Bret Michaels is “cutting off I-80” en route to a solo show in Fort Dodge, Iowa, just over a week before the summer rock circus known as The Stadium kicks off. Round.
The tireless leader of Poison – who will join his comradesas well as Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts on the three-and-a-half-month outing which begins Thursday in Atlanta – is crowding into a few gigs with the Bret Michaels Band, a practice he will continue all summer .
But his strategy is the same, whether it’s a Poison show or one of the more than 100 solo gigs he plays each year: “Bring in 1000% energy.”
The amiable Michaels, 59, appreciates his longevity in the music business – 36 years since Poison’s debut album – and approaches his career with a refreshing self-awareness.
“I’m a grateful guy,” he told USA TODAY from his RV. “To be on the safe side of the earth after all I’ve been through…I live to be on the road. It’s my freedom. It’s good for my soul.
Here’s a look at life on the road with Michaels:
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Bret Michaels manages his type 1 diabetes with workouts in his mobile gym while commuting
Michaels has often publicly discussed living with type 1 diabetes — he was diagnosed when he was 6 — and the challenges that come with being a rock star on the road. Controlling his blood sugar is his primary concern throughout the day, which he monitors through his diet and dedication to exercise.
He’ll take his mountain bike out for a ride at a truck stop, but for the endless hours of road travel between tour dates, Michaels has designed a mobile gym. He drilled a “big bolt” into the ceiling of his motorhome for triceps and back exercises and also bolted a stationary bike, which he rides for a few hours at a time.
“Rather than eating my way through an eight hour ride, I put on a movie, lock the bike, put my seatbelt on and ride for it all,” he says. “I come from a family that likes to party, but as a diabetic I have to find more balance.”
Poison singer picks up his signature bandanas from truck stops
Michael’s ICT Tac showcasing his “patented headband diamond” folding technique of his trademark bandanas has generated over 1.3 million views. He makes no apologies for both his love of carefully arranged fabric (“It keeps me from sweating on my own face and it gives you swagger”) and the fact that he hand-picks them in his favorite road stops.
“I have a drawer full of custom truck stop bandanas in a schmear of different colors. Just like life should be – all inclusive,” he says.
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AC/DC is his pre-performance jam
Michaels prides himself on being “the real deal,” meaning there are no backing tracks to complement his vocals and no Pro Tools manipulate the sounds of the instruments.
“It’s just live, raw music,” he says. “It’s the only way I know to play.”
In her pre-stage prep, Michaels puts on her headphones and heads for the backstage stairs. “I always listen to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ as the last thing before going on stage. Now I’m at (level) 10. It turns me on and boom! It’s like when a bull flies out the door.
Poison tour mates Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Joan Jett? Bret Michaels is a fan of them all
The hit catalog among The Stadium Tour’s four artists could be its own Top 40. While Michaels has affection for every Poison song, from “Talk Dirty to Me” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” to ” Nothin’ But a Good Time”. (“They’re like my kids, I love them all for different reasons”), he’s also looking forward to hearing some smashes from his peers.
“With Joan, my standards are ‘Bad Reputation’ and ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ – that one will always be on my party playlist. Motley, I love listening to ‘Dr. Feelgood’, ‘Wild Side’ is awesome , ‘Live Wire’, and of course ”Girls, Girls, Girls’ – you can’t miss that one. And Def Leppard, I love all their music, but ‘For Some Sugar on Me’ and ‘Photograph “, they are very good songs with such beautiful harmonies.
“I built every house from a brick”
In addition to his rock ‘n’ roller life, Michaels is an entrepreneur, dabbling in film and television and bragging an online store with branded products.
The musician says he learned early on that maintaining a long career “means you take care of business, or someone else will.”
With Poison, he and bassist Bobby Dall “write all the checks” and stay tuned to the needs of hard-working team members. In his solo group, Michaels takes care of his own team.
“There must be gas, hotels, per diems, where everyone eats and sleeps,” he says. “But I come from a basement in Pennsylvania, so I love being part of the business. I built every house from a brick, so if something goes wrong, I can go back to this foundation.
Next step: a documentary by Bret Michaels
In November, A&E will release “The Origins of Bret Michaels,” a multi-part documentary based on the musician’s story. “Auto-Scrap-Ography Vol. 1,” his visually heavy memoir published in 2020.
“These are stories about me standing in my basement in front of my parents’ washer and dryer and having to move them around to set up our amps,” Michael says. “The book gives you a real dive into my head. And despite myself, I’m still there and still rocking.