Closer, Josh Groban
November 11, 2003
By Pete Zorn
It is hard to believe that a voice this rich belongs to someone so young.
Born in Los Angeles, Josh Groban put singing on hold two or three years after his seventh grade debut because he had to change schools. It was only when he attended the prestigious Interlochen Arts Program did Josh begin to take his talent seriously.
"I started taking music lessons on the side," he recalls. "I was very much into musical theatre. I had a pretty good baritone voice, so I began acting and singing in school productions."
Citing Mandy Patinkin as one of his early musical theatre heroes, Josh realized late in 1998 that his intense vocal discipline was about to pay off.
"I was studying with a vocal coach who knew David Foster. One day David called him and said he needed a singer right away for an event he was putting on for the Governor of California's Inauguration."
Josh sent in a tape to Foster, and the next thing he knew he was called to rehearse for the event. The song was "All I Ask Of You," and Josh nailed it. The Inauguration event was a huge success, and much to Josh's surprise the Foster-Groban juggernaut was on a roll. "A month later David calls me and asks me if I know the Celine Dion/Andrea Bocelli song 'The Prayer.' I say 'of course.'" The song, which appeared on both Bocelli's and Dion's own albums, was in fact, written by Foster.
Incredibly, David was enlisting Groban to fill-in at the 1999 Grammy rehearsals for Bocelli, who wasn't able to make the practice session. Josh was in shock. "You have to remember, he was asking me to come down to the Shrine and sing with Celine Dion," he laughs. "At first I said no. I was afraid the song was too high for me, and God knows, I didn't want to embarrass myself."
But a persistent Foster prevailed, and the then 17-year-old Josh sped down to the auditorium, where he sang the Oscar nominated song in front of several other Grammy nominated artists, and - much to his disbelief - with Celine herself.
"The whole experience was unreal," remembers Josh. "David invited me back to the dress rehearsal, and there I was sitting in the front row watching Aerosmith and Madonna do their thing."
But the story gets even more incredible. The Grammy host for that year, Rosie O' Donnell noticed Josh in the audience of the dress rehearsal and invited him backstage. "You're the opera boy, huh? You were great," she told the young singer, and booked Josh for her TV show on the spot.
A few weeks later Groban appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell show and was even interviewed by the comedian.
Josh continued to perform at events for Foster, but he also began to concentrate on attaining a college education.
Soon, Josh received news that Carnegie Mellon's prestigious musical theatre department accepted him. When Foster booked Groban for yet another music industry party, "that was the beginning of the conflict," says Josh.
"I was thrilled to be singing for David, but also excited about attending classes at Carnegie Mellon." He kept the commitment, however, and it was at the music industry event where a group of Warner Bros. executives told Foster they were interested in signing Groban to a record deal. David responded quickly, and soon after Josh decided to put school on hold to pursue his singing career.
United again with super producer Foster, Groban delivers another winner with Closer, his third release.
The album features thirteen new songs including the artist's current single, "You Raise Me Up." The new CD, recorded over a seven month period earlier this year in Los Angeles and France, represents a stunning creative leap forward for the 22-year old baritone.
Focusing on European crossover pop as he did on his wildly successful debut, Groban is joined by some special guest artists: the innovative duo Deep Forest (“Never Let Go”) and violinist Joshua Bell ("Mi Mancherai”). The results are every bit as satisfying as his new cadre of fans could have hoped for.