Sept. 12--Michael Buble learned a big lesson while touring with his 2009 album "Crazy Love. On that tour, the pop singer made the jump from 4,000-seat theaters to 20,000-seat arenas. He thought yukking it up during his shows would ease his anxiety.
"I was making it too comedy-heavy and ducking away from singing rich songs," Buble says. "It was a real learning curve for me. People come to hear the songs, not to hear me chatting -- though a big part of what I do is humor."
When he began mounting his tour coming to Scottrade Center this weekend, in support of "To Be Loved," Buble swallowed his pride, took what he learned and applied it to the new production.
"It's more music-heavy and more into the production," he says. "It's a massive production, my biggest yet, and a far more mature show."
He also says his set list is structured a bit differently on this tour.
"I think a lot of artists save their biggest songs for the end, trying to keep people in their seats -- keep them waiting," Buble says. "I felt my repertoire was big enough and strong enough, and I didn't need to save anything for the end. The first three songs are a knockout."
The new album, which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, is Buble's stab at creating music that's looser and more organic than his past work.
"I'd made really nice records before -- really smooth, really slick," he says. "I had a great producer named David Foster."
Foster has worked with Christina Aguilera, the Bee Gees, Toni Braxton, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand.
"But we had differences about what we like musically," Buble says. "He likes perfection. I wanted to make a Motown record, a record with a great vibe where I'm not worrying if a string is off in the 34th bar. I just wanted it to feel good and wanted a producer who shared that with me."
So Buble went with producer Bob Rock, who has worked with 311, Metallica, Bryan Adams and the Offspring.
"We went about it the old-school way," he says. "We ate and drank together and had a blast laughing and arguing. Everything was beautiful and live and rich."
But in making a different sort of album, they felt it was important not to alienate those who like their Buble smooth and slick.
"I've sold 40 million records," Buble says. You don't turn your back on 40 million people. But you want to show growth, write a little more and take more chances."
The album is dominated by cover tunes but includes a handful of originals. One of the covers is "Who's Loving You," which he says some questioned.
"People thought of me as a crooner and asked how could I do that song," Buble says. "But I was sure I could do it. I remember skeptics saying since it's a recording, you can fix it in the studio -- the studio can save you. It's not about studio magic."
Buble pooh-poohs the idea that he's a "crooner."
"I don't think anybody loves being labeled," he says. "We all fight when they tell us we're one thing or the other. A crooner sings with sensuality, and I do, but I'm a pop singer too. But I get why they categorize me. But I think of myself as an old-school entertainer."
Other covers include "To Love Somebody" and "After All," which Buble recorded with fellow Canadian Bryan Adams. He says Adams was one of his biggest idols growing up, and singing with him was special.
In picking his cover songs, Buble says he has to love them deeply -- "I have to know there is an authenticity to them. It's like an actor getting a script. If they don't believe what they're saying, there's no way an audience will believe it. I trust my gut."
The album has a surprise appearance from actress Reese Witherspoon, who joins him on "Something Stupid." He says the Oscar winner was hesitant about the recording.
"She wasn't sure about it; it wasn't her world," he says. "I would feel the same way if I was going into a film of hers. But I knew she was the one. I loved her portrayal of June Carter in 'Walk the Line.' Her voice was perfect."
He says he and Witherspoon had many conversations before they recorded, and she was the first person he told he was having a baby. Buble and wife Luisana Lopilato had a boy, Noah, last month).
"She walked into the studio nervous, but she killed it," Buble says. "She had it down in two or three takes. I patted myself on the back. I felt like a genius."
What Michael Buble --When 8 p.m. Saturday --Where Scottrade Center, 1401 Clark Avenue --How much $54.50-$110 --More info Ticketmaster.com
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