Larry King Live: Holiday Concert
December 14, 2007
(JOSH GROBAN SINGING "A CHRISTMAS SONG")
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, our Christmas countdown begins with a holiday concert from music's best.
GROBAN: With these songs, you really can't over think them. They are just classics. People love to hear them. They make people feel a certain way.
TOBY KEITH: (SINGING "LITTLE DRUMMER BOY")
KING: Toby Keith.
KEITH: We really respect the, you know, the time of the season and whose birthday it is and everything.
KING: Chris Body and Andrea Bocelli. Those Christmas stars and others are shining brightly for you next on LARRY KING LIVE.
As part of our Christmas celebration, featuring many top performing artists. And at the top of our list is Josh Groban, the Grammy nominated singer. His new album is "Noel." This is Josh's third visit to the show.
You were first here six years ago.
GROBAN: That's right.
KING: You were an infant.
KING: You were a toddler.
GROBAN: I was a newborn. I know it. And you were right there from the beginning, so it's good for you.
KING: A busy year for you, huh?
GROBAN: This has been a very, very busy year. I mean sometimes, you know, when you finally stop and get home -- this is my hometown. And, you know, you get back and you realize all that you've done. It goes by so fast. But, you know, we've released kind of two-and-one- half albums this year and...
KING: The "Awake" album, right?
GROBAN: The "Awake" and then I did a Valentine's album for Hallmark and now the Christmas album. And we did about a 110 city concert tour that we just finished up. And it's just been...
KING: Doesn't that take a lot out of you?
GROBAN: It does, but you get so buzzed when you're out on the road. And you have such a fun time playing for new audiences every night that -- that you don't really feel it until you get home and you get sick. You know, there's that you're home now, get sick cold, you know?
And then you, you know, you have to re-acclimate yourself to your home life. But when you're out there, your crew and everybody in your band becomes your family.
KING: Tell me about this South Africa trip.
GROBAN: When we were in South Africa -- me and my band always wanted to visit there. I had -- I had known about everything that had been gone on there. I had been a fan of South African music since I was a little kid. When we went there, we knew we were going to play for some fans. We knew we were going to do some great concerts. And what I was not expecting was I would have the chance to meet Mr. Nelson Mandela, which was one of the greatest honors for me.
And we also were able to visit one of his food shelters in Soweto -- Soweto. And it really was, for me, a very eye-opening experience, because you see it on TV, you know what's going on. But I think when you see it firsthand and you see firsthand how you can help, you know, and you realize that as one person, a little bit really can go a long way when it comes to things like the bed that could be over there and, you know, and food and that kind of thing.
So I -- everybody that was with me and myself, we were very inspired and it kind of lit a fire under us to -- to develop my foundation and...
KING: You go back in March.
GROBAN: And we go back in March. And we took a lot of music inspiration with us from that trip, as well.
KING: In our remaining moments, discuss the Christmas album, "Noel."
How did you pick the songs?
GROBAN: Well, David Foster who has been a mentor of mine and discovered me, he's -- he's wanted to do this Christmas album for a really long time. And I wanted to really find the right time to do it because these are songs that everybody's heard a million times. And we spent a lot of hard work making the last three albums and making stuff that we felt was very different and new.
With these songs, you really can't over think them. They are just classics. People love to hear them. They make people feel a certain way every time -- this time of year.
And so we basically just got into a room together and we, you know, every -- everything from asking, you know, the room service guy what his favorite Christmas song was to just all, you know -- he and I just sitting at the piano and just thinking about what we love to sing.
Is it just you and piano?
GROBAN: No. I mean the arrangements -- the arrangements that we did were so different. Some of are very traditional, like "Ave Maria" and "Panis Angelicus". And some of them -- you know, like "Little Drummer Boy" is a song that, you know, everybody knows it, but we were able to -- to get a guy that we found on YouTube, a guitarist named Andy Mickee, who flew in from Kansas. He'd never heard of me or David. You know, he was just -- he was a folk guitarist. And we had him play the kind of the rhythmic guitar part and then we just did interesting things like that.
