With multiple multi-platinum records to his name, Josh Groban is a hugely beloved star of stage and screen. He looks back on the moments that changed his life in his letter to his younger self.
As I look back now, I just can’t believe how many stars were aligning for me when I was 16. I kind of knew I could sing, but it took mentors and teachers to tell me ‘I think you can do this’ to put me out there. It was really at 16 that that started to happen. A producer named David Foster was looking for a singer for an event and he said to a voice teacher I was working with, ‘Who have you got who’s young and can sing a song from Phantom of the Opera?’ I recorded a tape and he said ‘OK’. It changed my life.
Every time I’ve been able to work with an artist that has achieved legend status, the common denominator is that they never stopped striving to learn more and get better. You see a lot of people who go from being nobody to being a global star in five minutes. It’s really hard to know how to deal with it. I think that one of the things that kept me on the straight and narrow was that the people that I really looked up to growing up – the people who had been doing this for 40 or 50 years like Paul Simon, Neil Young, Tony Bennett – are people who just never stop trying to get better. They always find ways to scare themselves.
I’m glad I can’t go back in time and tell that 16-year-old kid that you’re going to sing with legends like Aretha Franklin. I would have gone from being a shy and humble kid to being absolutely intolerable. At 37, 38, sure you can have a bit of ego – you’ve earned it. But at 16, you just gotta keep that head down and don’t pay attention to the noise.
I was still really insecure at 16, because there was so much coming at me. I just didn’t know which end was up. There was a lot of stress about whether I was performing well enough for the people around me. I put every bit of emphasis on whether or not I was doing well for other people. I wasn’t putting enough on enjoying it, and appreciating it. So, I’d say to that kid, ‘Yes, you’ve got to work hard but try to smell the roses a little bit.’
I’d also go back and tell that kid there are going to be times that you’re going to have to work really, really hard when no one is looking. You’re going to have to rely on your own self-confidence and not on external validation. With anyone who has a career that goes beyond 15, 20 years, you’re always going to have times when you feel like you’re the hot thing and times when you don’t. So, I’d tell that kid to be prepared. Get a hobby and get a pet. My dog is 14. He’s a soft-coated wheaten terrier. He’s been on four tours with me and has been my absolute best friend.