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Life Stories

Poison's Bret Michaels shares decades of memories and experiences on 'Songs of Life' solo release

By Sarah Quelland

BECOMING A FATHER has made quite an impression on Bret Michaels. "It adds a new love, a new existence, a new purpose. It's a really amazing feeling," the 40-year-old singer/songwriter and frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of its day, Poison, tells me. Michaels' brand-new solo record, Songs of Life (on his own Poor Boy Records Inc.), was released on his daughter Raine's third birthday (May 20), and the first single, "Raine," was written for her.

The tender single finds this rock & roll dad apologizing for life on the road ("If you need me, and I'm not around, I'm sorry for that") and promising, "I will be there to give you love, give you strength / Get you through your darkest days / When you cry, I'll dry the tears for you"). "It's just simply her song," Michaels says. "Dada play my song, Dada play my song." He chuckles. "I showed her how to put her hands above her head, and then we listen to 'Menace to Society,' and her hand goes above in the little metal horns, she goes, 'Raisin' hell.' They know instantly what a bad word is."

Michaels' solo record kicks off with "Menace to Society," a song thematically similar to Poison's "Nothin' but a Good Time," which Michaels started writing when he was 17, working in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "I'll never forget where I was," Michaels says. "I was sitting in my lime-green Ford LTD at Bob's Big Boy, at which I was the busboy. I wrote this song when my manager reminded me that I would never make it out of this small town. That drive and that anger became 'Menace to Society.'"

The songs on the new album are dear to Michaels. "Songs of Life was meant to be pieces of my life that I could capture and give to people," he explains. He says it wasn't difficult to separate his solo material from his work with Poison. "The songs are all musically personal to me. Sometimes, when you're writing, you just look at it and go, 'I know this is sort of just for me.' I played 'Raine' for the band and Bob [Bobby Dall] said it best to me. He goes, 'Bret, you know, this is a song really personal to you. Are you sure you want us ripping it apart?' And I said, 'Yeah, you're right. I don't want to do that.'"

Songs of Life is a storytelling album full of hard-rock chargers, swampy jams, ballads and party anthems, and Michaels addresses weighty issues like living with diabetes ("I Remember"), 9/11 ("One More Day"), war ("War Machine"), keeping love alive ("Forgiveness") and the music industry ("Party Rock Band"). It's equally touching, playful and tongue-in-cheek--and a must for Poison fans.

Raised on classic country as well as classic rock, Michaels mirrors country's narrative traditions in his songwriting. He says he was offered a deal with Curb Records in 1996 when he wrote "The Other Side of Me" with Gary Baker and Frank Myers (who wrote the hit "I Swear") but turned it down. "I thought I had a couple good songs, but not 10 great songs. Now I feel I've got it. So maybe in the next year or two, you'll hear a really honest Americana-slash-contemporary country record [from me]."

He's also preparing for his latest film project, The Forgotten, which he wrote and plans to star in. Michaels describes it as a "very touching topical suspense thriller," and he expects to start shooting by early 2004.

On Saturday (May 31), Michaels hands the guitar he used to record Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and write "Something to Believe In" over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. "It's really bittersweet because, yes, I'm excited it's gonna be part of rock & roll history, but I'm gonna be sad to see it go."

Poison's summer tour with Skid Row (sans Sebastian Bach) and Vince Neil kicked off just last Friday (May 23). The tour hits the Redwood Amphitheatre on July 6. Michaels says, "This year's our biggest production, bar none, that we've ever taken on the road."

HOT TOPIC: After a five-year run at Waves, the Velvet Shop moves to Zöe next Thursday (June 5). The grand opening features DJs, complimentary appetizers and an open bar, 8:30-9:30pm. Email [email protected] for an invitation.

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From the May 29-June 4, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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