Bret Michaels Is Back With New Album, New TV Show and a New Appreciation for Life
As wave after wave of headlines surfaced the past few months, Bret Michaels seemed to be living the life of a rock 'n roll Job. Like the Biblical story of a man enduring numerous trials and tribulations, the singer has faced multiple life-threatening health problems but is back on the road, has a new reality show airing in October, an autobiography on the way, a restaurant chain in the works, and a new CD, 'Custom Built,' which hit stores this week.
"I was not physically, mentally, even remotely prepared for the trifecta of events that happened," Bret tells The Boot of the series of emergencies that plagued him. "I felt great in Dallas. I was in Dallas the night before, then I had the emergency appendectomy in San Antonio and then the brain hemorrhage, and the PFO [patent foramen ovale, a hole in his heart doctors found after he sustained a mild stroke]. It got ridiculous. I try to keep a really, really positive spirit, but after about 12-14 days in that ICU unit, it got a little depressing."
Bret credits the love and support of family, friends and fans with helping him get through the ordeal. "Those prayers worked. I'm part of 25% of people who actually survive the hemorrhage. I'm really thankful," says the Poison frontman, who appeared on the finale of Donald Trump's 'Celebrity Apprentice' shortly after his hospitalization and won the competition.
Initially, Bret says he tried to keep the brain hemorrhage a secret, but couldn't because people spotted him in the hospital. "They had to teach me to walk, and I had to walk up and down these hallways and other families' kids were taking pictures of me," he says. "All of a sudden, they found out where I was and I finally just told the doctors, 'Tell them what's wrong with me, but tell them I'm doing good. I don't want it to be a self-pity story.'"
Bret beat the odds and not only survived, but is going about business as usual this summer. "I'm feeling pretty good. I'm blessed, because I get to not only be out on the road, I'm out on the road with one of my favorite bands -- Lynyrd Skynyrd! I've always felt that I've been good to people, but it really put life in perspective of how fortunate I am to have such great people around me as well."
Bret is on the road with Skynyrd and .38 Special through July 11 and then will continue touring solo throughout the summer and fall. Many were surprised he hit the road so quickly after being hospitalized with such serious health concerns. "I didn't want my legacy to be a brain hemorrhage, because in the music business you can have a lot of people use that to not want to take a show," he says. "I have taken every single precaution I can take, but music to me is such a powerful healing factor that it actually makes me feel like I'm alive. Even though on stage, I'm not one hundred percent yet -- that's gonna take time, but I feel really good."
When asked if he's disobeying doctor's orders by being on the road, Bret replies, "It's not that I'm going against it. They would like me to have stayed in their rehab for about another month, but they said, 'If you follow these rules and you do this stuff and if you feel sick, walk off the stage.' Trust me, I don't want to die. So I don't want anyone to think I'm out here with false bravado. It's really because it's a great healing factor for me. I feel good around my guitar, around music and around people."
A diabetic since childhood, Bret takes four shots of insulin a day and is also taking two shots of Lovenox, a blood thinner. "I watch everything I'm doing and I'm taking all the medication," he says. "It's either do this or sit there and worry what will happen to me. The next thing I'm dealing with right now is insomnia because every time I go to sleep it's right at the same time I had the hemorrhage. I don't know if my brain just says, 'Don't fall asleep. Don't fall asleep.' It's strange. It's gonna take me a couple years to get everything right again."
In the meantime, Bret refuses to let anything keep him down. His autobiography, 'Roses and Thorns: The Reality of My Rock 'n Roll Fantasy,' will be published this fall. His new VH1 reality series, 'Life As I Know It,' debuts in October, and he's excited about his new solo CD, 'Custom Built,' releasing on his own Poor Boy Records.
Bret is juggling many roles -- father, philanthropist, reality TV star and rocker -- and he may soon be adding restaurateur to the list. "Toby Keith has a restaurant and the same gentleman that developed Toby's restaurant just offered me a very, very nice deal to start a Bret Michaels restaurant," he tells The Boot. "It looks like it's in the works for Vegas, Chicago and St. Louis. It's going to be great. Right now it's in the very infant stages, but the deal offer has already been made. We're looking at spring 2011 [to open the first one.]"
This week, Bret is busy promoting 'Custom Built.' "I [recorded] a lot of it while traveling, because we've got a studio on the bus. I did a bunch in Phoenix, some in Nashville, some in New York and some in L.A.," he says. "The title truly exemplifies what this music is about. I cover a large gamut of music that I love, from rock 'n roll to country music. I remade a Sublime song called 'What I Got,' which happens to be one of my favorite songs ever."
