Grammy-award-winning singer Michael Bolton focuses on Detroit

Michael Bolton pays tribute to Motown music, working on capturing Detroit's comeback

DETROIT - What started out as a musical tribute to Motown has grown into a full scale documentary about the Motor City.

"We were doing this tour through Hitsville and looking at this incredible building. It's impossible to understand how much music came out of there, how much power that would affect the rest of the world," said Grammy-award-winning singer Michael Bolton.

Bolton and his film crew began working on the project about two years ago while the singer-songwriter was working on an album that is an homage to the music of Motown.   The album is called "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

"In that process of just spending time in Detroit we realized that how much exciting stuff is going on here that the media wasn't talking about," said Christina Kline, Bolton's  manager and producer of his Detroit documentary.  

Kline said so much media coverage has focused on how Detroit is downtrodden, the blight and the bankruptcy, but their experience of Detroit has been different.

In the documentary, Bolton and his film crew hope to capture the the ways Detroit is coming back including business growth, collaboration, start-ups, artists and people coming into the city as opposed to people leaving Detroit.

"A lot of people say,  you know, 'Is Michael from Detroit? What's his interest? Why is he telling it?' And I think what happened to him, which happens to a lot of people, which happened to me and our camera crew, and you know everyone that's sort of been following this for two years, is you really fall in love with the city and the people immediately," said Kline.

"What I'm constantly overwhelmed with is the amount of love for Detroit here," said Bolton. "The people who are doing things here are on such a mission to make the new Detroit, the future of Detroit somehow surpass the glory years of what Detroit has been  which we know rocked the whole world."

One of Bolton's stops has been DIME, the Detroit Institute of Music Education where young musicians are getting their start.

"What we want to do is help young bands take their talent and turn that into a business, to define themselves so then they can go have a shot at being successful in the music industry. So we are absolutely sure there is going to be more talent coming from Detroit," said founding director of DIME Sarah Clayman.

Clayman, an outsider herself, is happy to see a singer like Bolton put a spotlight on Detroit.

"To have an artist of his stature and come in and really, first of all the understand the music heritage, and then see the people, want to tell the people and the street story, is very inspiring.  And I think for him, it's all about telling the story of the American dream and as an outsider, someone from the UK, we've come in and we can, you can feel it and you can feel the inspiration in the streets of Detroit, and you can feel the resurgence and the regeneration.

Bolton has also stopped inside Ponyride, a warehouse located in Corktown.  It is now a shared workspace where people pay affordable rent so they can focus on turning their passions into profits instead of worrying about how they are going to pay their bills.

Veronika Scott, who created The Empowerment Plan, is one of those people inside Ponyride.

"Her story is just remarkable. For her to have the vision to create this model that she has, employing homeless women and creating coats to then distribute to the homeless, is just a microcosm of what I think is going on, on a large scale here too," said Kline.

Kline tries to put in perspective what it means to have Bolton take on this project.

"It was, I think, easier for an outsider to kind of shine the light and say 'Hey everyone, pay attention to what's going on,' because it's not just about Detroit it really is, I think, a national and also a globally inspiring story," said Kline. "I think someone like Michael, because he comes from obviously a music history and appreciation of music, but also he comes from a history of really believing in the American dream."

Bolton and his crew are still working on their documentary and plan to return to Detroit to film.  In fact, Bolton said he is looking forward to doing a lot more.

"I'm watching it come together and we're talking about how I might be able to help and we'll see," said Bolton.

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