KING: What are your own plans for the holiday?
GROBAN: For me, I mean the holiday is just a time for me to just relax and be with my family. I mean it's such a wonderful time of year. And my parents have always created such a magical environment for my brother and I growing up that it really represents, for me, the time when everybody shuts down and I can get back to the -- the really important things and be home with my family.
So I travel to Europe one more time in December and then I get back December 15th and I think the rest of the month is -- is going to be pretty much sacred for that.
KING: Josh has chosen to sing for us tonight "The Christmas Song," written by my friend, Mel Torme. It's a great song.
GROBAN: It's -- it's actually one of my -- one of my top, top favorite songs of all time. It's just such a beautiful song. And he was one -- really such a hero of mine that it's really been fun to sing this.
KING: Here's Josh Groban and "The Christmas Song".
(JOSH GROBAN SINGING "A CHRISTMAS SONG")
KING: As part of our Christmas spectacular, we welcome Toby Keith -- one of the true greats of the country music world, a singer/songwriter. You might recognize that hat, which he always wears. I've never seen his head. (KEITH TAKES OFF HIS HAT)
KING: A ha! It's there.
Five of his albums have reached number one on the Billboard top country albums chart. He has two new albums out, "Big Dog Daddy" and "A Classic Christmas." You can see the cover of "Classic Christmas."
This one has, what, two CDs?
KEITH: Two CDs, yes.
KING: Why the idea of double?
KEITH: Well, there's 10 Christmas songs and there's 10 Christian Christmas songs. So it's -- the first album I did 10 years ago was all original. This is classics. It's all classics. So you've got 10 Christian songs and then you've got 10, you know, "White Christmas" and those kind of things.
KING: The songs have been done so much by so many singers.
Does that make it harder?
KEITH: Well, you're going to put your own thing onto it. But when I did "The Broken Bridges" movie, I did a lot of acoustic instruments in that movie soundtrack. And I fell in love with the mandolin and the dobroe and those things again. So I used them on this Christmas album. So it's really different from what I normally do.
KING: And you won't hear it on most Christmas albums...
You're going to sing "Little Drummer Boy" tonight.
KING: Is that a favorite from childhood?
KEITH: It is. And being as it's about a musician going to see -- see the baby Jesus and -- and it's been one of my favorites. It turned out really magical on the album, too.
KING: Whose idea was it to do a Christmas album?
KEITH: It was mine. Yes, it was time. I did one about 10 years ago and like I said, it was all original, and I wanted to do something classic. When it gets down close to Christmas, I don't want to hear original music, I want to hear the old standards.
KING: They usually -- the story is they usually record it in August, when it's hot.
KING: Is that true?
KEITH: Yes, they use that to spike that eggnog and hang a little mistletoe and get in there and act like it's Christmas. But, yes, we actually recorded it in July.
KING: Have you been touring?
KEITH: I have been. We finished in October. We go back -- I'm doing a movie called "Beer from the Horses" with -- me and Rodney Carrington wrote a script and we'll shoot it in February and March. I'll go back overseas for my annual trip to the Middle East with the troops for 17 days and we'll start back in June again.
KING: Is that the best audience?
KEITH: Sometimes. I mean, unless you come in where -- you know, sometimes you get into some situations where they've been under fire and they've lost some men. And so you go in there under very somber situations that are hard to deal with.
KING: How about your own safety?
KEITH: We get into some stuff, but it is -- you know, they take good care of us.
KING: Where did you grow up?
KEITH: Norman, Oklahoma.
KING: What was Christmas like?
KEITH: Pretty traditional. Christmas Eve, you know, involved music. We still sing at the church on Christmas Eve. But Saturday morning -- or Christmas morning you get up and open gifts, the kids. It's kind of the morning for the kids. Santa comes and all that. And then, you know, we really respect the, you know, the time of the season, whose birthday it is and everything. So it's very traditional for us.