Bret is the father of two daughters, Jorja, 5, and Raine, 10. 'Wasted Time' is a song he wrote about trying to balance career and family. "There's a lot of time you spend on the road, which I absolutely love," he says, "but you also realize you've got to balance that with finding time in your life to make both work."
Bret recruited some friends to join him on 'Custom Built.' Miley Cyrus sings on 'Nothin' to Lose,' which was the first single released earlier this spring. Bret also put in a guest appearance on Miley's new album, playing guitar on her cover of the Poison classic, 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn.' "She did an amazing job on her new record," says Bret, who joined Miley to perform the song on 'Good Morning America' on June 18.
'Custom Built' also includes a new version of 'Every Rose' recorded in Nashville, which he plans to release to country radio stations. "I did it with Brad Arnold from 3 Doors Down, Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts, Chris Cagle and Mark Wills," he says. "All of us sang through the song a whole bunch of times, and then I just pulled it together. It really has a unique sound."
When asked about the secret to career longevity, Bret answers like a country star, insisting fans come first. He says making great music for them and forging a connection with them is essential. "The Internet is a fantastic place for young, new artists to get discovered," he says. "The only downside is it's a little more easy come, easy go .... whereas with Poison, Motley Crue, Led Zeppelin, Skynyrd, the Stones, you built your following year after year and fans had a chance to dive into who and what you were. Now, you better be careful in the digital world that you keep letting people know what your band is about. I always tell new bands, 'dDon't fear going out and being personable with your fans. Hang out. Talk about music. Talk about why you love playing the guitar. Talk about the tour. Don't alienate yourself because it's so quickly disposable.' It's a great new world we live in to be exposed, but it's also scary because you can easily be disposed."
Bret's fans definitely got a behind the scenes look at his rock 'n roll lifestyle on his popular VH1 reality series, 'Rock of Love.' However, his new show, 'Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It,' will show an entirely different side of the rocker. "When I was doing 'Rock of Love,' obviously it was a fun, party show and I was dating. I was single and having fun," he says. "People understood from 'Rock of Love' that I'm a pretty cool guy. I'm down to earth and fun. When they see this show, it's still me. The most requests they got at VH1 is everyone said, 'We want to see more of what Bret Michaels life at home is like.' And that's what this show is -- life as I know it."
Bret had only filmed one episode before his illness, and VH1 aired the show over Memorial Day weekend to give fans a taste of what they could expect from the new show. "We started shooting and they were going to come with it this summer," he says, "but we didn't know if I was going to live or die and I didn't want my legacy left behind for my kids be me being sick."
In the first episode, Bret and his youngest daughter, Jorja, cook breakfast. He helps Raine with her homework and he the girls' mother, Kristi Gibson, discuss their relationship. "Kristi and I love each other and respect each other," he says. "We've had an on again/off again relationship. Hopefully we work it out, but we're not gonna work it out or not work it out for TV. We're just gonna let it unfold the way it is. If it turns out great, that's awesome and if not, we still love and respect each other. It's not like we're going to do anything on there that we wouldn't do anyway."
How do his daughters feel about being part of the show? "The girls are having fun. They just went in and were themselves," the 47-year-old rocker says. "They were just having fun and being the goofballs that they are. We're a fun family."
He also says his daughters will be spending time with him on the road some this summer. "We're gonna have a lot of fun," he says with fatherly pride.
With the new series featuring his daughters, Bret admits to being careful about protecting them. "I take precautions. I'm a pretty private guy. I live on a ranch," he says of his home base near Phoenix. "I enjoy what I do and I take every precaution. I would do this no matter if I did a show or no show. I have security cameras and dogs, and a person who works full security on the property to make sure we're very protected. I'm a very, very protective father."
That includes trying to protect them from the disease he's battled his since childhood -- diabetes. Raine has been diagnosed as borderline diabetic, which further fueled his desire to win 'Celebrity Apprentice' and collect the $250,000 Trump pledged to donate to the winner's charity. The American Diabetes Association has been very appreciative of his efforts. "I just got awarded the first ever Chair's Citation Award from the ADA for the most awareness by an individual for diabetes," he says. "They know I've been doing this for years and years and I'll continue to do it."
Bret will also continue to rock on. He's thankful for the years he's had in the business and doesn't plan to slow down. "I think the key to success is that I put my heart and my soul into what I do. I love making music. I like being on the road. Here's my secret," he says with a playful laugh. "I don't know any better. That the best thing that has happened to me. I don't read about what I can or can't do. You've got to stay up with how you're going to put your music out there, but the rest of it is just put your heart and soul and a lot of hard work. In the process of doing that, it naturally evolved for me. That's the best way to do it. There was no secret. It was just staying in the game."