ALL EYES ON: JOSH GROBAN Richard Jay-Alexander Talks with the Multi-Platinum Artist About STAGES... and MORE!
Josh Groban is a bona-fide star. It's really a "no-brainer" statement because if you ask anyone, from any generation, they all know his name. They also recognize the sound of his voice. That's a pretty great thing, more rare these days than you might think, as pop-culture is always feeding us the next new/hot thing. Most new recording artists rarely even get to release a sophomore effort, if the first one doesn't fly immediately. Sad, but true.
Josh splashed onto the scene in 2001 and hasn't stopped since. We've also watched him grow, as a singer, a songwriter and an actor. The accomplishments are impressive and he has quite a following on social media. All ages, all backgrounds and, among them fans of Broadway and fans FROM Broadway.
On April 28th, the 34 year old releases his 7th studio album, STAGES. It's a wonderful album and could easily debut at #1, which I predicted while we chatted and, of course, he takes nothing for granted, but, surely, this must have sounded like music to his ears.
Josh and I have crossed paths over the years, through mutual people we work with, like Barbra Streisand, William Ross, Jay Landers and others, but we don't really know each other that well and it was totally enjoyable, chatting with him on the phone a few weeks ago about the new recording. Also, to hear him talk, it's interesting how much we have seen him grow before our very eyes. He's become a welcome chat show guest and host and I am now remembering when he first put Kanye West's tweets to music, years ago on Jimmy Kimmel Live, long before anyone else thought to do that sort of thing. It got millions of "hits" of YouTube.
The new album seemed inevitable to me, as Josh has appeared in concert versions of musicals and has always expressed a love and passion for theatre. Also, he has invited Kelly Clarkson, Audra McDonald and Chris Botti to join him on this album. He recently sang on Barbra Streisand's duets album, PARTNERS, where they joined forces for "Somewhere" from WEST SIDE STORY. That album went platinum, which he is no stranger to, himself, being a multi-platinum artist in his own right.
He's been living in New York for the last few years, in addition to having a home in Los Angeles, and it's pretty much a sure bet, you will find him in theatres and visiting and hanging with friends in the theatre community on any given night. I had no idea he went to Carnegie Mellon, where he was a Musical Theatre student and signed his first record deal with Reprise/Warner Bros. Records when he was a freshman! I learned this as I read the promotional/bio materials accompanying the recording.
I asked him who he went to school with and he started naming off the likes of Josh Gad, Leslie Odom, Jr., Rory O'Malley, etc. which VERY QUICKLY got us on to HAMILTON, which he had seen and raved about. He had nothing but praise for Lin-Manuel Miranda and the amazingly talented cast.
I have had the luxury of listening to this album now for a number of weeks and that crazy thing is already happening, where you change your mind about what your favorite song is.
Here's the Song List of STAGES:
Pure Imagination - Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
What I Did For Love - A Chorus Line
Bring Him Home - Les Miserables
Les Temps Des Cathedrals - Notre-Dame de Paris
All I Ask From You (w/ Kelly Clarkson) - The Phantom of the Opera
Try to Remember - The Fantasticks
Over the Rainbow - The Wizard of Oz
Children Will Listen/Not While I'm Around - Into the Woods/Sweeny Todd
You'll Never Walk Alone - Carousel
Old Devil Moon - Finian's Rainbow
Finishing the Hat - Sunday in the Park with George
If I Loved You - Carousel (w/ Audra McDonald)
Anthem - Chess
On the DELUXE version of STAGES (available on iTunes for Digital Download), there are an additional two songs, which are:
Gold Can Turn to Sand - Kristina Fran Duvemala
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables - Les Miserables
If you like hard goods and still stack CDs on your shelf, you can order from Amazon.com or TARGET. The Target edition contains the full 13 songs, 2 deluxe songs and 2 more bonus cuts: If I Can't Love Her - Beauty and the Beast and Dulcinea - Man of La Mancha.
There have been some early "preview" music videos released of "Bring Him Home" and "All I Ask of You" (with Kelly Clarkson) getting tons and tons of hits, which is certainly a good indicator and I do believe STAGES could debut at #1. I was looking at the releases for that same week and, although there are many, I think the only one who could possibly rock the equation is Zac Brown Band's new album. But these things are always a crapshoot and I think the fans and friends will be there for Josh.
