Groban’s Tour, ‘Awake’ CD Are Lavish
March 16, 2007
By Alan Sculley
Over the course of three highly successful albums and two DVDs, Josh Groban has built something of his own musical niche. His style combines pop and classical music, and he sings in English, Italian and Spanish.
It’s a sound unique enough that what may have been considered groundbreaking at one point could be perceived as a novelty down the road.
Groban says he is aware of the danger of being known as a novelty act. And while he doesn’t think his music has crossed into that territory, his new CD, “Awake,” finds Groban taking a few pre-emptive steps that should help give him staying power.
“I think that for the people who enjoy the music, it’s a serious thing. For me, I definitely feel like it’s just a very new thing,” Groban said in a recent phone interview.
“Awake” finds Groban occasionally venturing into fresh stylistic territory. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the two-song suite, “Lullaby/Weeping,” which ventures into world music territory with the help of the legendary South African vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
“There is the risk when there is a style of music that’s new and that some people get and some people don’t because it is so new to, you need to create its own credibility,” he said.
Groban admitted there were those around him who weren’t sure he should turn “Awake” into anything other than a new version of his self-titled debut CD and his follow-up, 2003’s “Closer.”
The CD, with its hit single, “To Where You Are,” thrust the 25-year-old into the spotlight and sold 4 million copies worldwide.
Then “Closer,” fueled by the smash hit “You Raise Me Up,” did even better, taking Groban to arena-filled heights.
Two live DVDs/CDs, “Josh Groban In Concert” (2002) and “Live at the Greek “(2004) kept interest in the singer strong.
“I knew I had certainly the option and certainly a lot of pressure from a lot of people around me to, you know, repeat, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Groban said.
But he did feel pressure to evolve, he said.
“It was just that I felt I was at a point in my career where I owed it to myself and I owed it to my fans to use the success to not just keep rehashing,” he said, “but to continue to expand and grow and listen closer to the influences I had that were getting louder and louder in my head to try and experiment with.”
In the end, “Awake” balances songs that are trademark Groban (such as “Solo Por Ti” and “February Song”) with more adventurous material such as the epic pop of “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up).”
“I don’t look at it as an enormous departure,” Groban said. “I look at it as an evolution, for sure.”
“Lullaby/Weeping” was a song Groban discovered while touring South Africa. While there, he also organized a charity show to raise money to feed the needy and visited schools in Soweto.
“The music brought me there,” Groban said. “It really became one of the greatest fan bases I had outside of America.”
He met Nelson Mandela, an experience Groban calls “one of the greatest honors of my life.”
“Being asked to be an ambassador for his AIDS foundation was the second greatest honor,” he said.
Groban expects to play another set of concerts in South Africa in support of “Awake.” But for now he’s concentrating on the first American leg of the tour, which like the “Closer” tour, will find him augmenting a seven-person touring band with 20-person orchestras and choir groups recruited in each city.
“I wanted it to be exciting, and I wanted it to be bright and vibrant. But I also always want it to be really classy,” Groban said. “We really wanted to do just enough so people would kind of have the awe factor.”