Pop metal may have lost the spotlight when the glammy 1980s gave way to the alternative 1990s. Poison frontman Bret Michaels got his share of hits in before the party went underground — "Unskinny Bop," "Talk Dirty to Me," "Every Rose Has It's Thorn," to pick a few. He proved to be more resilient than his genre, too, forging a solo career before moving into reality TV with a three-year run as the star of his own dating show, Rock of Love.
The concert is free to active military, vets and first responders.
Memphis Flyer: You're coming to town and to Graceland for a show that's part of a big military appreciation weekend — marking the anniversary of Elvis's army service — can you just tell me a little about that for starters?
Bret Michaels: Two things that are very important to me: I love Memphis and I've been to Graceland many times on my own, for personal reasons. I'm just absolutely honored to do this and for this really important reason: I'm the son of a veteran. A lot of the staff on my road crew are veterans. Every night on stage I honor our vets, and our first responders. I've been doing that every single night since the beginning of my career. And I think that's why so many people know it's the real deal for me. I never bring politics into it. It's just simply a big thank you for the freedoms that we get and the sacrifice that the veterans and their families made so that we get those freedoms. This is the most important thing, and I say this every night. My crowd is very diverse. Three generations. But we all come together because I don't use it as a political stance. It's just a big thank you — a thank you for the freedom of opinions that we get.
MF: And the concert's not just for military, it's for everybody. It's just part of this special military week event.
BM: This is for everybody. It's a big party. I'm bringing all the Poison hits. I'm putting on the show I put on every night. I give 1000 percent energy, as does my stellar band. We play all the Poison hits. We play other Bret Michaels songs. We're going to do the new single "Unbroken." It's just an absolute party. I'm a details guy. I want to show that from the minute the show opens. We're going to have guys handing out picks guitar picks. We got people at the front of the stage greeting people. We go out of our way. It's just a party, no matter what. And that night will celebrate our veterans too.
MF:You've got a new single, "Unbroken." And you're back on the road. Is that good? I know everybody has a different opinions about touring.
BM: I love the road. It's a part of my life. I'm one of those guys, and if you're around me, this is the real me. I don't become two different personalities. I literally live my life and am a very grateful person. I get to do what I love to do. I get to travel. I get to play music. And then I go home. And when I'm at home, I'm at home. I've got a family. I've got kids. And my kids are music-oriented. They play music. They love music. They go on the road with me a bunch. It's a difficult combination, but I love the road. When I hit that stage, you'll see I'm still excited to be out there.
MF: That's great that you still get excited about it, because it can be tough, particularly if you have any kind of special circumstance.
BM: I've been a type-1, insulin-dependent diabetic since I was six. First thing I do when I roll out of bed in the morning is check my blood sugar. Second thing I do is take insulin. Then I eat and get in some form of exercise. I work out at a gym if I can, but whatever is available I make do with it. In Memphis, I'll go out in the area and probably work out in a local gym there. I like to take in the scenery.
MF: So do fans. It's good to get out, but after all that TV, I'm sure you get recognized. Do you like interacting with fans?
BM: 1000 percent. If I'm grabbing a bite to eat, or at the gym, people will come up for different reasons. Some because of the music. Some because of Apprentice or Rock of Love. There's different reasons they know me. I'm grateful.
MF: You're bringing up the TV — is there more of that? Has that phase passed? Are you back doing music full time now?
BM: I'm a creative person. I like to create stuff and see it through. There are a lot of creative people. My blessing is being able to bridge the gap. Once you create something, then you got to go get it done. You can create a song, but you've got to lay it down. You've got to record it. You got to make sure it gets out then for sale on iTunes. You shoot the video. There's a lot of hard work. Being creative is what turns me on. Getting it done is where I'm blessed. I'm a hard worker and I constantly write and record music. In the Great digital world we live in, you don't have to go in for 6-months and plow it all out at one time. You can go in and write "Unbroken," and put that out right then. When you feel something like this, it hits you, you write that, you record it, you put it out digitally. That's the great thing about the world we live in now.
MF: Every artist I know has a mixed relationship with how digital recording and marketing changed the business. You seem to really like it.
BM: It's where the world is going and went. Go look at "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Queen. Look at the rebirth of that catalog. It's amazing that this music gets a complete rebirth. And it's the same with Bret Michaels and Poison. No matter how digitally advanced we get, it still comes down to people. It comes down to hard work, and embracing people. Even if you do EDM you've got to go out there and do concerts. You got to mix. I warn every artist out there, no matter what your art genre is, you can be easily exposed in a digital world, and easily disposed. But you got to go out there and take your music to people.
BM: The "gatekeepers" went away with digital. So it opened up the world of creativity. The "gatekeepers," if they didn't like the shoes you were wearing, could stop you from putting a record out. I'm telling you the truth. The "gatekeepers" are like, "I don't like that guy's record. I don't like the way his shoes are. So we're going to shelve the record." That's all over. So the ability to be talented and creative is now wide open. The downside is there so much — the floodgates opened. The "gatekeepers" went away and the floodgates opened. And when the floodgates opened, the world itself can't possibly take all of it in. So you, as an artist, have to learn to work even harder now to stand out.
MF:We haven't talked about the new single yet.
BM: I co-wrote this with my youngest daughter Jorja Bleu.
MF:That is awesome.
BM: She's my youngest daughter and she goes to a music school, and she's 13. She was going through a tough time in her life and I've gone through a lot of adversity of mine, being diabetic, going through the brain surgery. So we wrote the song "Unbroken," to be inspirational. It's about seizing adversity and being stronger than our storms sometimes. It really is resonating with people. It's exploding organically. It's helping people, no matter what they're going through in their life.
MF:Nice. I have musical twins and one's a songwriter. We've done stuff together and it's like the most fun, rewarding thing younger you never saw coming.
BM: Yes — you said it exactly. It’s a joy this bonding that is unexplainably great.
What is Military Appreciation Weekend? Via Graceland:
WHAT: Graceland will celebrate the 61st anniversary of Elvis’ military service March 23 – 24, 2019 with its annual Military Appreciation Weekend. This two-day celebration will showcase salute and commemorate Elvis’ patriotism. WHO: Along with honoring active military, retired veterans and first responders, Graceland will also recognize special guests currently serving in the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, which was previously activated as the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor Regiment where Elvis served in his military career.
On Saturday the 23rd at 8:00 p.m. the weekend will be highlighted by a Graceland Live concert featuring Bret Michaels performing live at the Graceland Soundstage. WHEN: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday March 23 and 24 WHERE: Elvis Presley’s Memphis
Highlights: Free Entry to Museum Exhibits (with Valid Military ID) Daily Flag Ceremonies
Guests are invited to observe flag ceremonies led by troops from Fort Campbell’s 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment at 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. both days at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Care Package Donation Stations
Graceland will be collecting care package items for deployed service members, veterans, recruit graduates and first-responders throughout the weekend. Letter Writing Campaign
In the Hollywood Backlot Exhibit. Letters will be sent to our nation's heroes through Operation Gratitude. Photo Opportunity with Elvis’ Presidential Medal of Freedom Veteran & Active Duty Member VIP Gathering
Graceland’s Archives Department will provide stories and an up-close and personal look at special artifacts from Elvis’ time in The US Army. Patriotic Mansion Lighting
Graceland mansion is lit up in red, white and blue all week to showcase our appreciation for Active Duty and retired U.S. Armed Forces members. Kids Crafts and Activities
A family friendly activity where kids of all ages will learn how to create a variety of fun military-themed crafts out of everyday household items.