Memorial Day weekend may be over, but the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza will continue to honor the nation’s veterans with a special concert this Friday, May 30.
Bret Michaels, the Charlie Daniels Band, and the Marshall Tucker Band will be performing at the arena, with partial proceeds benefiting the 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary Memorial Fund, founded to preserve the legacy of 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary of the U.S. Army, killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom III on Dec. 20, 2005. The fund focuses on “families who have been irrevocably affected by the injury or loss of a loved one in military service” and causes that “best represent Mike’s commitment to service,” according to an arena press release.
“One of the last things Mike said to me was, ‘I have to take care of my guys,’” said Jack Cleary, father of Michael Cleary and founder of the memorial fund, in that same release. “This is what this foundation is set up to do.”
With Bret Michaels involved with charitable organizations like Operation Homefront, it’s no surprise that he would jump at the chance to be a part of a worthy cause like this. The Weekender caught up with Michaels during his recent travels to talk about giving back to veterans, his latest single, reworking classic songs, and his devoted fans.
WEEKENDER: The last time we interviewed you, Bret, was at the end of 2012. What have you been up to lately?
BRET MICHAELS: Lots of stuff. I have my new song “A Beautiful Soul” that passed three million YouTube views in three weeks; it came in at No. 2 in the new music charts in its debut week, topping One Direction and 50 Cent. I’ve been working directly with Operation Homefront, giving away mortgage-free homes to soldiers in need, and working on two new TV shows I can’t talk much about right now. Of course, the PetSmart Pets Rock line of pet toys, which is its top-selling product line. The Hard Rock (Hotel) is debuting its largest star suite ever, the Bret Michaels suite at Riviera Maya.
W: What inspired “A Beautiful Soul?”
BM: On Christmas Day, I always visit Barrow (Neurological Institute and St. Joseph’s) Hospital in Phoenix, where they saved my life from the brain hemorrhage. There was a couple there faced with the fact that one of them had a terminal condition; it really struck me hard watching them begin to say goodbye. That’s what the song is about.
W: As a musician, actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and TV personality, what is the best part of your job, and what is the most challenging part?
BM: The best parts of all those jobs is that I get to be creative. I’m a creative person; my mind is always going, so I’m lucky to get to always be creative. The most challenging would have to be trying to keep track of all my ideas and incorporate them all. My mind is always in overdrive, and I can get ahead of myself. Keeping it organized and getting to everything I want to is the hard part.
W: You’ve worked with a wide variety of talented musicians. How did you choose who you would work with on the songs featured on “Jammin’ with Friends?”
BM: There wasn’t a real strategy. It’s real simple – there is just a lot of friends I’ve had over the years that I wanted to make music with. Many of them are icons and legends; I’ve been very fortunate to make such great friends.
W: Some of the songs on that album are new versions of some of your classic songs. When you’re revisiting a song like that, how do you take a fresh approach to a song that’s already well-known?
BM: Some of the ideas you hear on the new versions were my original ideas that were overruled by producers in the past; some of them are things that we just couldn’t do with technology back then. Some of it is just evolution… and it was a lot of fun to revisit those songs from a different perspective.
W: Your songs are very personal to you. When you play those songs live night after night, do they take on new meaning for you or do your thoughts remain the same as when you wrote them?
BM: Truthfully, both. Every night I certainly think about the inspiration that brought the songs to life. But songs like “Something to Believe In” take on new meaning, especially when I meet veterans who have been through such life-changing experiences.
W: You have a very dedicated fan base. Have you had any fun or interesting fan interactions recently?
BM: Every night is fun. I meet tons of fans every single night, and we have a great time and a great party. I’m grateful, not only to have such a great fan base, but they are always wanting be have fun and celebrate life.
W: It seems like you’re always traveling. How do you pass the time when you’re flying or on the road? Is it tough being away from family and friends so often?
BM: It certainly is tough being away from them, and I fly home to see them every chance I get. Health is everything to me, so I pass my time with exercise and being active. I also carry a mobile studio with me on the bus, so I’m always able to make music.
W: You made a memorable guest appearance on NBC’s “Revolution” earlier this year. Were you a fan of the show?
BM: I am a fan of the show; the concept is very interesting to think about. NBC reached out to me about doing the part, and I was very excited about it. The set was very surreal, very apocalyptic. Everybody was amazing – a great memory and a lot of fun.
W: The 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary Memorial Fund of the Luzerne Foundation is the beneficiary of partial proceeds from this upcoming concert. What does this cause mean to you?
BM: I think as an entertainer and a successful entrepreneur, it’s my duty and responsibility to give back. Our soldiers and their families make the ultimate sacrifice, and anything I can do to help I always will.
W: You’ll be playing with the Charlie Daniels Band and the Marshall Tucker Band at this show. Will you be showing a bit more of your country side at this show?
BM: My solo show always had that side to it. It’s a celebration of all the music I grew up on and it will certainly be part of these shows.
W: What are you looking forward to about this particular show personally?
BM: The charitable aspect is close to my heart, but to share the stage with an icon like Charlie Daniels and legendary southern rockers Marshall Tucker, that’s a good day.
W: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
BM: Just a big thank you to the fans for supporting me for so many years. I couldn’t do it without them. Thank you very much.