Subaru, Michael Bolton, and Morissette search for the next Asian singing sensation

Written by Neil Pagulayan

With a career spanning about four decades, who hasn’t heard of Michael Bolton? Everyone has a favorite song and you probably know more than one of the songs he’s made popular.

Made possible by Motor Image Pilipinas, distributor of Subaru in the Philippines, we spent a few minutes with the multi-Grammy awarded singer, songwriter and musician, and Subaru’s, co-creator/producer, Michael Bolton. Joining him was singer, Morissette Amon, who is the resident mentor on the latest season of their show, Asian Dream.

This is the second time Bolton is working with Subaru on a reality show. Bolton shares what it’s like working with Subaru and Morissette.

It’s great for me to work with a company that is ‘for real’, supportive of artists and music.

-Michael Bolton

Author: This is the second time you’ll be working with Subaru on a reality show, what’s it like working with them?

Michael Bolton: Subaru has been such an incredible supportive power behind all of this.

When I first met Glenn Tan , I knew we were gonna hit it off, we were gonna do something great. It’s great for me to work with a company that is ‘for real’, supportive of artists and music. And watching artists become better artists is something that Glenn himself takes very very seriously, and that’s all you can ask for.

He has a big successful company. When you let them know that you take this very seriously and you’re gonna do your best to deliver a successful show, and a powerful emotional show at the same time. And they show up and say, “We’re gonna support that.”

We work as a team, very much like I have experienced with record companies, for the last forty something years, almost fifty years.  I think it’s important that you, as an artist, show your appreciation to the corporate aspect or team that comes on board and makes everything happen, allows the whole process to happen. I’m very grateful that Subaru is our partner for this venture.

A: What’s it like to work with Morissette on Asian Dream?

 MB: Working with Morissette for me is a dream. She has every element you wish every artist could have because, besides having a magnificent instrument in her voice, and being a great emotional messenger, interpreting the emotional power of the songs, she has all of that plus she’s one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met or worked with. She’s such a pleasure to be around.

We were laughing quite a bit on the set, as long as it wasn’t inappropriate during someone’s performance. We were laughing a lot.  I have so much respect for her, because she was given a great instrument, and because her personality, her persona, which is very much an extension of who she is: someone who wants perfection, wants to achieve greatness when they get up to the microphone. When she gets up to the microphone, she’s gonna hit it out of the park, she’s not gonna just give a little try, or a nice subtle approach, she’s gonna pull you in and then just knock you out.  It’s such a pleasure to watch her process basically. 

I got to work with aspiring, really hungry, young artists of different ages... And I got to be reminded basically of the hunger that I had

- Michael Bolton

A: How do you feel about the six aspiring contenders?

MB: Well, I enjoy the six aspiring contestants. Any artist with a good instrument, with a good voice, and the willingness to make it the best voice you can, is a hit song away from being a star. And that can be in all the countries in the world. A whole other topic we can cover someday is how important the songs are, once you have the artist. But in this case, we have six artists offering different types of strengths, and power and elements that are attractive. We’re trying to basically help them hone their skills, become better singers, and interpreters of songs. It’s been a lot of fun actually.

I had a really great experience on the show, because I got to work with aspiring, really hungry, young artists of different ages, but definitely young for me, to begin to work with them. And I got to be reminded basically of the hunger that I had, as a teenager and someone in their young twenties through the years of feeling like I had to climb this mountain to be recognized, to establish myself as an artist. And I got to see that in the faces, and the expressions, in the eyes of these young hungry, music-loving singers. And it was a great experience, very moving for me because it took me back in time.

It tears you a little bit up, as a judge. You have to be sometimes brutally honest with some of the contestants, and some of them weren’t always excited to hear what I had to say. But I was able to share lessons from my own experience, and I was able to confidently say “I’m not wasting your time, when I’m telling you that next time you step up to the microphone, you need to own this, emotionally, spiritually, personally, vocally. You need to own this next performance or you probably won’t make it back for another one.”

And that’s part of the message and part of the lessons I had to teach. Overall, everyone you see, every contestant, would do nothing but music if they had a choice. They would disappear into music land, forever.

You guys will see throughout the show, how they’ve been stepping up

- Morissette Amon

A: Morissette, what is it like to give advice to different nationalities? and what qualities do you look for in a singer?