KING: Here's Toby Keith.
His new album is Toby Keith "A Classic Christmas."
And here he gives us his rendition of "Little Drummer Boy".
TOBY KEITH: (SINGING "LITTLE DRUMMER BOY")
KING: Do you like the Spice Girls?
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And there's more music when we come back.
KING: Although it's not exactly a holiday song, we thought it was beautiful nonetheless.
Here's Ne-Yo with "Go On Girl."
NE-YO (SINGING "GO ON GIRL")
NE-YO (SINGING "BECAUSE OF YOU")
KING: As part of our Christmas celebration, three brilliant musicians. They are Andrea Bocelli, renowned Italian tenor. His new album is "Vivere." Chris Botti, the Grammy-winning, award-winning composer and trumpeter who is brilliant and whose new CD is "Italia." And our old friend David Foster, the multi-Grammy-winning producer and composer. He has worked with some of the great musicians. We will start first with David.
Tell us about Chris Botti.
DAVID FOSTER, PRODUCER & COMPOSER: Well, I would just say about Chris and Andrea, they are the finest at what they do. Chris and -- he is the most amazing drummer. I like to say he has the sexiness of Chet Baker. He has got the chops of Miles Davis. And he is going to sell records like the biggest instrumentalists...
KING: Are all of these songs Italian, Chris?
CHRIS BOTTI, JAZZ TRUMPETER & COMPOSER: They are. It is basically a jazz musician's look at the popularity and the beautiful romantic qualities of the Italian melody. Some of it sort of classical and a lot of it is jazz, but at the centerpiece is the brand-new song "Italia," which we did with David. And Andrea sings.
KING: So you call yourself a jazz trumpeter.
KING: That means it's interpretative.
KING: Mr. Bocelli.
ANDREA BOCELLI, SINGER: That is me. I'm here.
KING: Welcome back. What does "Vivere" mean? BOCELLI: What "Vivere" mean? It means many things because it is all my best, all the best things that I did and they are -- there is inside the songs that the audience loved more, I think -- and I hope.
KING: So they are a collection of your best?
BOCELLI: Yes, yes.
KING: How good a singer is he, David?
KING: In fact, you once told me, first time you introduced me to him, that you had never heard anything like him.
FOSTER: It's true, because I don't know of anybody else that truly walks in both worlds the way he does, classical and pop. You can't name one other singer that does, that really, really understands the two concepts. I think he's the greatest singer on the planet, I always have, and I always will.
BOCELLI: Thank you very much, David.
KING: Have you ever played behind him, Chris?
BOTTI: We played on his PBS special. We played "Italia" together for his PBS special. And it was an honor. And he had the ability to project his voice to the back of the room, which I can relate to as a trumpet player, but also has the incredible intimacy that you don't sometimes get from opera. And that's a very, very unusual quality that he has.
KING: Tell me about the collaboration, David, on "Italia."
FOSTER: Well, Chris, had this concept for the album. And I introduced him to Bocelli. It was his dream that Bocelli would sing it and that I would write it. And so that's exactly what happened, and that's...
KING: What is the song?
BOTTI: Well, I mean, we came up with the idea "Italia" first, and it is basically a love letter to Italy. And David and I went to a studio to start working on it and within an hour he looked at me and said, this should be a duet between you and Andrea. And I said, in my wildest dreams, if you can make that happen. And here we go.
KING: You like the song, Andrea?
BOCELLI: Very, very much. It's incredible that this song was written by American people, and not Italian.
FOSTER: Canadian, Canadian.
BOCELLI: Canadian, please...
KING: All right. Let's watch it.
BOCELLI: Because it's really a very, very good song, though. So it is -- there is an atmosphere, very Italian, I think.
KING: Chris, Andrea, and David, and "Italia."
