No time like now for Buble

-- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

If crooner Michael Buble had his way he'd trade in the big band, celebrity friends and truckload of Hugo Boss suits for the chance to play in the NHL.

Like many Canadian lads, the 25-year-old Buble grew up dreaming of playing right-wing and scoring goals on the ice, rather than singing songs to make hearts melt.

"In my dreams, I wanted to be drafted by the Vancouver Canucks," mused Buble, who brings his It's Time tour to the Lac Leamy Casino tonight and tomorrow for two sold-out shows.

"I wanted so bad to be a hockey player and the truth is that I sucked. If I was any good at hockey, I probably wouldn't be singing right now. I'd probably be sitting out the season."

In the end, Buble's epiphany about his athletic limitations ultimately proved the old maxim true -- that when one door closes, another opens.

Since his solo debut in 2003, Buble and fellow Canadian Matt Dusk have become a one-two punch of hot stylish crooners whose specialty is covering the American popular standards of his grandparents generation. But coached by Grammy-award-winning producer David Foster, the talented entertainer, who even writes his own music, has managed to avoid the career trap most second-generation crooners fall into. That is, sing, talk and drink like Frank Sinatra.

Granted, Sinatra is a powerful role model, but really, all Buble ever wanted to do, besides play hockey, was sing the way he knows how. Big.

"The cool thing growing up I was listening to the stuff that young people listen to," he said. "Pearl Jam and Oasis and Dr. Dre. But it never gave me the real spark that I got listening to Sinatra or Tony Bennett.

"Those guys are like the Gretzkys of music. You just can't be average with this kind of material. You can't hide. You have to be able to swing."

Buble's post-hockey career has been anything but a rebound. To the contrary, his concert tour has become a rocket ride to fame, with celebrity fans lining up for a front-row seat. Paul Anka was an early fan, Prince Charles a more recent convert.

"He wrote to tell me how disappointed he was when he couldn't make the gig in Royal Albert Hall," Buble said nonchalantly. "I sent him the new CD and promised we'd get together next time I was in England."

Yes, Buble's come a long way in a relatively short five years. Early appearances, such as his star-making turn in the musical Forever Swing, left fans and critics scrambling for his name when the show played the National Arts Centre in 2001.

Then, his 2003 recording debut mixed standards like Come Fly With Me with covers of rock classics Van Morrison's Moondance and Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love. It won Buble the 2004 Juno for best new artist.

So, according to the album title, is it time for Michael Buble?

"It's always time for music that swings," he said.


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