Groban Aims for Intimate
The Regina Leader-Post
August 30, 2011
By Francois Marchand
Musician tries to bring personal feel to arena shows

When Josh Groban steps into an arena, there aren't many who can upstage him.

But there is one, and his name is Sweeney.

Granted, Sweeney is a dog - Groban's prized wheaten terrier, whom Groban was looking forward to taking on a walk on a beautiful June morning in New York City.

"I take him on the road with me and he loves it," Groban said via telephone. "We call it the 'wheaten greet' because he runs around the arenas and he meets fans. He's far more famous than I am."

Sweeney likely will make an appearance at the Canadian dates on Groban's Straight To You Tour, which is taking the singer back to an arena setting following a string of smaller concerts earlier this year.

"The shows were very intimate, with about 1,200 seats, just piano and guitar, no set list, and a Q&A," Groban said. "It wound up being the most fun I've ever had in my life. I realized there was a very special thing we could draw from this and bring to an arena environment.

"I wanted the arena show to be vibrant and energetic but have that intimacy and that connection with the audience. We can't do Q&A because there's too many people. So we have text messages fans send in so I can answer them, and there are stairs where I can literally climb into the audience and talk to people."

Groban added that while they could have easily called it the Illuminations Tour - after the title of his latest album, released last November - the tour isn't about just one record, it's about all five of his albums.

Straight To You is a Nick Cave song Groban covered on Illuminations, and he thought the title represented "that feeling of intimacy and excitement we have to get back out there."

Illuminations marked a number of departures for Groban, who moved to New York from Los Angeles a year ago and worked with famed producer Rick Rubin for the first time after four albums produced by the "hit man" who discovered Groban, David Foster.

Groban also co-wrote most of the material on the album with the help of Semisonic's Dan Wilson, marking the first time Groban has lent his own creative touch to his material, which made for a deeper personal exploration.

"The co-writing was a bit of a surprise for me," Groban said. "I trust Rick's ear tremendously and I trust his ability to take any style of music - and my style was completely new to him - and put it through his filter. I think his motto for me was, 'I know you can sing your ass off. I want these songs to be coming from you rather than just being presented by you as a vocalist.' "

Illuminations finds Groban in solitary mode, soul-searching on songs such as Rufus Wainwright and mother Kate McGarrigle's heartbreaking Les Jardins des Sans-Pourquoi and singing, for the first time, in Portuguese on Voce Existe Em Mim.

Josh Groban performs in Vancouver tonight, Calgary on Thursday, Edmonton on Friday and Winnipeg on Sunday before heading to Europe.

(This is a shorter version of the article found here: Josh Groban Sees the Light)