Josh Groban Biography
Josh Groban has a story as compelling and real as you are likely to hear in the world of pop or classical music. Discovered by world-renowned producer/writer/arranger David Foster, Josh's journey to his label home, the Foster/Warner Bros. joint venture - 143 Records - reads like the stuff of show business legend.
"I've had an interesting route getting to this place," says Josh. That 'place' he speaks of finds him releasing a Foster-helmed debut album featuring the likes of Charlotte Church, The Corrs, Rhys Fulber and Lili Haydn. Not bad for a kid who had only joined the school vocal group because - in Josh's words: "everyone else was doing it."
Born in Los Angeles, Josh put singing on hold two or three years after his seventh grade debut because he had to change schools. It was only when he attended the prestigious Interlochen Arts Program did Josh begin to take his talent seriously. "I started taking music lessons on the side," he recalls. "I was very much into musical theater. I had a pretty good baritone voice, so I began acting and singing in school productions."
Citing Mandy Patinkin as one of his early musical theater heroes, Josh realized late in 1998 that his intense vocal discipline was about to pay off. "I was studying with a vocal coach who knew David Foster. One day David called him and said he needed a singer right away for an event he was putting on for the Governor of California's Inauguration."
Josh sent in a tape to Foster, and the next thing he knew he was called to rehearse for the event. The song was "All I Ask Of You," and Josh nailed it. The Inauguration event was a huge success, and much to Josh's surprise the Foster-Groban juggernaut was on a roll. "A month later David calls me and asks me if I know the CÚline Dion/Andrea Bocelli song 'The Prayer.' I say 'of course.'" The song, which appeared on both Bocelli's and Dion's own albums, was in fact, written by Foster.
Incredibly, David was enlisting Groban to fill-in at the 1999 Grammy rehearsals for Bocelli, who wasn't able to make the practice session. Josh was in shock. "You have to remember, he was asking me to come down to the Shrine and sing with CÚline Dion," he laughs. "At first I said no. I was afraid the song was too high for me, and God knows, I didn't want to embarrass myself." But a persistent Foster prevailed, and the then 17-year-old Josh sped down to the auditorium, where he sang the Oscar nominated song in front of several other Grammy nominated artists, and - much to his disbelief - with CÚline herself.
"The whole experience was unreal," remembers Josh. "David invited me back to the dress rehearsal, and there I was sitting in the front row watching Aerosmith and Madonna do their thing." But the story gets even more incredible. The Grammy host for that year, Rosie O' Donnell noticed Josh in the audience of the dress rehearsal and invited him backstage. "You're the opera boy, huh? You were great," she told the young singer, and booked Josh for her TV show on the spot. A few weeks later Groban appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell show and was even interviewed by the comedian.
Josh continued to perform at events for Foster, but he also began to concentrate on attaining a college education. Soon, Josh received news that Carnegie Mellon's prestigious musical theater department accepted him. When Foster booked Groban for yet another music industry party, "that was the beginning of the conflict," says Josh. "I was thrilled to be singing for David, but also excited about attending classes at Carnegie Mellon." He kept the commitment, however, and it was at the music industry event where a group of Warner Bros. executives told Foster they were interested in signing Groban to a record deal. David responded quickly, and soon after Josh decided to put school on hold to pursue his singing career.
The two already had a selection of songs recorded for the debut album, including "Alla Luce Del Sole," and "Gira Con Me." Foster especially admires Josh's versatility. "I love his natural ability in the pop and rock arena, but I love his sense of classics even more. He's a true musical force to be reckoned with."
When asked what style suits the vocalist best, Groban takes his time to answer. "People might want to classify me as operatic I suppose, but I won't even be touching Arias for a long time. I want my voice to mature. I hope to look back on my career five or ten years from now and see that I continued to grow as a singer. I would never want to be pigeonholed."
Josh has been lending his vocal talent at several benefits in the last few months. They include The Andre Agassi Grand Slam Event For Children which featured Josh alongside the likes of Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Don Henley and Robin Williams; Muhammad Ali's Fight Night Foundation honoring Michael J. Fox and others; The Family Celebration 2001 co-hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton along with David Kelley and wife, Michelle Pfeiffer; and Michael Milken's CapCure event, which raises funds for cancer research. Josh also performed with Sarah Brightman on her 2000/2001 La Luna Tour. Notably, he co-sang the song "There For Me," which is also featured on the "La Luna" Concert DVD.
Josh also appeared on the stellar 2001 season finale of the hit television program, Ally McBeal, performing the heartfelt song, "You're Still You," (from his debut CD) at his character's high school prom - an event that was central to the finale plot line. Response to the episode was so amazing (8,000 fan e-mails received) that Josh was asked to return to the show and was featured on the holiday episode of Ally McBeal which aired December 10th in which he performed "To Where You Are," another track from his new record. An additional song, "For Always," performed by Josh Groban and Lara Fabian, made an early appearance on the A.I. soundtrack.
