Music

Josh Groban: "The goal is to give people goose bumps"

Josh Groban talks new album Stages, Broadway ambitions and the Hollywood star who helped his career

I’m told your music is good at putting women in the mood. The mood for what exactly?


It could be the mood for anything really. Sometimes I joke my audience is divided in half, people who are there because they want to be and the spouse who was dragged along.

But maybe the spouses reap the benefits of your concert after its finished.

That is certainly a possibility.

Does listening to your own music put you in the mood?


It puts me in an overly critical mood.

You’re dating 2 Broke Girls’ Kat Dennings. Is it annoying that because you sing love songs, people ask about your love life?


When I listen to a love song I’m not thinking about the love life of the person singing, I’m thinking about the person I’m with. Hopefully if people listen to my love songs it puts them in the space of their own life and not necessarily in mine.

What song have you found most useful for seduction purposes?


I feel the dirty joke here is, You Raise Me Up. I always thought that would be funny if they used that in a Viagra commercial.

It’s a very versatile song, equally suitable for weddings and funerals.


Or Easter.

Is that the secret of a good song, it can have different meanings for different people at different times?


That’s the key to a song that stands the test of time. What’s interesting is that so many of these songs [on new album Stages], though they were born on the musical stage, have lived well beyond that realm. Jazz standards like Old Devil Moon, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, these songs are classics whether you think about them in the body of a musical or not.

Is Stages a good record for people who have a problem embracing musical theatre?


Everybody can appreciate a great melody and a great arrangement and I also tried to sing my face off.

Does that make you an ambassador for a certain kind of music?

Sure. I would take that on. The best way to be an ambassador for what you do is try to be great at it. The ultimate goal is to make people not think about genres, just think about what gives them goose bumps – the goose bump test.

What was the last thing that gave you goose bumps?


This terrible cold wind we’re having in New York right now.

You see the world shifting and art being able to connect again as history repeats itself over and over

Is it an ambition to appear on Broadway one day?


One day down the road. I’d love to play someone like Sweeney Todd – any big baritone role that doesn’t require dancing would be a good move for me. I’d love to play the Phantom one day, Jean Valjean would be amazing. Bring Him Home is on the new album.

There were rumours of you reviving Chess…


Every time I get tea with Tim Rice we talk about the fantasy of bringing Chess back to the West End or Broadway. I loved doing it at the Royal Albert Hall. That was one of my favourite experiences ever.

Now would be a good time, it’s all about the Cold War, which seems to be heating up a little.


There are tensions. History and art definitely repeats itself. You see the world shifting and art being able to connect again as history repeats itself over and over. Any time you can bring back a piece of music or something that reminds people of previous mistakes, that’s when you realise songs stand the test of time.

Have you always had a love for musical theatre?


There’s something about being in the same room as people on stage telling a story so beautifully. You can clap and have a nice time or if you’re like me and you’re deeply affected by it you can say I’d like to make people feel the way I felt. I was lucky enough that I had the bug and I also realised that I had the voice to be able to do that.

Having the voice does seem the most important part of the equation.


For sure. That’s why they call it a gift. I woke up one morning and realised, ‘These songs I wanted to sing…? I can sing them!’

Is that really what happened? You woke up one morning with an amazing voice?

Well, kind of. I would lock myself in my room and sing by myself but the first time I experienced applause was in junior high. I was singing in the back of the choir and was pulled out by a teacher who gave me my first solo. There was a bunch of kids who were making fun of me for being the weird, artsy kid and they were the same ones saying, “Holy shit, that’s great!”

Over here if someone showed any talent the bullying would intensify.


That’s universal. When it comes to bullies, anybody who goes outside of their shell to express themselves is putting themselves out there to be bullied. And I certainly was. Thank God there was no Twitter when I started. The harassment kids have to go through now is insane.

Do you remember what that first song was?


I’ll never forget it. It was a George Gershwin song called ‘S Wonderful. Interesting factoid: the actor Jason Schwartzman went to my school and played drums behind me on my very first solo.

I hope I wake up one day suddenly able to sing…


I hope you do too. I recommend it.

Josh Groban’s new album Stages is out now

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