To truly understand the rebirth of Michael Bolton as the crooner Jack Sparrow, all you have to do is size up the YouTube numbers.
"I've had giant hits that have been up on YouTube for years and they're just approaching 8 million views," he says.
By comparison, his cross-dressing pirate video has been on YouTube since May and it just passed 40 million views.
For those who somehow missed it, Bolton made a cameo in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch with The Lonely Island — the popular recurring comedy music trio. They bring him in as a guest singer to layer husky vocals over their latest club anthem, but instead of chiming in, Bolton starts to channel his inner cinephile — a closet movie geek who would rather dress up in skullcap and braided goatee as Captain Jack Sparrow, the "Pirates of the Carribbean" hero played by Johnny Depp. Throw in a few crane shots of Bolton, arms wide, spinning alone on the beach and a scary turn as Erin Brockovitch and you've got one of the most talked-about viral videos of the year.
It's merely the latest incarnation for the soft rocker turned white soul cover artist, who began his career in 1975 as Michael Bolotin, later touring with Ozzy Osbourne, appearing as an extra in David Lynch's "Dune" and now sharing a stage on tour with Kenny G.
Before he individually sings to every lady in the house at the Wells Fargo Center this weekend, Bolton took time out before his Tahoe show to chat about YouTube, the formative starving days and whether Bruno Tonioli — the "Dancing With the Stars" judge who famously shredded him on national television — ever apologized.
Q: So you won't be with Kenny G when you're in Santa Rosa?
A: No. Kenny will be with us in Saratoga and Wente (winery in Livermore). You're starting to sound like me — is Kenny gonna be with us on these shows? What day is it? What month is it? What year is it?
Q: You guys get along pretty good?
A: We do. It's funny, we go back so far. We started playing on each other's records as far back as &‘87. We did seven nights at the Universal Amphitheater (in Los Angeles) that were sold out and there was a billboard on Sunset for the longest time. We were both very proud and happy about it because we were both starving musicians for a lot of years. We go back that far.
Q: How has the backstage changed since &‘87?
A: Ha ha! It's very different. It's funny though, we've both kept a lot of the same people around us for the last 20 years. So we'll see the same faces 20 to 25 years older. We have a lot of war stories.
Q: How crazy is it that the Jack Sparrow sketch is up for an Emmy?
A: You won't believe the people that are yelling "Jack Sparrow!" as soon as I walk on stage. I finish the first song and it's "Jack Sparrow!" "Jack Sparrow!" And I'm also getting high-fives from an audience that is not my touring audience — the 14- to 40-year-old male YouTube audience.
Q: I read a YouTube comment that said, "This is the most awesome thing he's ever done!" What do you think about that?