Josh Groban's Old Soul
CBS News: Sunday Morning
May 10, 2007
The Singer Is A Favorite With Older Audiences, But Is Remarkably Successful Across The Board
Josh Groban has been called "the boy wonder of the voice," with a classic sound and a repertoire that defies categorization, even in a record store.
"When I go into music stores, I find it, you know, all over the place," he told Sunday Morning correspondent Sandra Hughes. "I like to think of what I do as pop music. I think of my voice as a pop voice. But it's not without its classical training and classical influences and world music influences and that kind of thing."
He's not a big fan of the catchy term some people have given to his style of music: "Popera."
"I've never been fond of those kind of gimmicky kind of words for things" he said. "I really hope people listen to me and say, 'Oh, that's just Josh.'"
Just 26, his three CDs have sold a combined 16 million copies. Groban is packing arenas, especially attracting female fans Grobanites, some call them mothers and daughters alike.
"It started off, I think, as a much older audience, 'cause that was kind of naturally who was buying this kind of music to begin with," he said. "But what's been really, really cool is without having to change myself, without having to change what I do I've been able to really reach a lot of my peers, too."
He reaches his audiences with a mix of mostly ballads and love songs, often sung in Italian or Spanish.
"I've always loved languages. I've loved the musicality of languages," he said. "I've loved the idea of telling a story in many different ways."
Even though singing in a foreign language can alienate some people, Groban says he can't please everyone, but he thinks his music is still accessible to most of his fans.
"I feel like with every passing moment it's reaching more people," he said.
Groban has been working with voice coach David Romano for eight years.
"We work classically," Romano said. "We train classically. He chooses to sing the way he sings, okay, which works quite well. It's amazing that he has the gift to be able to do that. So that's where the gift comes in."
During a break in a busy touring schedule for his latest album titled "Awake," Groban continues to work on his voice and rehearse with his band.
"You know, the schedule on me, with me, is so grueling and so demanding, and it's basically a rock and roll schedule while still having to have a pure and legitimate voice," Groban said. "Rough singing is not what they come for to my concert."
Groban began attending concerts and musicals with his parents when he was a child. He knew early on that music was his passion.
"I'd sit in the audience and I'd get chills," he said. "And I'd say, okay, well, if I can be the person that makes someone else feel that one day, then that's it, I'll be the happiest person in the world."
At the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, he seemed destined for success.
"It was the first place that I went to that I really started to feel like I was developing my own identity," he said. "And I was becoming confident as a human being."
From there it all happened very quickly for Groban. He was still in high school when he was picked as a last-minute replacement to sing at the California governor's inaugural.
"It was a total moment, you know," Groban said. "My dad was in the bleacher seats [with a ] shaky camera. I came out, big tuxedo, tie. My stage presence was not very good!"
Another of those moments came a few weeks later. When Andrea Bocelli couldn't get to the Grammies in time to practice his duet with Celine Dion, Josh got the offer to fill in at the rehearsal.
"And that was the point where I kind of said, I don't think I can fill those shoes," Groban said.
But he did. His dad brought the camera along for that, too. Groban took off for college, but left six months later to record his first CD.
"But we weren't selling any albums," he said. "And eventually I did a news interview that reached a lot of people. And all of a sudden it was like a light bulb went off, and it jumped I think 110 spaces on the charts, to the Top Ten."
The album went double platinum, with the help of an appearance on the TV show, "Ally McBeal." His second album, "Closer," shot to number one on the charts with his Grammy-nominated performance of "You Raise Me Up" which he sang last month with the African Children's Choir on "American Idol Gives Back." Groban gave up on formal piano lessons when he was young and although he still can't read music, he's composing more and more of his own songs. His current single is "February Song."
Though he's been broadening his musical range, romance remains at the heart of his appeal.
"I love the romantic music," Groban said. "I'm a cheese ball when it comes to that. I'm pretty shy and any girlfriend that I've had can probably tell you that I'm not, like, the most romantic person. You know, I don't have violins playing
I just say, 'Ya know, this is, honey, listen to track three, here's how I feel.'"
Groban took Hughes back to his high school where his career got its start. He invited all the students to one of his shows. Giving back is a big part of his life. His foundation has raised more than half a million dollars for children's charities.
Groban still has his high school ambition of starring on Broadway. Last year he paid tribute to one of his idols, Andrew Lloyd Webber, at the Kennedy Center Honors.
But despite all his success, Groban says he is still critical of his singing.
"I'm pretty hypercritical," he said. "I'm really hypercritical. I tend to over-think things until the idea becomes pointless. So one of the things I've learned in my three album career is to let things go. Sometimes [you] just need to let the child out into the world."
And for Groban out in the world this may be just the beginning.
Twenty-six-year-old "You Raise Me Up" singer Josh Groban knows he attracts an older audience but that's OK with him.
"You can't please everybody, you know, and I think that it's certainly accessible to enough of an audience where I feel like I've got I've got my fans," he told Sunday Morning correspondent Sandra Hughes. "And I feel like with every passing moment it's reaching more people."
He's right to feel secure. Since his debut on the international music scene in 2001, Groban has already appeared on "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," "Oprah Winfrey" and has sang at the Superbowl and the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics. Now he says he is starting to appeal to those beyond his traditional base.
"It started off, I think, as a much older audience, 'cause that was kind of naturally who was buying this kind of music to begin with," he said. "But what's been really, really cool is without having to change myself, without having to change what I do, I've been able to really reach a lot of my peers too."
Groban is currently touring to promote his latest album "Awake." Learn more about him this Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.