Classical-crossover singer Groban dreams of taking the stage in a musical - and of performing in Thailand
CELEBRATING THE grandeur of theatre musicals on his seventh studio album “Stages”, American singer Josh Groban has a fantastic follow-up to his 2013 hit “All That Echoes”, and he’s hoping to come to Thailand soon to play it for us.
Joshua Winslow Groban grew up listening to all kinds of music and was singing in public by the time he was 12. At 17 he was introduced to famed record producer David Foster and signed to his label. The result was four consecutive multi-platinum albums – “Josh Groban”, “Closer”, “Awake” and “Noel” – all of which blended his angelic voice with classical-crossover backing.
By 2007 Groban was the No 1 best-selling artist in the US, with more than 22.3 million discs circulating, and to date he’s sold some 25 million records around the world.
So we got him on the phone to ask about this passion for the theatre, which turns out to be not a recent development.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE SONGS FROM STAGE MUSICALS FOR THIS ALBUM?
I grew up with these songs. They’re the songs I thought I’d be singing for my whole career. I was in college studying musical theatre when I was signed, and there’s just always been a special connection to the material.
When I got signed I kind of put these songs on the shelf. I wanted to wait until the right time to record them. I’ve had so many fans asking me if I would finally sing them, and I had so many great arrangements that started to come in, that the universe just kind of pulled it together. So, after all this time, it was time to dive in.
WHICH OF THE SONGS GIVES YOU THE MOST JOY?
It’s hard to pick one! They all have such great stories.
“That’s All I Ask of You” was the first song I sang for David Foster. I was 17 years old. [He’s 34 now.] So to record that with a full orchestra and to have it on this album is great. I also love “Pure Imagination” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, because I listened to them when I was a kid. I love “Sunday in the Park with George”, too.
YOU’RE ALSO AN ACTOR. WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ONSTAGE IN A MUSICAL?
I would love to. It’s one of my greatest dreams.
I can’t dance at all – I mean, I can move a little bit, but dancing is not my thing. I can act and sing. I just don’t think I can sing and dance. So, if I can find a great show that doesn’t require dancing, then I would love it.
Most of these songs don’t require dancing, which is something else I like about them!
WHAT KIND OF STAGE ROLE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF PLAYING?
I like the darker roles. I like the shows that are very dramatic, like “Sweeney Todd”, “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Phantom of the Opera”. I have a baritone voice, so it’s quite suitable for darker roles.
YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW CLASSICAL-CROSSOVER ARTISTS TO BECOME INTERNATIONALLY SUCCESSFUL. HOW DO YOU PLACE YOURSELF IN THE MUSIC SCENE RIGHT NOW?
I feel very lucky that I’m able to create my own rules a little and pave my own path, and I have a fan base that likes my decisions.
Quite frankly, there are so many changes going on and so many different ways to hear music and make music, and with so many fads now, within the pop, electronic music, R&B world, and rap and all that. To still have my own voice and to be able to do music the way I like to make it is a great blessing.
It’s great to see that there are audiences of all ages that like to hear this more traditional style of music. But I still love pop music and I love making pop music, too.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH A POP STAR?
I would love to sing with all sorts of different people. I’d love to sing with someone like Lady Gaga or Sam Smith or Adele. There are wonderful pop singers out there who I think would be a lot of fun to collaborate with.
WHAT ABOUT ELECTRONIC MUSIC?
Absolutely – I’ll be totally open to that. I think people love electronic music right now because they want to get out and dance, to escape from all the things that are happening in the world right now. Calvin Harris is great. I’m a big fan of Skrillex.
It’s an art form that’s very different from what I do, but nothing can take away from the skill that goes into making it. And, if there were a way for collaboration between the two worlds, I would love that.
WHEN YOU GO TO A CLUB OR A ROCK CONCERT, DO YOU LET YOUR HAIR DOWN AND GO CRAZY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?
Of course! It’s a very different thing when you’re onstage working and when you’re offstage as a fan. When I’m onstage I’m in the service of the audience, so my goal is to interpret the music to the best of my ability.
But, when I’m in the audience, it depends on the show, but I love going crazy at concerts. I think that’s the fun thing at concerts, and one of the things I tell my fans at my shows is that it’s alright to make noise. They can have fun!
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU’VE EVOLVED AS A SINGER OVER THE YEARS?
I think my ability to tell a story, to interpret the music, is better now because I’ve lived through so much. When I was 17 or 18 I could maybe approximate in my mind what emotion would feel like, but I think I’ve experienced those emotions now. I’ve loved and lost and that makes it much more poignant for you when you sing a song. That’s one aspect where being around longer really helps.
But I also like the confidence I have now, which I didn’t have before. It feels like I’ve put in enough hours now that I don’t have anything left to prove, except to just make music that makes me happy and makes my fans happy.
NOW, HOW ABOUT A SHOW IN THAILAND?
I’ve received some wonderful messages from the Thai fans on Twitter and Facebook throughout my career, and it’s been one of my great dreams to visit Thailand and to do a concert there and to see the reaction.
So they have my word that I’ll do everything in my power to get there and do a concert really soon!