Sessions @ AOL
Online Interview
April 30, 2002
(Thank you to karamella for this transcript)
Interviewer: It’s sessions@ AOL; I’m Chris Deridas (?) with Josh Groban, David Foster. This is really the first time I guess you’ve been back into a recording studio since you made the record, right?

Josh: Yeah, actually it is, um…it’s great because, you know, we’ve listened to a lot now these last you know, six to eight months, and now it’s really fun doing acoustic versions of these songs.

David: I would rather be in the studio doing new stuff, to tell you the truth (Josh laughs), cause before we know it we’re gonna be needing a new album, so…

Josh: Very soon.

Interviewer: I wanna go back to the first point where you heard Josh’s voice, David…for the very first time. If you could take us through that realization, that discovery that you…

David: Sure. I heard a tape from a vocal coach named Seth Riggs, and he sent me a bunch of different tapes of about 4-5 singers, and this tape stuck out like a sore thumb. It was just so incredible, and then when I found out how old he was – seventeen – it was even more amazing. But we were looking for someone to rehearse with Celine Dion…uh… (to Josh) …was that right? Was that why we were looking for a tape?

Josh: Yeah… or you were looking for someone to sing for the Governor Gray Davis’ inauguration Concert.

David: Right. OK so when you came over…there was another singer there. Do you remember…? (Josh looks puzzled, so David leans over and whispers something in his ear.) Wasn’t he?

Josh: Uummm…

David: The first time or the second time? Cause I don’t wanna mention the singer, but…

Josh: There was somebody else there.

David: Ok so it was either the…

Interviewer: Aren’t you gonna tell us?

David: No, no. But the thing is, he’s a great singer too, and I kept saying (waving his hand in Josh’s direction) “Isn’t he great?” And the singer was going “Umm…mphff…sort of”, you know (Josh and interviewer laugh) cause the thing is, he was seventeen and he was killing! Right? And the other singer’s name is… no I’ll never tell you. (Josh laughs) But it was an amazing moment for me to see this young man come into my studio and just open his mouth…and…you know.

Josh: Yeah. It was amazing for me, because you know, I’d never had somebody say, you know, “come into my studio and sing for me”, you know, so it was great to finally have that opportunity.

Interviewer: Put it into perspective for us, David, how often does that come along, those moments of discovery like that.

David: Well it’s… you know there’s a top 10 every week and there’s a top 100 every week, and it’s filled by people that are just starting and people that have been around for a long time, you know…But in a personal way, um… it doesn’t happen to me every day, it doesn’t happen to me every year. And I like (words not clear)…when I first found, not found, but was exposed to Celine Dion and I was with her from the beginning of her English career, and when I heard her open her mouth for the first time, and actually… Humberto Gatica, who’s engineering this session and co-producing it, he was with me when I first heard Celine Dion. And he said…I mean..he just…we went crazy. (Interviewer and Josh laugh) He was with me the first time I heard Josh…so I’m sticking to him too (Josh laughs). He has great taste too. But it… when you hear a voice like Josh’s or Celine’s, it’s kind of a no-brainer. You’d have to be kind of an idiot not to know that it was great.

Interviewer: Yeah. We’re talking a bit ago…um.. about another side of music that you’re into, that we’re not really hearing… (Josh laughs)…on the album. Which really begs the question…how… (David chuckles)

Josh: Why not? (laughs)

David: Right!…alright this interview is over.

Interviewer: Really it’s…there’s a time though where you had to figure out what to do with Josh and his voice and how to position it and you know…What was the right first move? How did you get to that point?

Josh: Yeah…well you know the kind of voice that I have and the kind of music that I’m best suited singing is very very different from the kind of music I listen to for my own entertainment, so you know… There was kinda that balancing act of how far do we go with one or the other, because a lot of my influences are pop and rock, as well as classical, but um…but singing…it’s the voice…it’s just the voice that I have, so…um…

David: Yeah, what a bad luck, huh? (laughs)

Josh: Yeah, what am I gonna do… um…

Interviewer: How many rock bands did you audition for? (Josh laughs)

David: He does a great Eddie Veder (does the "rock on" sign) Come on, man!

Josh: Yeah…no no no. Um…I’ve played drums in a couple of rock bands, that’s how I got my rock kicks off, but…um… I think the first thing we did was, we listened to…the first song that we listened to was Gira Con Me. And, um we kinda sat down and David called me about 10 o’ clock and said “come on down and listen to this.” It was a song that he and Walter Afanasieff wrote and…I sat down and listened to it and we just said “This is it. This is the direction.” It was a little bit of everything. And it was just… we raised the bar really high that night. And that’s why it took a long time to find the right song after that, because we knew that we wanted something that special on every track.

