Bret Michaels has a bit of a central Pennsylvania ritual.
Michaels, who rose to prominence with the ’80s glam rock band Poison, was born outside of Pittsburgh but grew up in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.
So, when a tour takes him back to this part of this country, Michaels likes to make some time to visit his old haunts. He takes a drive to Yellow Breeches Creek, the Susquehanna River tributary where Michaels and his friends used to tube in the summer.
He also likes checking out the fall foliage around Roundtop Mountain Resort, and driving through Mechanicsburg’s downtown. He’s also sure to visit Camp Hill, where his late father lived, and stepmom still does. If he has time, he’ll get out to Dillsburg, where he learned to swim at the community pool, near where his father used to golf.
And don’t forget the food. He’s especially keen of the pepperoni slices from the regional chain JoJo’s Pizza.
“When I come back there to do a show … I feel like I’m with family and friends,” says Michaels, who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The passion and the energy for me onstage is exactly the same as when I started in my basement.”
Michaels will return to central Pennsylvania on Saturday, Nov. 2, when he performs at Reverb in Reading.
Michaels is the voice of Poison's most recognizable hits, like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Unskinny Bop” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” In the 2000s, he starred in the VH1 reality dating show “Rock of Love,” and in 2010 won the third season of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” hosted by now-President Donald Trump.
At the show in Reading, he'll be joined by guitarist Pete Evick, bassist Eric Brittingham, of the rock band Cinderella, keyboardist Robby “Wild” Jozwiak, and drummer Mike Bailey.
Michaels says fans can expect a healthy mix of their favorite Poison hits, as well as later songs he released for “Rock of Love” and a few covers.
He’ll also play “Unbroken,” his most recent single, released earlier this year. The song is a collaboration between Michaels and his 16-year-old daughter Jorja. (Both of Michaels’ daughters are interested in the world of entertainment: His oldest daughter, Raine, 19, is a Sports Illustrated magazine model.)
Michaels says he and Jorja wrote the song, an uplifting track about overcoming adversity, after a heart-to-heart about some trouble she was having.
“I said, ‘Listen: This is what music is all about,’ ” Michaels says. “I wrote ‘Something to Believe In’ when my best friend passed away, and ‘Every Rose’ when I broke my heart. I said, ‘What do you want to write about?’ ”
He sees the song as a bridge between the experiences he and his daughter faced — her navigating the difficulties of everyday teenage life and his lifelong battle with health issues. Michaels was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6, and later survived a car crash, an accident at the 2009 Tony Awards, an emergency appendectomy, and a brain hemorrhage. (And that’s not even a full list.)
“I said, ‘Look, let’s tell people, this is the pain you’re going through, but I want a positive chorus,’ ” Michaels says he told his daughter. “ ‘I want this thing to show that there’s light at the end of the tunnel about giving hope.’ ”
Michaels says he and Jorja are working on another song they plan to release.
The musician sees himself as someone who embraces a challenge, and is always looking for the next thing. His track record supports the notion: He’s sent diabetic kids to camps to learn how to manage their illness through the Bret Michaels Life Rocks Foundation, which also benefits causes like childhood cancer and support for members of the military. He has his own line of pet clothing, Pets Rock, and ventured into real estate with Bret Michaels Properties.
That drive is what attracted him to the battle of business chops on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
“(I thought,) I’m not going to win by throwing people under the bus,” Michaels says. “I’m going to win by showing them I can work hard and do this. When I first entered it, Trump was really, really tough on me. Like, maybe more than anyone else on that show. He was coming at me and I was like, all right, bring it.”
After he won, he says his dealings with Trump were pleasant and friendly. Michaels performed at the Heroes Ball, a Trump inaugural event, in 2017. But when asked about his political leanings these days, Michaels says he’d rather not take a public stance.
“I’m not a person that discusses politics or religion,” Michaels says. “Your beliefs are your beliefs. Me flying off the handle about something is not going to change or correct someone’s view.”
Michaels’ next big projects are two books: “Bret Michaels’ Pictures and Stories Volume 1,” and “Unbroken: Health, Wealth, Love, and the Pursuit of Awesomeness.” The autobiography will be available for preorder in November, Michaels says, with a release in March 2020. No date is set for “Unbroken.”
The autobiography is a raw account of Michael’s journey, including the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle he lived with Poison, and an incident where he and his friends were held up at gunpoint.
“I talk about what I was doing and what I was going through, the hellraising stages, the good parties, and then I talk about the times that have been brutally tough,” Michaels says. “And I think that’s what makes people most interested. They want to hear the roller coaster of the ride.”