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Interview:
Music Is Remedy For Whatever Ails Josh Groban
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

The idea of Josh Groban depressed seems unlikely, if not disingenuous.

After all, he’s spent the past six years wowing audiences worldwide with his rich, classically trained baritone and a set of albums that have sold more than 18 million copies worldwide — including the new “Awake,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in November.

But in an offhand remark about “Awake’s” first single, “You Are Loved,” Groban lets on that “I often get” depressed — though he laughs when asked just what gets him down in what he acknowledges is a “very, very blessed” life.

“I’m not that depressed, but we all get sad sometimes,” Groban, who turns 26 on Tuesday, acknowledges. “The funny thing about depression is there’s nothing really rational about it. I’ve always been a high-anxiety personality, somebody who’s very much a perfectionist, so obviously when things aren’t perfect, it can take you into a very dark place (where) you dwell on the negative too much.

“I’ve always turned to music to make me feel better and help me get those feelings out.”

The Los Angeles-born Groban — who attended Interlochen Arts Camp as a teenager — has certainly found a planet full of sympathetic ears. In addition to the album sales, he’s had chart-topping DVDs, sang the Academy Award-nominated “Believe” in the film “The Polar Express,” appeared on TV’s “Ally McBeal” and has performed at the Olympics and the Super Bowl. He’s also made guest appearances on albums by Charlotte Church and Angelique Kidjo.

Through all this, Groban has accumulated a legion of fans who are happy to hear him wrap his voice around classic love songs in a variety of language. There’s nothing broken, nothing that needs to be fi xed.

But, Groban cautions, “a formula can start to ensue in what you do,” and that was top of mind when he began writing and choosing songs for “Awake.”

“If any artist is to really succeed,” he explains, “they have to put their stamp on what it is they do and what their message is and what their heart and soul is. What that means for me is, I have a huge amount of fans that just want to hear me sing beautifully.

“So I wanted to find music that allowed me to do that. But I also wanted to fi nd music that allowed people to see who I am.”

And with two successful studio albums — his 2001 selftitled debut and 2003’s “Closer” — behind him, Groban felt the strong pull of his creative ambitions, including infl uences that run from Luciano Pavarotti and Mandy Patinkin to Sting, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Linkin Park.

“After (‘Closer’) came out and it did well,” he says, “then I thought to myself, ‘OK, stop playing it safe. Stop thinking to yourself, “What do I have to do to keep the formula rolling?” Just have fun, go all out, don’t even think twice, don’t compromise.’

“So in that regard, (‘Awake’) has been the most rewarding (album) I’ve ever made. It’s been the hardest album I’ve ever made, but as far as the pressure goes, I’m very comfortable. I feel like I owe it to the success of the last two albums to just go where music thrills me at the moment.”

Groban is particularly excited that he wrote four of “Awake’s” 13 songs, collaborating with

Dave Matthews (“Lullaby”), Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik (“February Song”) and Grammy nominee Imogen Heap

(“Now or Never”).

“Those songs I feel the most personal connection to,” he says, “and those are really a lot of fun to perform.”

He does, however, acknowledge that he chose “You Are Loved,” which was written by others, as the fi rst single because he wanted to “lob one over the plate” and give his fans the “very beautiful and also catchy” kind of song that’s become his stock in trade.

But he felt a personal connection to that track, too.

“That song really was a great message for me when I heard it, and I wanted to translate it to other people,” Groban says.

“When you’re depressed ... you see the little thing that’s bugging you as being just absolutely enormous. There’s nothing like the feeling of the clouds opening up and somebody or something making you feel like the world’s a much bigger picture.

“I so enjoy the letters from people who have listened to my music and it’s helped the through a dark time or through something in their lives.

“This seemed like another (song) that could do that.”



Josh Groban and Angelique Kidjo perform at 8 p.m. Friday (Feb. 23rd) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.50-$99.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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