​Andrea Bocelli: The voice

The bestselling singer who leaves audiences smiling even when they're crying has a secret: he has stage fright.

CBS News

There's no mistaking the voice of the tenor Andrea Bocelli ... or the devotion of his fans around the world. You can count Kristine Johnson among them:

Whether he's performing in his Miami home or to a sold-out arena anywhere in the world, Andrea Bocelli seems at home on stage. But don't let that fool you.

Hard to believe, considering he's performed for presidents, Popes and the British Royal family, he has stage fright.

"I suffer very, very much for a long time. The heart that beats very quickly, the hands sweaty, and cold," he said.

Some artists look for reassurance in the faces of their fans, but Bocelli, who lost his sight at the age of 12, relies on something less tangible.

"When you hear the applause, the love from the people, you think, 'Wow, they are here for me. And I have to do my best.' And this is a big responsibility."

Clearly, he's making good on it: Bocelli, now 57, has sold more than 85 million albums worldwide. His 2009 Christmas album alone topped 5 million sold.

To watch Andrea Bocelli and Natalie Cole perform "The Christmas Song" from his 2009 television special, "My Christmas," click on the video player below.

So, Johnson asked, "when you go to church on Christmas Day, do you feel as though people just get really quiet around you, so that they can hear you singing?"

"No," he laughed. "Usually I sing with everybody in choir."

Hard to blend in with a voice like that. Add in his movie-star looks and trademark charisma, he knows exactly what to say to make a reporter feel welcome: "Not all are so nice and beautiful like you are."

"Oh, you are a charmer. Everything they say about you is true!"

"No, it's true, I say always the truth."

"Are you comfortable after all these years being a sex symbol with all of these women in your audience?"

"It's a joke, of course," he said. "Anyway, I think that every man would be very happy to be a sex symbol, of course. This is not a joke!"

What's NOT a joke: Bocelli's music. He's known not just for how he sings, but what he chooses to sing: He's done duets with artists from Luciano Pavarotti, to 22-year-old pop star Ariana Grande (with whom he sang "E Più Ti Penso," from "Once Upon a Time in America," featured on his latest album).

When asked if he likes to collaborate, Bocelli replied, "Absolutely! Yes, because I like to share the stage, and also recording, to share the microphone with great other singers. Because there is always something to learn. You finish richer than before."

His new release, appropriately titled "Cinema," features songs from the movies, including many he remembered as a child.

Born in Tuscany, Bocelli fell in love with opera at an early age. He studied law (at his father's urging), but sang whenever he could A record executive discovered him when he was already in his thirties.

Johnson asked, "Did you ever dream of this success?"