Interviewer: Yeah I mean…the all-Italian direction…um didn’t sit right with either one of you at one point.

Josh: Well I think eventually we talked about it and… it was very important to me that we did stuff that…didn’t limit me simply to doing Italian music, you know, I wanted to sing songs that people from my own country would understand. But they had to be the right songs. So I wanted something that…used the English that I wanted to sing in, but that also had the same…feeling that David wanted in those Italian songs. So yeah, the English songs on the CD are the ones we felt were the right ones to do.

Interviewer: Do you speak any foreign languages?

Josh: Not fluently. Well I took Japanese for three years (laughs).

Interviewer: Ah there you go….Any Japanese songs on the next record?

David: Well what do you know?

Josh: Uuhh no. No songs in Japanese, but you never know…

Interviewer: Sukiyaki.

Josh: Yeah exactly. Um I don’t know them fluently, but you know just a few arias from an opera….I know each word fluently that I’m singing, so I know exactly what I’m singing about, and make sure that every song I do in another language has a lot of study behind it. So in that regard yeah, but it’ll take years and visiting these countries many times to get it really fluent.

Interviewer: So are you thinking already about the next album; where that’s gonna take you?

David: Well he’s not, but I am.

Josh (laughs): I am. There’s so much going on right now. I’m having a blast performing these songs live for an audience for the first time, and I’ve got a lot of that to do in the next year, and we’re just… This album is still very new…to the world right now. So we’re…I can’t wait to… you know…get my full energy into showing it to people as I have for recording it, so yeah. I mean he of course (pints to David) is always thinking about the next CD.

David: it’s an interesting transformation because you know things have happened so fast for Josh that um… you know we do have to think about the next album, but what happens is, you know an artist gets so busy because the success factor kicks in so heavily, and they’re here, and they’re in China, and then they’re in Europe, and then they’re flying to New Zealand and they’re just beat. But you know when we were working on the first album he had absolutely nothing else to do… (Josh laughs)…You’d come to the studio every day, get us coffee… (Josh laughs heartily) and say “I like it, I don’t”…

Josh: Exactly.

David:…And just immerse himself in this album that he immersed…that he did so well…Now it’s gonna be like we’re gonna just have to grab moments. Josh: Right.

David: And that’s gonna be very very difficult and probably ultimately… well it’s gonna be harder on both of us, I think.

Interviewer: Well there’s another transition that went on too, because you come across as a very shy guy Josh, and I would imagine that just getting accustomed to having all his attention focused on you and being in front of microphones and huge audiences….I mean the Olympics as well, billions of people…

Josh: About that, yeah.

Interviewer: It’s tough to beat that size of an audience.

Josh: Sure. Everything’s a new experience. Because I’m just in a new period, so of course, it’s nerve-wrecking and I’m not…um…the most outgoing person when it comes to…you know, like…(tilts his head in a funny way) Hey look! There’s a camera! (grins towards an imaginary camera) How are ya? You know… I’m not that kind of a person, so…

David (amused): Do that again.

Josh: Yeah ha ha ha. (David tries to copy what Josh did.) Um…

Interviewer: Even during the mix, I mean we were listening…uh to the playback… and he was wanting his vocals to be put… pushed down a little more.

Josh: I… I just can’t… if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s feeling like there’s too much of me. Anywhere. Whether it’s on tape or on video or on records…

David: Which is why we won’t let him come to the mix.

Josh: Right. (laughs) Because… I just… I wanna you know… it’s hard for me to listen to myself, it’s hard for me to watch myself, because I’m hypercritical to anything I ever do, so yeah, I mean it’s… that’s why I have a producer and a mixer and a sound engineer, because they take what I’ve given them and they know how to make it… make it right, so…

Interviewer: Yeah. I’ve seen often that you…uh refer to yourself as a “tenor in training”. Cause really you’re a baritone now.

Josh: That’s right.

Interviewer: …And that’s something that baritones really aspire to, to become a full…

Josh: Yeah… I think most of the top tenors right now were baritones my age…And I mean… all the voice teachers I’ve gone to have said “you’re gonna be a tenor, you’re gonna be a tenor, just don’t push it right now”, you know, so… um I hope to have a long career and I hope to definitely sing those arias and those great tenor roles one day, but at the moment I’m just singing songs that are comfortable for me and that I feel I can do the best of my ability and yeah, I definitely look upon myself as a tenor in training because I’m young and I have a lot of training ahead of me.

Interviewer: How do you make that transition?

Josh: You just… well for me at least… you do what you can do with it at that moment, you know, and don’t ever… you know, try to be… be hero or anything. You just take it one day at a time, and I’m constantly in training, and so… You know I… I feel like vocally I’ve changed in the last five months, let alone the last year, so I’m fully confident that next year, I’ll be looking back on this CD and saying “wow”, you know.

