Josh Groban in Atlanta Friday to Promote Georgia Public Broadcasting Concert
Access Atlanta
June 4, 2009
By Rodney Ho
Local fans of Josh Groban take note: your idol is going to be in Atlanta Friday. He’s not performing live but he will be in the Midtown area that day and appearing at Georgia Public Broadcasting that evening to help promote GPB and a concert airing at 8 p.m. starring him.

The 28-year-old singer best known for “You Raise Me Up,” will do live cut-ins during the concert during the current pledge drive. Local host Valerie Edwards will also interview him from the GPB studios in Midtown Atlanta. In the pre-taped concert special shot in New York City (his fourth for PBS), Herbie Hancock and trumpeter Chris Botti are guests. (A preview trailer is just below)

For years, he’s been a pledge magnet along the lines of Andrea Bocelli and Celtic Woman. And the PBS exposure has helped build his audience as well. “We’re like family now. They aired my performances when there was no place else for it to be seen. They’ve never limited me or pigeonhole me.”

He loves how he can play with Botti one minute with the Boston Pops, then do work with rock star Sting, then try out “Chess” at Royal Albert Hall, then dabble with jazz great Herbie Hancock. And he said he’s been fortunate: none of his experimentation has been so outside the box that his fans have rejected him.

In fact, he doesn’t recall ever being booed. “I’ve never had that fear with my fans,” he said. “They’re pretty polite. If one person ever booed, they’d say, [as he put on a faux British accent] ‘Please get off now and enjoy the rest of your day in peace.’ ”

Groban admits he has been nervous when facing an audience that isn’t his. “I had a chance to sing a Ben Folds song ‘Still Fighting It’ in Los Angeles, the entire song in front of his fans. This was a situation I thought I’d get booed. But it was actually really cool. The audience was singing along. They were open to hearing a different version.”

(That isn’t quite as much of a stretch as, say, Groban trading verses with Jay-Z or working the floor with Britney. Those crowds might be a wee bit more hostile.)

But Groban is working with uber producer Rick Rubin on his latest album. Rubin is better known for working with rock acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and System of a Down. But he has also done acclaimed albums for Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks, too.

“On his albums, you hear the true essence of each artist,” Groban said.

“It’s not the overburdening sound of the producer… we’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re just changing the way I work. My voice is still my voice. I will still do songs I can sing. But I’m really enjoying cutting things back. I’m 28. I’d like to go out of my lane a little bit.”

And how about his love for singing songs in foreign languages? “For me, it’s not a gimmick. I feel languages can be as musical as the music itself. I hear a melody. That melody is meant to be sung within the sounds and scope of that language. Spanish and Italian are the most open to sing. There aren’t that many vowels. There’s a lot of open spaces to sing around those languages. French? I love the challenge. There are a lot more vowels to choose from. Those mouthy consonants are harder. I have a goal to sing in Russian down the road.”

Groban’s guiltiest pleasure on his iPod? It’s not Chumbawumba. No. It’s sexy R&B man D’Angelo. “I was dating a girl not too long ago who had an obsession with D’Angelo,” he said. “So I have his deluxe best of on the iPod.”