Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels, to headline Rockhaven 2017 at the BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove in Southaven on Saturday, Oct. 28.  

Courtesy photo

Rock legend Bret Michaels will roll into the BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove next Saturday night, Oct. 28, with a power-packed, high energy performance destined to have fans partying long into the night.

But the 54-year-old Michaels was a little more reflective and softer than the hard-edged rocker who headlined the chart-topping group Poison more than three decades in a recent in-depth interview with the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

The interview, by phone, while Michaels was on tour after a concert in Lake Charles, La., talked about his long career and life choices that have shaped his music and legacy.

Bret Michael Sychak gained international fame as the lead singer of the 80s band Poison, a band which has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.

Michaels has been ranked by Hit Parader magazine as one of the "greatest Heavy Metal singers of all time."

His career and success has continued unabated for nearly three decades. In the late 2000s, he starred in the reality television dating competition series "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels."

Michaels has continued touring across the country, and his unabashed love for the nation and its people, is worn like a prized tattoo on his shoulder.

"When you travel to other places, you realize how special this country is," said Michaels, who raises funds and often acts as an advocate for the nation's veterans. Michaels, who has Pennsylvania roots, touts his own family as an example of that patriotism.

"My uncle was a veteran in World War I," Michaels said in his unmistakable raspy voice. "I'm a veteran's son. My dad was a Navy vet who served during the Korean conflict. My whole family has served this nation. My cousin Bobby won two Purple Hearts and my sister served. My Uncle Nick was KIA in World War II. The show is a celebration of their lives. I feel so grateful to have the freedoms to do things that a lot of people don't get to do. To me, it's a celebration, a party."

Above all else, Michaels said he has been free to pursue his own unique version of the American dream.

"I've had a lot of years of being able to play, to rock, to party, to celebrate," Michaels said.

But life hasn't always been a "party" for Michaels.

At the age of six, he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Michaels has struggled with the effects of the disease in his adult life.

"I've had up to five injections a day since I was a kid," Michaels said. "My parents never allowed it to stop me. To live out your dreams, you just have to work harder at it. You have to find a way to stay positive. I've had some days that could really get you down."

Michaels said the recent tragedy at the concert in Las Vegas affected him in a deeply personal way.

"We have a very close friend of ours who is alive but was shot and wounded at the show in Las Vegas," Michaels said. "She designed the room that we built at the Hard Rock. My point to that is, the Las Vegas show is one of the most horrific mass shootings in United States history. It shows the resilience of us as people and fans, that we will help each other. We stand up. We are resilient as Americans. We will withstand the battle."

Just as the soldiers in battle gave their all, Michaels said he tries to give fans every ounce of his energy when he performs.

"Each night I perform, it's as if it's my first time and my last time," Michaels said. "When I go on that stage, I hope that people see my energy, my enthusiasm, my passion that I have every night. It's crazy but we've done about every continent and country. It's a big part of what we do. All of them (countries) are great but it's nice to be here in America to play."

While Michaels has enjoyed a solo career, he doesn't shy away from his success with Poison.

"With Poison, I am very thankful," Michaels said, adding that a tour last summer with Poison and Def Leppard was "an amazing feeling."

"Music is my passion. It's therapeutic to me and it just gives me a chance to branch out and do a lot of different stuff, different sounds, different production and stuff. I'm able to change it up a little bit but I still go on that stage and maintain the exact same kind of energy. I still love that energy and making people feel good at the show. Now, I am able to diversify and do a lot more different things and different versions of even Poison hits."

Michaels even waxes a bit philosophic about the impact of music on his fans, which includes his young daughters.

"For Bret Michaels, there are three generations of fans," Michaels said, speaking of himself in third person. "Something that comes from the Poison side, something that comes from the music shows like Rock of Love or 'Celebrity Apprentice,' and being able to bring all of that into it as well."

In the late 1990s, Michaels and his bandmates with Poison took a widely-publicized break.

"There was a period where we had been on the road nonstop," Michaels said with a sigh. "You have to remember that people think of Poison with its first hit record in '86. That period all the way up to about '96 was a period of about 10 years which was nonstop. We sort of parted with each other until about '99. Then, we've gotten back together ever since. But there was no official (split) with our band. With our band, we were friends who had grown up together. There was no breaking up or getting back together. You just naturally do it. I think if there ever comes a period where naturally we're not going to do that anymore, that's when you say that you'll have a farewell tour, but we never think of it like that. We're kind of like buddies who had seen each other's faces for 10 years during nonstop touring. When we decided to just naturally part ways, I just said that I've got to be on the road making music. It's what I do. I love making music and I will do it as long as I can."

Tickets to the Bret Michaels concert at the BankPlus Amphitheater, which is part of the "Rockhaven 2017 Festival," may be purchased through ticketmaster.com. The concert is a part of the CSpire Concert Series.

Production and publicity is being provided through Green Machine Concerts.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimetribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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