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Michael Bublé Talks Whiskey, ‘Spicy Margarita,’ Music and Mushrooms

Canadian superstar singer Michael Bublé thinks he has a global smash on his hands with “Spicy Margarita,” his collaboration with Jason Derulo. The pair performed the Latin-flavoured banger together last week on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and recently shared their mutual respect by getting tattoos of the other — Derulo got a Bublé face on his neck and Bublé the word “DARULO” across his forehead. “You spelled it wrong!” a mock-disappointed Derulo declares in the comedic clip as their single plays in the background.

The song samples Bublé’s cover of “Sway,” made famous by Dean Martin, which the crooner covered on his 2001 debut jazz album, “BaBalu,” and appears on appears on Derulo’s guest-packed collab album, “Nu King,” out Feb. 16.

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Continuing the alcohol theme, Bublé teamed with Master distiller and blender Paul Cirka to create his own brand of hard liquor, Fraser and Thompson Whiskey, named after the two rivers in his native British Columbia where he spent time as a kid with his beloved grandfather, the man he credits for introducing him to jazz and swing standards. The spirit is a blend of 8% Kentucky bourbon and 92% Canadian whisky [believe it or not, the spelling of whisky or whiskey depends on where the whisky or whiskey in question was made — ed.].

But Bublé was also involved in an accidental incident involving a different substance, mushrooms. Earlier this month, while in Toronto for the NHL All Star Game weekend — co-captaining Team Hughes with Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes — he found himself a global headline after a joke he made to a roomful of sports reporters was taken seriously.

“My buddy told me, ‘This is just a microdose of mushrooms’ and he was lying,” he quipped, sitting next to fellow celebrity captain, actor Will Arnett. “So, I’ll be honest, I thought I was in ‘Blades of Glory’ for most of the time that I was out there, until it sort of settled down. And then I realized, ‘Holy shit. I am at the NHL All-Star Game!’”

As he soon found out, the joke went over many people’s heads.

The singer — and owner of his own junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants — spoke with Variety about going viral, creating the song with Derulo, his effort to make a female-friendly whiskey, and his excitement over the Professional Women’s Hockey League, and what’s next.

Hello, am I speaking with viral sensation Michael Bublé? You caused a bit of a stir with the mushrooms comment.
I caused a stir! I am truly living my best life.

We’ll have to leave your brain to science.
I don’t give a shit anymore — I am having a good time. They’re really not used to that [sports media]. I’m guessing they were used to hockey players saying, “I’ll do my best to show up and give 99%.”

Let’s talk about another substance: Your whiskey brand. I don’t drink whiskey but I would drink an alcoholic Bubly.
You don’t drink booze or you don’t drink whiskey?

I need a wimpy whiskey.

Can I tell you something? Honestly, you need to be prepared to start liking whiskey because I made a whiskey for you — I’m not kidding. When we designed this, it was [intended] for people who don’t really love whiskey. It’s really smooth and it has a nice sweetness at the end. And the truth is, my wife would tell me the same thing: “Mike, I don’t like it. It’s too strong. It’s harsh.” And then I made her first Old Fashioned for her and she went nuts. By the way, I made it with Bubly. I put a bunch of orange Bubly, a little bit of brown sugar, a little bit of bitters and I smash a little orange peel and mixed it up. It is so yummy. You might like that.

It sounds like I would, actually. I’m reading the description of it: “Offers delicate aromas with hints of fig, blood orange and vanilla. The palate is smooth and creamy with rich, complex flavours of caramel, sweet vanilla, light oak and a hint of spice.” You can smell all those things? Fig? Blood orange?
We literally spent three years reverse engineering a whiskey for people that don’t like whiskey — that was the thing. Listen, we understand what the whiskey connoisseurs want and I get what a $2,000 Pappy Van Winkle tastes like, but that’s not what we were doing. We wanted to make a really approachable whiskey at an affordable price [$29.99 U.S.]. I kept asking my partners, “What is the goal?,” and they kept saying, “We want something that tastes amazing, that gives people value for flavor.” I’m telling you, this is gonna work for me because I stayed out of their way enough — I did not mess with them [laughs] as we were actually making this. And, one of our real honest [goals] was hoping to make something that women liked.

