Five Minutes with Josh Groban
Five Minutes with Josh Groban
Multi-platinum award-winning singer/songwriter and global superstar, Josh Groban, has announced his eighth studio album Bridges, which will be released on September 21.
Ahead of the anticipated release, MiNDFOOD caught up with the talented singer who shares the inspiration behind his latest offering, giving back, and his love for INXS and Yothu Yindi.
What’s the inspiration behind your new album, Bridges?
This was an album that came about as a real burst of energy for me. I’d spent the previous 3 or 4 years doing primarily cover songs. I did a musical theatre album and then I went and did a year on Broadway, and I felt like I needed a minute, I needed a few years to kind of recharge my tank, and my batteries for original music. So as soon as I got off Broadway I had 100 ideas in my phone, and I started to call collaborators, old and new, that I thought might be exciting to work with. And for the first time in a long time, I felt kind of scared to get back at original music, it was something that felt fresh and exciting to me again, which is how I knew it was time to do it. And so, basically we wrote and wrote and wrote, and we found a bunch of songs and we felt had the best messages, the best spirit for the album would rise to the top, and Bridges just sort of came of pouring out of the walls.
So it was a very organic process by the sounds of it?
It really was. I mean you can put whatever you want down on a piece of paper and hope to match it, but you know, when an album like this one comes out of such an organic process, it’s a very lucky thing. You know, it doesn’t always happen in that way, and so just song, after song, after song, every day it had an energy that felt really positive, and really good, and I hope that people listen and hear the same thing.
Are there any notable collaborations on the new album?
There are a few really great duets that I’m very excited about. Sarah McLachlan is someone that I’ve loved for a long time. She’s a great, dear dear friend – a wonderful person, we toured together a few years ago and we sang this song Run – a Snow Patrol song together. We would sing on stage and it was always my favourite moment of the night, to sing this with her, because our voices just blended so well together. So in the back of my head I thought, ‘We have to record this at some point.’ And that some point needed to be now, I needed for us to do it. Another collaboration is with Jennifer Nettles, I met Jennifer when we both performed for President Obama’s inauguration concert 8 or 9 years ago now, and again she just has a voice that can do anything. She’s obviously a country superstar, but her voice has always been very versatile. So when I was writing the song 99 Years, I thought well first of all it seems to have a bit of a country vibe to it, who would be great to do this, and Jennifer Nettles was at the top of my list. And she just knocked it out of the park. And then last but not least, Andrea Bocelli who’s somebody who’s such a legend now. And my career really started as a 17 year old replacement for Andrea when he couldn’t make his flight at the Grammys in 1999. So almost 20 years later to have written a song that is for us, for my eighth album, I can hardly believe it. It’s very special, it’s a beautiful melody, and I love the way our voices sound together, and he’s just such a wonderful guy. So it’s very special, there’s a lot of meaning for me on this album.
Do you have a personal favourite song?
I don’t know if I have a favourite, we just mixed it like a month ago, so we’re still in [that] process. There were songs that were favourites of mine that just couldn’t make the album, that I still am sad about. Every song is a favourite at this point, I would say that there are some songs that are much more vulnerable and personal than others, a song like River, for instance, is kind of the first time that I’ve tackled anxiety and depression in a song. And to have got some of the responses that I’ve already got from some people, has been so gratifying to see that. A song like Symphony is kind of a heart-on-the-sleeve sad love song, about when you’re trying your best and don’t succeed. There are a couple of songs on this album where I really open up more than I have in the past, and when you can do that and still stay in your vocal lane it’s great.
What was it like co-hosting the Tony Awards?
It was a first time for me and my co-host, Sara Bareilles and we had such a good time – we’re such theatre nerds together, so we felt so embraced by that community. So we just decided to have fun with it, and we had a blast.
What is the Find Your Light Foundation?
I’m a product of public arts education here in the states, and it’s just so vitally important that we give kids the opportunity to express themselves. And find connectivity with the world around them, with their fellow students. And I’ve seen first hand how the arts is not just a feel-good activity, it does feel good, but it’s really about giving young people the foundation to grow and learn, be leaders in their community, to build confidence. And through the help of my fans, who have donated and helped us every step of the way, we developed Find Your Light which is a non-profit, built around adopting programmes that are about to fall through the cracks, that allow for young people to have those arts experiences. We find programmes that are in school and out of school, and we give grants to programmes that are changing kids’ lives. It’s a way for me to give back to a world that changed my life, and every time I get to see that change, and that light, so to speak, in a young person who’s been deeply moved by that experience, you know it gives me hope in this crazy divisive world we live in. And I think especially now, when arts programmes are getting cut at a drastic rate, and also I feel like our humanity is getting lost at a drastic rate, I can’t think of a better time to have those programmes.
Do you feel like the arts helped shaped your character, and impacted you growing up?
100%. Art is therapy for a young person. You know you’re so lost in your own head – and I’m lucky that I didn’t have social media growing up. I mean it’s a nightmare – kids are getting anonymously bullied, that’s not even considering whether or not they have good home lives. I was lucky that I had an amazing family, but so many young people don’t. And so they’re swimming in their own very microscopic reality of what the world is and what they’re capable of, and what they’re not capable of in their own mind. And what the arts does is that it shatters that feeling, it opens their world so that they can understand there is such a bigger world out there for them, and that they are a big part of that world. My music teachers, and my theatre teachers did that for my confidence, and that’s when I was a stressed out, depressed kid.
When can your fans in Australia and New Zealand expect to see you perform live again?
It’s been so important to me that just about every album I’ve released we’ve made times to get out to the fans. And every time we’ve come back [to Australia and New Zealand] we’ve played to more people, which is such an amazing trajectory. In America, it happened very quickly for me, and in Australia, it’s been so gratifying to really work so hard each time I get over her – for like a thousand people to tell another thousand people. So like I said, last tour we played 4 nights at the Sydney Opera House, next tour we’ll probably make our way to an arena – you know it’s very, exciting, and I’m so thankful to the fans in Australia and New Zealand for really, from album one, being a passionate group for me. So yes, it’s not set in the books right now, but I can 100% assure you that we will get there at some point.
Do you have any favourite Australian or New Zealand artists?
One of the first bands that I ever listened to, other than INXS who are some of my favourites, was a band called Yothu Yindi, who were an aboriginal rock band. And I think that was like the first or second CD I was ever given for Christmas when I was 11 years old. When I heard that sound, that electric guitar, and that didgeridoo, it like just crashes the song. It was just like this political awesome powerful song, and I just remember thinking that was a spirit that I really love, that it was a style that I really love. I love the music that comes out of Australia.