Bret Michaels confesses Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" has gained significance in his life as of late. "I've been living a little bit by that motto," he says, "which is strange how coincidental one of my favorite songs would be in my life."
Gaining attention as the frontman for the band Poison, Michaels has been in the news this year -- and not just for winning the latest season of the reality TV series, The Celebrity Apprentice. In fact, Michaels has faced a roller coaster of surprises, including an emergency appendectomy, a brain hemorrhage, a warning stroke and a diagnosis of patent foramen ovale (essentially a hole in his heart). The latter will be corrected during surgery in January. After spending nearly two months in the hospital, the singer explains, "I'm thankful for all of the great modern medicine, but I don't want to ever see the inside of an ICU room again if I can avoid it."
During a recent phone interview with CMT.com, the singer eagerly spoke of his love of Nashville, the importance of going after your dreams and the development of another reality show, Rock of Love Boat, in which he plans to serve as the "love guru" on a cruise ship as couples work on their relationships. In addition, the rocker will release a contemporary country-Americana album in late December or early January tentatively titled, Bret Michaels: Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy.
Having previously collaborated with country stars including Hank Williams Jr., Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus and Jeffrey Steele, Michaels admits, "There are a lot of people I'd love to work with." He names Garth Brooks as one of his "all-time favorites," acknowledges Martina McBride's "unbelievable voice" and expresses interest in either performing with or writing a song for Kenny Chesney. He also sends a special message to country superstar Taylor Swift as he promises, "I've got a good song for us to collaborate on."
Not only has the entertainer spent time in recording studios in Music City, he also owns a ranch outside the city. "It's very simple, and I say this from my heart, I'm genuinely one of those people that loves being in Nashville," he says. "I love the feeling that the city gives me."
The rocker fully understands the struggles of those trying to make it in the music scene in Nashville.
"Having the talent is only one part of the journey," he explains. "Now you have to have the nerves of steel to stay in the fight." Michaels admits those "nerves of steel" helped him overcome adversity in his own career. "You've got to be able to pick up that guitar and keep going. And that's the abuse I was able to take and not let it get me down and made me fight harder."
Musically speaking, the star's latest CD, aptly-titled, Custom Built, debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 album chart and No. 1 on both the independent and hard rock Billboard charts. The project includes a duet with Miley Cyrus on "Nothing to Lose" and a collaboration with Chris Cagle, Mark Wills and 3 Doors Down's Brad Arnold on a country version of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
While he admits the new version of "Every Rose," "Riding Against the Wind" and his cover of Sublime's "What I've Got" are among the most fun to perform in concert, Michaels compares the tracks on his new album to parenthood. "It's like having kids," he says. "Each one has their own personality, but you love 'em all the same."
Michaels finds a connection between fans of his solo work, Poison's catalog of hits and country music and confesses he doesn't categorize his fans, preferring to let them decide what they like. "I find the minute you put a cap on who and what should listen to you, I feel like you're segregating your audience, and I've never done that."
Along with his thriving musical career, 2010 has kept Michaels busy with television appearances, including co-hosting the Miss Universe pageant, and a steady stream of tour dates. As the third season winner of The Celebrity Apprentice, he raised $390,000 for the American Diabetes Association.
Because of his philanthropic efforts throughout his career, Michaels received the American Diabetes Association's Chairs Citation Award. Having battled type 1 diabetes throughout his life, he says the honor "makes me feel good about taking care of my own health. It keeps me in tune."
The money he raises goes toward diabetes research and sending children to camp. "At every single show, I get to meet new people who say, 'I have a 6-year-old. We can't afford to send them to camp this year,' and I'm like, 'We'll take care of it. Give us your name.' That's what we do."
Michaels is also returning to the reality show spotlight in Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It premiering in October on VH1. The show follows the singer, his girlfriend Kristi and their two daughters, Raine and Jorja, as Michaels balances his personal and professional life. He says the series "gives people a sense between what Rock of Love was, where Celebrity Apprentice took me and what my real life with my kids and Kristi is like."
Michaels credits his family and music with helping him overcome the mental anxiety of his medical issues and admits he was more than ready to be released from the hospital. When doctors said, "Well you might be able to go tomorrow," Michaels responded with, "No, I'd like to go right now."
Michaels' own success can be attributed not only to his love of music, but also his determination.
"I never did this for the novelty paparazzi factor of it. I did it because I grew up in a basement playing music and wanting to succeed, and I'm really driven," he says. "I'm never quite satisfied, so I always feel like there's something more I could have done better.
"You know how they always talk about the 'it' factor?" Michaels asks. "Here's what the 'it' factor is to me. 'It' is believing 'it,' meaning I believe in what I'm doing. For better or for worse, for right or wrong, I believe in what I'm doing, and sometimes my blessing is not knowing any better."