Seasoned singer Claire dela Fuente will never forget the exact compliment she read on the e-mail: "Michael thinks she's terrific!"
At that exact moment, the brief yet morale-boosting remark sealed Claire's long-time and, admittedly, almost forgotten dream to penetrate the international music scene.
"Ngayon po, ang feeling ko 25 years old lang ako!" Claire beamed at the press conference held earlier today, August 13, at Annabel's restaurant on Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
The gathering was staged to promote the singer's newest album, Timeless, Songs of My Life, released by Viva Records. But more than just promoting the record, the press conference was conducted to celebrate this new breakthrough in Claire's career.
"Nangarap ako 25 years ago na sana nandito ako sa posisyon ko ngayon. Twenty-five years after, ibinigay sa akin ng Diyos, and I'm really, really so happy and grateful sa ating Panginoon," the singer, who is also a successful businesswoman, said.
By the way, the Michael referred to—the Michael who was impressed by Claire's singing voice—is American singer-songwriter and Grammy-Award winner Michael Bolton.
Michael Bolton—who jumpstarted his music career as part of the rock band Blackjack—popularized the hit ballads "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You," "Go The Distance," and his 1991 smash cover "When A Man Loves A Woman."
GOING INTERNATIONAL. Bolton's introduction to Claire's talent happened three months ago during a meeting with Claire's producer and good friend, Christian de Walden.
The two men met up at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, to discuss Bolton's appearance in a concert conceptualized to honor Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. (The concert was successfully staged last July 15 in Sorrento, Italy.)
During the meeting, De Walden slipped a copy of Claire's 2008 Christmas album to Michael before broaching the idea of a possible collaboration in the future.
"Okay, let's see," was Michael's polite reply.
Three days after the meeting, De Walden received an e-mail from Bolton's manager who informed him that the American singer was blown away by Claire's voice and was seriously considering Christian's proposal.
Michael, incidentally, was in the middle of recording his own Christmas album at the time. Not wasting any time, Bolton's camp asked Claire to choose any song from the yet-to-be-released album. Claire chose "The Christmas Song."
At the August 13 press conference, Claire clarified that she and Michael never met personally in the studio. They recorded their respective parts apart. Thanks mainly to modern technology, Claire actually recorded her own parts here in the Philippines. She dubbed her voice on the tracks containing Michael's rendition. Celebrated Italian record engineer Luca Vittori flew in to oversee the recording.
Michael assured Claire that their duet will be included in his Christmas album slated for release a few months from now. The album, to be launched worldwide, guarantees Claire's exposure in the international music scene and even, as Michael told Claire in a letter, "in the entire universe."
"Sana po this opens the opportunity for all Filipino artists na madinig sa buong mundo," Claire said. "Sana po maging instrumento ako ng Diyos na mabuksan na po. Sinasabi ko nga kanina, I think there's around 80 million Filipinos that can really sing... Lahat po ng Filipino na matanong ninyo, lalo na sa henerasyon na ito, marunong kumanta. So sana po from here, marami pa tayong marating."
Dubbed the "Karen Carpenter of the Philipiness," Claire gained popularity in the '70s through her massive jukebox hit single "Sayang." She has also been conferred the titles "Queen of Tagalog Songs" and "Jukebox Queen"—a tribute to her contributions to Original Pilipino Music.