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Michael Bolton is hilariously cheesy in Panera Bread's new digital short.
To launch the café chain's new mashup of their broccoli cheddar soup and mac and cheese, the singer, 67, released a parody of his famous 1991 love song "When a Man Loves a Woman," aptly titled "When Some Mac Loves Broccoli Cheddar."
In the video, Bolton belts out lyrics like, "Yes, it’s soup on tender pasta/It can do no wrong/‘Cause creamy cheese and broccoli loves macaroni."
"I found this really unexpected difficulty in singing anything other than 'When A Man Loves A Woman,'" Bolton exclusively tells PEOPLE. "I've sung this song thousands and thousands of times, and it's one of my biggest hits, so it's in all of the live shows and the private shows and TV events. It was work, wrapping my head around the vowel changes and the consonants. My vocal chords were going, 'What are you doing?'"
Luckily, Bolton says, the Panera team gave him the freedom in the studio to phrase the parody song in a way that was "comfortable" for him."
"Like anything that's years and years of the same routine, it's a bit of a challenge to just make sense of it," he says. "But then that made me look a little more serious and concentrated during the filming. The more serious and concentrated I am while I'm singing about cheddar cheese, the funnier it is."
Panera Bread Michael Bolton
While filming the digital short, Bolton says there was no shortage of laughter on set.
"The vibe for the crew was really comfortable," he says. "Everybody was just a pleasure to work with, so there was generally a lot of laughter. I think coming down the stairs by the pool was funny because the object of that scene was not to fall down 12 steps and break my neck, and I was wearing something that was about two feet longer than my legs. But at least I didn't have to walk in heels!"
Bolton jokes that his partnership with Panera first came about "when they dialed the wrong number."
"They were trying to get Kevin Costner," he says with a laugh. "Actually, we got contacted by the Panera people. They saw the 'Jack Sparrow' video [I did with comedy trio Lonely Island], and they knew that I liked to have fun with different characters and unexpected humor."
"Basically, they wanted to know if I would do the music for this funny bit they had," he continues. "I said, 'Let me just hear what you have in mind, and I'll come up with something that'll be fun, and let's do this.' I just thought it was an interesting coincidence. I really couldn't tell you anything about Panera until COVID because, coincidentally, it became my favorite food to either order-in or have picked up."
When Bolton released the "Jack Sparrow" digital spot with Lonely Island back in 2011, he says the world of comedy was opened up to him.
"I wound-up doing several episodes of Two and a Half Men, and a few episodes of Fresh Off the Boat," he says. "But the 'Jack Sparrow' video itself created a whole new audience as well. It's got 220 million views now, and I never thought I would see the response of so many people pitching fun projects for me."
"I know the video is a lot of people's favorite feel-good place," he adds. "And it is for me too, actually, even though I couldn't believe I dressed up as Erin Brockovich. That was traumatic."
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In the new year, Bolton says he has several "exciting" projects lined up, including a podcast with iHeartMedia titled "Michael Bolton's Big Sexy Podcast." For the podcast, he reunited with the team behind his 2017 Netflix musical comedy "Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special," Lonely Island's Akiva Schaffer and Scott Auckerman.
On "Michael Bolton's Bid Sexy Podcast," Bolton will play a self-obsessed show host serving up outlandish questions and requests to his wide range of unsuspecting celebrity guests.
"Comedy is really important to me," he says. "So I'm glad I have the opportunity to use my success and my brand to basically do things that are fun."
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for PUMA
Though Bolton has been busy working on all of his upcoming projects during quarantine, including a new album which he says may just be "the best album" he's made yet, he's also been using the extra time to get acquainted with his kitchen.
"I've learned to cook a little more," he says. "Before, I knew how to operate the microwave, basically. The microwave was my only weapon in the kitchen. I've been making myself pasta now ... and I learned how to use a dishwasher. For a long time, I didn't know what that was, and it was just like stuck into the island in the middle of the kitchen. Now I understand what it is, and I'm learning how to actually fill it correctly."
"I'm learning all kinds of important things," he continues. "The most important and the most difficult is: How do you get pillows into pillowcases? Do you have to be a witch to do that? Is it magic? Is it hard labor? It's so pathetic watching me try to do that, but I learned."
Courtesy Michael Bolton Michael Bolton
Jokes aside, Bolton says the "true light" of this time has been getting to spend more time with his family at home in Connecticut.
"I work in Los Angeles a good four months a year, sometimes five," he says. "And I'm touring usually six months a year. So life has changed, but getting to see my family is the silver lining."
Still, Bolton says he'll be "very eager" to get back on the road once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
"We had to move about 35 shows to next year, and we're not sure when those are going to be confirmed and when people are going to feel comfortable enough to be in buildings together," he says. "It's heartbreaking to us, but safety first. There are people who have lost everything, and I'm not going to find myself whining about not being on tour the exact date that I wanted to be. Most of all, I miss my fans. I miss gathering with everybody. But it's safety first, and then let's get back and celebrate together."