 Diabetic since the age of six. So, my whole family have been really good about wearing masks and gloves and being safe until we get closer to the shore, if you know what I mean. I’ve also been trying to inject as much positivity into everything as I can without it sounding phony. I call myself a drealist. I dream and I dream big, but I’m also a realist.
AK: Would you say that some of the things you previously took for granted or overlooked, you are now noticing or rediscovering?
BM: Completely. I have a ranch in Arizona, and I went through everything that I have hoarded. I de hoarded it (laugh). Then I went and started painting stuff. I’m a motor sports, outdoor kind of guy, so I ripped apart engines, like Go Kart engines. I also began noticing some furniture in need of a little love and TLC. I watch all these shows where they do it, and I finally decided to jump in and start restoring some furniture. And music, of course. I love listening to Bob Marley through these times. I listen to Three Little Birds and it just puts me right.
AK: The right perspective makes all the difference in your life.
BM: All the difference! With coronavirus, we don’t know the exact date it was created or where it came from, so rather than focus on that, why don’t we start focusing on the cities that are doing better, and what places like New York are doing to make it better. We have already established that it’s a horrific virus. Now, what do we do to help each other get through it? And the amount of anxiety and depression this has caused, and economic turmoil; we are going to have to keep an eye on each other. We have to have each other’s backs.
AK: Let’s talk about your new book, Auto-Scrap-Ography. You are a ball of kinetic energy. How did you manage to sit down and write this book?
BM: Writing a book is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and it’s one of the mostfulfilling. I wanted to do something unique. I grabbed some timestamped photos. I took blank pieces of paper and I would scotch tape an image to a piece of paper and start writing the story surrounding that image, kind of like a Chicken Soup for the Soul vibe. The reason I didn’t write a normal biography, and I love to read those, by the way, is because I could take a picture and write stream of consciousness about what my thoughts were in that moment, what I was going through and what happened. Every picture has a story and every story has multiple tentacles. This book is Volume 1. Over the next volumes I’m going to give you different tentacles of each story and really deep dive into it, so you are living the experience with me.
AK: Your life experiences are such double-edged swords. Everything is the good and the bad, or the fun and the scary at the same time.
BM: Yes, my life, ironically, has been roses and thorns (a reference to Poison’s number one hit ballad, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”). A rose is this beautiful thing that looks amazing, it brings people life and it means love. And if you grab it the wrong way, or slide your hand down it, you have a painful thorn in your hand. My life has been a perfect balance beam in that way. I remember playing Texas Stadium in front of 83,000 people. It was completely sold out and we shot the I Won’t Forget You video with Paul Stanley on stage, and Steven Tyler watching from the side. It was one of those, “This is the greatest!” moments. Life felt like a surreal dream. Two hours later we went from mega Texas Stadium rock star status to playing a small town in either in Texas or New Mexico where there weren’t four people in the whole place who knew or cared who or what we were. At the time, it was exactly what I needed to happen to realize this will keep me as grounded as the person that I am today.
AK: Since touring is off the table right now, what other projects are you working on?
BM: I am going to be the face of college radio. Each year they pick someone to be the face of it and this year it’s me. I also got the Humanitarian of The Year Award last year at the 2019 Hollywood Christmas Parade (Michaels ongoing philanthropic efforts have included delivering needed supplies to the people of the Bahamas and Puerto Rico). Way back when, when no one would touch our records, college radio spun our album. I wanted to do something to show my appreciation. I’ve also contributed to a lot of school programs, donating to their music, art and athletic programs.
AK: Here are the questions I ask everyone and my favorite part of the interview. What do you think you came into this life as Bret Michaels to learn? And what do you think you came here to teach?
BM: To learn, I’m going to say something very bold here. I came here to learn as much as I can about everything. One of the things I teach my kids is, “Take it all in, and learn from everybody.” I’ve done that. I go out on my mountain bike and drive around while the road crew is setting stuff up, and I talk to them and find out what they are doing and learn from that. Whether or not I can apply that knowledge right then and there is one thing, but I learn a lot and I enjoy people. As far as teaching, I think if I was to have one other career, and I hope I can segue from what I’m doing now into this, I do these inspirational seminars where I talk about everything under the sun. I talk about what I’ve gone through and what I go through. With everything I have been through, that is the one thing I can give back and what I want to be able to do. It’s what I would have done had this music thing not worked out the way it has. If my life had gone another way and I was just playing music on the weekends, I would have been a teacher of some kind… or a truck driver. I know that sounds crazy, but I love the open road.
AK: What do you think your spiritual mission is in this lifetime?
BM: I think it’s to bring to people as much realistic positivity to people as possible. If you came to a party I’m hosting, as you have been, when you come to my house to a party, I don’t want to be the life of the party. I want you to have the time of your life at my party. I think one of the reasons I’m a singer or frontman of a band is I’m a good host to people. I like when people feel good. It makes me feel good.
Bret Michael’s memoir, Bret Michaels: Auto-Scrap-Ography, is out now and available exclusively at ShopBretMichaels.com. Follow on Instagram @bretmichaelsofficial. Information on Poison’s postponed tour dates.
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment columnist and author of the memoir, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at AllisonKugel.com.