Morissette Amon: It was very nostalgic working on the show, given the chance to mentor someone. I’m brought back to how I started in the industry.  As a mentor in Asian Dream, we just really want these contestants to develop and grow into the potential we see; really maximize their talents. You guys will see throughout the show, how they’ve been stepping up and I’m very excited to see where this will take them in their careers.

A: What qualities do you look for in a singer?

MA: For qualities, they know their core, confident, knowing who you are as an artist, and working around that. That can’t be taught, you have to own it.

Young artists want music that’s going to be around for a long time... something classic that will be performed by different artists in generations to come...

- Michael Bolton

A: Michael, as a veteran singer, can you share some of the lessons they learned from being in the music industry?

MB: I’ve been in this process for the last few years working with a lot of young writers and producers. Many of them have been fans for years before. Basically they saw me on MTV and VH1 before Youtube existed. I would try to find out, what was important to them in the making of the music, the creating of the songs, where we would have a common ground to work. And what I’ve found is that... it's different with every personality of course, but, I find this one mutual element which is the passion for art, the hunger for the art.

Young artists want music that’s going to be around for a long time. They wanna be a part of something classic that will be performed by different artists in generations to come, would be recorded many times by different artists, that would be in commercials, in packages of the greatest hits of our decade or of the century or whatever. It's all about a long life and a long legacy.

And it's interesting to me, because when I first started working with some of the younger writers, I was concerned that they were just want to write something that sounds brand new, that's maybe here and gone the next day. When the trend of different drum loops or something new kind of burnt out or oversaturated, I didn’t want to sit down and work with young artists just to write something fresh for myself. I want to write something that’s gonna be around, has depth and meaning, and lyrically connects. And I didn’t have to twist anyone’s arms when I was writing and producing.

What I found was they all want to be part of this, this element, I guess, that has given me a long career. So it’s easy to share with them at the same time. There’s so much talent. Even with our group of aspiring artists, I felt that same sense of, “the pure love of it”, that this is all they want to do, and it takes me back in time, to my first record contract. That failed, it didn’t deliver hits, and another one, and then another one for years and years. And it reminds me how hungry I was, I see that in the faces of these aspiring artists.

Morissette is the example, to me, of what I’d be looking for in an artist, year after year after year after year, to deliver powerful classic music and contemporary hit music with a phenomenal instrument. Because it’s an internal recognition that this has gotta be what you love. It’s hard work.

But after all these years of singing and writing, recording and producing, I try to share with them, the different things that can happen, the most important thing for them at first is global recognition, local, regional, national recognition as artists. And then, from there, hopefully to take on the world, on the world stage.

It's been a long long time, and I’m still expanding what I do, in keeping the love of music at the center of it. I have a podcast that’s gonna be starting in a couple of months. I have an album that’s gonna be out in a couple of months, and after all of these years, it’s easy for me to tell, when I’m speaking to a young audience, how much they really want it. This business tests you, to find out how much you really want it, cause if you don’t really really want it, it goes away fast.

So I share as much as I could, that came from a very honest and a place of my own personal experience, and I think it’s been appreciated.

Filipinos are known to have great singers, a lot of great singers, and it’s not a coincidence.

- Michael Bolton

A: Any words for your Filipino fans?

MB: I certainly hope everybody watches Asian Dream and joins us. The Filipinos, I think they have some sort of advantage. There’s something in the water. This is a conversation I’ve had with everyone from Thailand, Taiwan and wherever else in the world: that the Filipinos are known to have great singers, a lot of great singers, and it’s not a coincidence. I’m sure it’s a genetic thing as well as the influence of a lot of singers, I think, from my part of the world who have inspired them. There are just some extremely, extremely gifted, there seem to be more… (chuckles), and not that there aren’t great singers from every country. But we joke about it sometimes that the Filipinos have some sort of advantage, I dunno.

The latest season of Asian Dream showcases six new contestants: Becky Yeung, 26 from Hong Kong, Poova Sri Lama, 39 from Malaysia, Karl Zarate, 24, from the Philippines, TyenRasif, 24 from Singapore, Sasha Ka, 27 from Thailand and Linh Tran, 25 from Vietnam.  You can watch episodes HERE.