Interviewer: There’s a lot of interesting collaborations on this record. Um, can you tell us about any that might be in the works for the next record?

Josh: Um… oh. For the next record? We can always fantasize about who’d possibly want to.. collaborate.

David: Well the landscape has changed, for sure.

Josh: Since there are a lot of opportunities for me now since the albums’ doing so well, since we have so many different things we could try on the next CD, it’s important not to lose track of what we wanted… what was so important on the first CD and… not to take too many…too many more risks, you know… I wanna make something that… you know, make it right.

David: We don’t wanna over-think.

Josh: We don’t wanna over-think it.

David: But at the same time, he will have more say in this record because he’s, you know, he’s obviously made some right suggestions for the last CD, and he… this is his career. It’s his face on the album, not mine, so…

Interviewer: Following his instincts…

David: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Yeah. (to Josh) Do you do anything special to take care of your voice?

Josh: Um…sure. I mean I take voice lessons and I make sure that I don’t… you know there’s a lot of discipline involved in having a career where, you know your singing voice is under the microscope all the time. And that includes, obviously no drinking, no smoking, know. Sometimes I can’t go out with my friends because I know it’s gonna be a loud, smoky place, I know I have to sing in a TV show the next day, so I…you know. It’s hard.

Interviewer: I went online just before coming down to the studio today, and I’ve learned all about the Grobanites…(Josh chuckles) …and Grobania…

Josh (points to camera) They’re out there.

Interviewer (laughs): I mean isn’t this amazing, that there’s this whole population online…

David: it is. They’ve found each other. Which is you know…. (to Josh) tell him about Florida. Wasn’t that amazing?

Josh: I was just in Florida, and I did this radio promo thing, and a group of the fans from the website came down just to meet… and I came and surprised them and said hello and got to talk to them for a little while, and um.. but they.. I said “Well how long have you guys known each other?” and they said “We’ve all talked online, but we just met today”. And they were best friends that day. And the night before they went out and they had dinner and… I think it’s just amazing that these people with… you know from all over the country are flying together and becoming best friends.

David: Does this happen with other artists?

Interviewer: I’ve never seen anyone…

Josh: I think Queen and Star Trek, but other than that… (laughs)

David: Queen and Star trek…

Interviewer: So are you gonna be going to conventions or anything…

Josh: No, no… definitely not.

David: 30 years from now…

Josh: We don’t wanna take it that far (laughs)

David: There’d be three people there…

Josh: Exactly. (laughs heartily)

David: “I remember Florida 30 years ago”…

Interviewer: But tell us why you landed on these songs for the…

Josh: The one song that I felt I could communicate best and the one I felt I had the most attachment to was Vincent. The Don McLean song. So.. so yeah, and we wanted to completely respect what he’d already done with it, and we got his blessing to do it, and so.. we made our own version of it.

Interviewer: You got his blessing to do it? Cause you don’t really need that when you cover a song, right?

Josh: It was important.

David: Yeah I… it was important to Josh, and I tracked Don down, and of course he didn’t really know who I was, and he certainly… well he knew who Josh was and not me. (Josh laughs, while shaking his head and mouthing the word “No”.) Well he didn’t really know anything and… you know um… Brian helped us track him down, and just said “Hey we’ve done your song”, thinking like “what does he care”. I mean, millions of people have done his songs. But we sent it to him, and now he’s sending me his new material, he wants me to, you know, work with him, and he’s a… he’s a Grobanite. He’s a big Josh fan.

Josh: Aaaaaw…(laughs)

David: And he loves what we did with the song.

Josh: It was very, very important to me that I did something that he…he wouldn’t…you know, go tell all his friends “I can’t believe this guy did this”, you know… I wanted him to really like it, and I’m glad he did.

David: And we’re doing, you don’t know this but we’re doing American Pie.

Josh: Fantastic…(Interviewer and David laugh) Let’s put some… (indicates beat by moving his arm)

David: Yeah!

Interviewer: Exactly. Thank you guys so much. Thanks for joining us.

David: This has really been great for us, to do these songs again, in this kind of unplugged way.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Josh: Especially…yeah, for this audience, this audience has been, the internet audience has been…uh… just kinda the guiding light in making this successful…. So it has been great to do this.

Interviewer: Yeah. Thanks David for piecing together the small orchestra…

David: I’d just like to thank AOL. I think this is very cool, and you guys are leading the way, and we’re happy to be bringing this to you. In this way.

Interviewer: Thanks. Thanks so much. Josh Groban, David Foster, at Sessions @AOL.