Josh completed singing "The Prayer" with Charlotte Church at the Closing Ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics. "It's been like a dream so far," says Josh. "All I can say is stay tuned."
We have stayed tuned and Josh's career has sky-rocketed ever since that extrodinary performance at the 2002 Olympics.
"What most people know about me, they know through my music. This time, I've tried to open that door as wide as possible. These songs are a giant step closer to who I really am and what my music is all about. Hence the title."
So says talented vocal phenomenon Josh Groban on the subject of his aptly-titled new Reprise Records release, Closer.
Featuring the glorious new single, "You Raise Me Up," Closer is a stunning collection of thirteen diverse and distinctive new tracks, including three original songs by the young artist, that together comprise a musical landscape both richly detailed and sweepingly cinematic; a resonant and revealing self-portrait in sound and a memorable journey through melody and lyric, language and emotion.
Co-produced by a stellar supporting cast, including David Foster, Walter Afanasieff, Martin Page and Eric Mouquet, Closer boasts a guest artist roster led by world-class violinist Joshua Bell and the innovative French duo Deep Forest. Recorded over seven months in 2003, the CD reveals brilliant new facets of a young man The New York Times crowned "The New Boy Wonder Of The Voice."
Since the release of his extraordinarily successful 2001 self-titled debut album, featuring the International hit "To Where You Are," Josh Groban has become a musical phenomenon, selling well over five million albums worldwide, making scores of televised appearances, most notable his wildly popular 2003 PBS Great Performances special, which itself became a number one selling DVD and the best selling long form music video of 2002. His appearance at the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics was seen by over a billion people, many of whom were instantly converted into rabid "Grobanites," as the artist's global fan following has affectionately dubbed themselves. Most recently, Josh appeared on stage at Broadway's Amsterdam Theater for an Actor's Fund benefit performance of Chess, bringing to fruition a long-standing ambition of this former Carnegie-Mellon musical theater major.
But that, of course, was then and this is now, and for Josh, the difference could not be more self-evident. "Of course I felt tremendous pressure to repeat the success of the first album," he confides. "The unspoken question was 'Can you top that?' I felt that vocally I'd grown so much, that I was more grounded and that I had a lot more to say. The challenge became not so much reaching the bar I had already set, but setting it higher."
Nevertheless it was, by his own admission, a "daunting" task to ramp up for the new project. "It felt as if one day we'd finally finished everything that had to be done to take the first album as far as it could go. And the next, I was in the studio starting on another one."
A self-styled "scribbler" in poetry and lyrics for most of his life, Groban adds, "when I started putting words to music in the studio, it all just seemed to fit." The results are nothing short of spectacular, thanks in part to the partners he picked. "Walter Afanasieff had been involved on the first album and we had a great working relationship," explains Josh, of his co-writer on the Closer standout, "Per Te." "It carried over into songwriting and really gave me the encouragement to push myself. I realized early on the benefit of finding the right creative chemistry, which is why Eric was also such a natural choice."
The Eric in question is Mouquet, one half of the renowned French World Music duo, Deep Forest. "I'm a huge admirer of what they've done with artists like Peter Gabriel," Josh enthuses, "and I knew that they would take me in a whole new direction." Josh, in fact, ended up in Mouquet's converted chateau in Northern France for a week-long writing and recording odyssey that yielded two more outstanding Closer selections, "Never Let Go," with a guest performance from Deep Forest and "Remember When It Rained," featuring Josh on vocals and, for the first time, on piano.
Collaborating closely once again with David Foster (who produced Josh's debut), work on the album proceeded at a determined pace through the summer and fall of 2003. Along with Josh's newly minted originals, a tune stack was assembled remarkable for its depth and diversity. Included among the Closer standouts: "Mi Mancherai" featuring Joshua Bell from the score to the film Il Postino, and a continuation, of sorts, to Josh's fascination for Italian film music (as evidenced by "Se" from Cinema Paradiso on his first album); the unabashedly romantic "My Confession," penned by Richard Page and the aforementioned single "You Raise Me Up." "I have a natural affinity for sad songs," Josh confides with a laugh. "In a way this is a response to the song 'To Where You Are,' on the last album. I wanted to give my fans a definite uplift this time."
The list goes on: the sweeping opener, "Oceano;" the Spanish fire of "Si Volvieras A Mi," the sheer virtuosity of "Caruso." "I knew I was going to be actively touring for this album," Josh reveals, "and I kept that in mind as one of the criteria for the songs. This is music that needs to sound as good on stage as it does in the studio." Groban is scheduled to embark on his 1st world concert tour in January 2004.
Whether in concert, on CD or simply resonating in the hearts and minds of those who hear it, Closer is a collection by a vocalist and songwriter who understands that intimacy is the first prerequisite in the art of communication. "To me, these songs present something beautiful," he concludes. "Sometimes they're personal and sometimes you can just appreciate the story, even if it's not mine. It all comes from the same place."
On Josh Groban’s latest album, Josh Groban has brought us closer to that place he wants all his fans to be.