Why Yes, Baritone Josh Groban Can Tweet
Los Angeles Daily News
June 18, 2009 By Rob Lowman
Josh Groban stays connected, which is not unusual for 28-year-olds.

But the singer with the "indisputably beautiful voice" - as the New York Times described it - knows it's important to stay in touch with his fans. So he Twitters and blogs.

"Look, for an artist like me, the mainstream means of getting your music out there has not necessarily always been available," he says from his home in L.A.

"Top-40 radio, forget about it. MTV, forget about it. And I haven't necessarily been a press darling. So really, it's become your connection with your fan base - period. You make music; they listen to it. I think with business changing the way it is right now, it's increasingly obvious that connection is the most important thing. That's your insurance policy."

Especially now, since Groban will be mostly off the road until the new album he's working on comes out around next February, he estimates. However, there are two notable exceptions when he will take the stage. One is tonight, when Groban will be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame along with opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The event will include presenters Garth Brooks, John Williams and special guest Trisha Yearwood. The other is "The Mandela Day Celebration," a tribute concert honoring human rights leader Nelson Mandela, on July 18 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"It's embarrassing. ... but I'll take it," the singer says about being inducted into the Bowl's Hall of Fame. "Growing up in Los Angeles, it was my childhood place to see music. So I just grew up loving the atmosphere."

He then cites seeing a Bjork concert with fireworks, Elton John when Groban was 12, the Simon and Garfunkel reunion. "And I've always enjoyed going to the John Williams film nights, and the Fourth of July concerts are an amazing institution."

A baritone (verging on a tenor), Groban has been known for his semiclassical and inspirational material ("You Raise Me Up"), but his approach is neither stiff nor kitschy. And over the years he has been branching out. On his last studio album, "Awake," he did two songs with the South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. He also collaborated with Dave Matthews, Herbie Hancock, Imogen Heap, Glen Ballard and John Ondrasik's Five for Fighting on the CD.

Groban's career took off after performing "You're Still the One" on the 2001 finale of the television series "Ally McBeal," but it seems like the singer is trying to shake off his choirboy image.

To prepare for his new album, he has been listening to jazz greats Chet Baker and Nina Simone, really trying "to get deeper into the spaces they were in when those records were made ... . (My producer and I) want to take the fluff out of the recording process, and really just think about those great melodies and what it feels like to be in a room just playing them together."

Besides looking for songs, Groban also has been writing.

"It's been a longer process than I'm used to ... but the idea of coming up with something for forever is exciting."

And while he has been concentrating on his new album, Groban hasn't been entirely out of sight. He starred in a 2008 London concert presentation of the musical "Chess," which came out on CD and DVD this week.

The musical, which involves a romantic triangle between two players in a world chess championship, features music by ABBA's Benny Andersson and Bj rn Ulvaeus, and lyrics by Tim Rice. It flopped when it debuted. Groban says he thought because he hadn't heard it, it couldn't be that great, but when he listened to it while driving through traffic, his jaw dropped.

"It was so stunningly beautiful and intricate and clever. As a singer, I just wanted to sing it."

Groban also has recorded a song for an album by his pal, violinist Joshua Bell, and he performed "America," "Silent Eyes" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the Simon tribute - the last two with the legendary songwriter.

In the fall he'll play himself on the television series "Glee," but don't expect him to be pursuing many acting gigs.

"I'm just so deep in the recording process. I like reading scripts, and I go in for meetings. But ultimately it comes down to time. `Can you give three or four months? Can you block out that amount of time?' No."

So Grobanites, as his faithful fans are known, will have to be patient. The singer says that he's proud of his fans, pointing out that they have raised millions of dollars for charity. His Josh Groban Foundation helps children in need through education, health care and the arts.

"It's flattering ... that if I'm going to do a show with 20 artists, I always have fans waiting for me. That's cool."