For Josh, this album breathes the word NOSTALGIA, as he has been wanting to do this album ever since he can remember. You can also truly hear that in his voice. He first sang "All I Ask Of You" when he was 17 years old and now, for the first time, he has recorded it. Think about it. That's pretty beautiful.
His song choices speak for themselves and, calling it STAGES and not a Broadway Album, allows him to venture into Off-Broadway and foreign stages. Today, as I write this, I am totally digging "Le Temps Des Cathedrales" from NOTRE DAME de PARIS, in French. But tomorrow, it is sure to be something else.
I asked him how he chose the songs and he admitted starting with 100s and whittling it down and confessing that sometimes it was just plain old "painful" to make decisions and cuts. I understand this and then asked was there one that got away? But, apparerently not, at least for now, as he's proud and quite sanguine with the choices and how the album has turned out. We talked about how he chose "If I Loved You" to sing with Audra McDonald. He told me that they shared an e-mail exchange and THAT happened. Audra, of course, made her Broadway debut in CAROUSEL, for which she won her first TONY Award, for Carrie, who does not sing this song. That, of course, is what makes it even more special and they sang it live, together .... AND you can tell!
I asked Josh about who he likes or listens to on his personal playlist and he stated that he loves bold, animalistic, unique voices. He likes MUSE, HOSIER, SAM SMITH, BJORK, ANNIE LENNOX among others.
When asked about some Broadway favorites, he jumped to LENA HALL, LAURA BENANTI, LESLIE ODOM, JR., NORM LEWIS, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL.
I wanted to know when he first was in an audience at a show and could SEE himself in a role that he was watching. His Mom and Dad took him to the theatre to see many shows and when he saw THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at age 10 or 11, that pretty much triggered it. I asked, "As Raoul or as The Phantom?" His reply, "The PHANTOM!" Again, I get it!
Josh Groban is a very down-to-earth guy and does not take his career or achievements lightly. He rehearses and rehearses and trains and puts the hours in to learn the songs, grow with them and discover as much as he can while the work unfolds. On any given day, in midtown Manhattan you might find him in a rehearsal room at one of the well-known studios that we all frequent. We talked about a possible tour and/or tv special showcasing this material and he said things were in the works and planning stages. Just this week, the tour was announced formerly here.
He does philanthropic work and lends his voice for various causes as well. He's also very affectionate when speaking about Barbra Streisand, expressing how generous he feels she has been with him, from the very beginning. I remembered meeting Josh in Barbra's living room, in Malibu, and he was taking care of himself, as he was feeling a little under the weather. As we talked on the phone, I couldn't remember the event, but he did, an event for Nancy Pelosi. He went on and, of course, nailed it, but he really cared and really wanted to do well for Barbra and the event. In my eyes, that makes him the REAL DEAL.
One of the last things we talked about was a recent "drop-in" to Marie's Crisis, in the West Village one night, in New York City. Rob Diamond had told me, when we lined up the chat with Josh, that his record crew was hoping to get a couple drinks in him and drop in and sing a couple of songs. Well, he told me it happened. What did he sing? "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", "Anthem" and "What I Did For Love." I asked if he had brought his own piano player. He said, "No, that guy is great! He knows everything and doesn't even need sheet music. His name is Jim Allen." He also said that no one went crazy or anything with him dropping in, which made me laugh, because it seems this can happen at any time, like when Jimmy Fallon dropped in. Gee, what does it take to cause a stir these days in New York City?
So, as I wrap up here, be sure to order the album. Those 'pre-order' numbers go into the first week's sale and you can actually help Josh get to #1.
Josh, if I'm right and you debut at #1 ... we're heading out for drinks and a song at Marie's Crisis!
My last request of Josh was to tell me if he had a favorite YouTube video that has been posted of something he has done. YouTube is a very tricky thing for performers because stuff that you don't like can get up there, but, then, sometimes, there's that piece of GOLD. He said, "Somebody recently put up a video of me as Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, in High School."
Well, I can't think of a better way to end this edition of ALL EYES ON.
Here it is:
From This Author Richard Jay-Alexander