You’re cheating on your whiskey with the margarita. How did Jason Derulo end up contacting you and what was your idea was for “Spicy Margarita”?
It was really organic, to be honest. I’ve known Jason for 13, 14 years. I always liked what he did — I think I had a bigger impact on him, probably, because I’m a little older. I think he actually thought about becoming a jazz singer as a younger guy. And I’ve always wanted to take the love and reverence I have for the great American songbook to jazz. I knew this was the root of modern music; I knew that this is where rap, R&B, pop, hip-hop all comes from. So I know that if you take care of it, you can mash these things up and they can work — not just work, but it can slap.

And so, when he called me and said, “Let’s do something,” he had a completely different idea in mind. I just said to him, “Jay, you’re the king of your thing, man, and I’ve got my lane; why are we not finding a way to bring this together to unite this music?” I might have been a little harsh in what I said to him — and I was harsh because I know he’s smart — but he came back to me two days later and he was so excited. It was very sweet. He was like, “Dude, I listened to what you said and you’re right. It works. I have something.”

Was the sample of “Sway” from your first album your idea?
We looked at the songbook, at all these great jazz songs that I [cover], and we just started looking at samples that we thought would be great. And, by the way, it turns out that that song, for me personally, is one of the biggest streaming songs every single year. So it was a no-brainer. I did the reinterpretation of my part; he came up with his writers with his part, and then we met in the middle, basically.

Actually, I should go further [in telling the story]. I sent him the recording. I did all the orchestration with my partner Nicholas Jacobson-Larson, he went in with an orchestra, and we sent that to them and just let them use all those parts. When I got through with it, I was excited, but Jason said that it could be better. I was like, “What do you mean?” He said, “Mike, you’re singing like a pop singer” — because, you know, I have two sort of styles — and he was right. He was like, “I don’t want Michael Bublé in Jason’s Derulo’s world, and I don’t wanna be in your world either. Be Michael Bublé.” So I went back in, rerecorded it and that’s what you have now. And that’s why I think we’re about to have a big global hit.

You were recently an NHL celebrity captain, involved with the draft pick, etc. Is it fun to step into a different world?
Yeah, but [hockey] is my world. It really is. I’ve owned a junior hockey team for many years now. A lot of my life is spent behind the scenes of this sport. Everyone knows I’m a [Vancouver] Canucks fan, but really, I’m a hockey fan and my goal and my love of this sport is to help to continue to grow it.

Have you seen a Professional Women’s Hockey League game yet?
Yeah. I went and was hacky-sacking with the ladies backstage before the game.

Every PWHL game is selling out instantly. It’s amazing.
It’s such an entertaining [game]. They’re such great players. I mean, I’ve got two daughters and it gives me so much hope. It was fun last night, there was a guy named Brian Troche, that you might not know, but one of the greatest who ever played. And I was so excited to meet him and he gave me a hug and he said, “You know what I like about you? Your music’s OK, but number one, I like that you’re a girl dad, and I know you’re a good girl dad.” So that meant a lot to me. And I just love this whole thing of getting hockey in the community and really getting our kids out.

Are you writing new music with anyone now or going in the studio?
I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate that might not have as much to do with music, but music is my love — and I have a big idea, but that idea is gonna take time. What I wanna do is more of an event. And I wanna make sure that when I do that, that I give everyone the time to be ready for it.

Very intriguing. Well, lay off the mushrooms. Stick to the whiskey.
[laughs]. Thank you. And do me a favor, try that whiskey with a little bit of what I said. And believe it or not, I even hired the coolest mixologist in the world, and he taught me how to make a spicy margarita with Fraser & Thompson. So I have left no stone unturned.

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