(MUSIC PLAYING, "ITALIA")
KING: There's much more to come in our holiday concert special. Don't go away.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour at "360," we have got nothing against Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Toby Keith, Ne-Yo, good pipes all of them, but they have got nothing, nothing on the musical act we have got on "360." You will see who I'm talking about right at the top of the program.
We'll also dig deeper on who some are calling the sunshine boys, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. More new polls show they are continuing their role, but what are they doing that is actually striking a chord with voters? Is it their stance on the issues that is working, or is it something about the way they are running their campaigns that Clinton, Romney, Giuliani and the rest just don't get?
We'll also look at who is killing the world's last remaining endangered mountain gorillas. All of that and more at the top of the hour on "360."
KING: As part of our LARRY KING LIVE Christmas special, we welcome Randy Travis to the scene, the country music star, multiple Grammy-winner. One of the most influential figures of what is call new traditional country. His new album, in fact, "Songs of the Season," his first Christmas record in 18 years.
Randy, what's new on neo-traditional? What does that mean?
RANDY TRAVIS, MUSICIAN: That's a good question.
KING: You don't know what it is?
TRAVIS: No, not actually. I signed with Warner Brothers 22 years ago and then there was a group of us, me, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle was in that same group, and it was the new traditionalist and then it became to be neo-traditionalist. I don't know what any of it means.
KING: You just sing.
TRAVIS: I just go sing, yes, pretty much. The traditional part, I grew up with people like Merle Haggard and George Jones, you know, and Hank Williams Sr., Lefty Frizzell, that's the kind of music that I loved to sing as a kid. So that part of traditional I understand, yes.
KING: Why 18 years between Christmas albums?
TRAVIS: They are hard to do.
KING: They are?
TRAVIS: They are hard to do.
TRAVIS: Well, one thing is I'm a real country-sounding vocalist. Just leave it at that, I guess. But on top of that, you get into finding all of these songs, in this case it was a request from the record label to do an album of traditional songs, things that everybody knows. OK. Then you get into most of these songs have been done 100 if not 1,000 times, so what else are you going to do to them?
KING: So that make it's hard? What version do I do to "O Come All Ye Faithful," right?
TRAVIS: Exactly. What else can I do that have not been done to the song.
KING: Now what you will be performing here tonight is "Labor of Love," which doesn't sound like a traditional Christmas song.
TRAVIS: No, it's not. Now in this album, most everything on there is traditional, be it "Joy to the World" or "Away in the Manger." But the guys said you can find a few original songs and we did. And what we are doing here tonight is a song called "Labor of Love," just to -- most of the time you go through and listen to songs if you're trying to pick new things to record. And they either -- I like to judge them this way, it hits you the first time or they don't. You have to go through and try and listen to and live with -- try not to do that. This is one of those at the first listen through, I said, yes, we should probably do this song.
KING: So you knew right away?
TRAVIS: Right away.
KING: Do they release it as a single too?
TRAVIS: Well, this song will go to country radio on a cassette single, CD single, rather. You can tell I'm back -- too many years back here, a cassette or a record doesn't even go out to a radio...
KING: It's bright new to me.
TRAVIS: But it will go out to radio, so yes, it may get some air play, that and another song on this same CD called "Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down at Christmas Time (ph)."
KING: That's a country title.
TRAVIS: Yes, that's a country title.
KING: "Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down at Christmas Time."
TRAVIS: Yes, and it's a fine, sort of swing kind of feel.
KING: And you have just come off a tour, right?
TRAVIS: We have just finished, yes. Coming here to talk with you and to sing one song. This will be our last thing for the year.
KING: And then off again?
TRAVIS: Well, then we're -- the end of February, we will start touring again. But until then, not -- this has been a busy year. Like we did this Christmas record and we also recorded a country album and toured through this year. So I am good for a couple of months now.
KING: Thank you, Randy.
TRAVIS: Thank you, Larry. It is good to see you.
KING: And now, ladies and gentlemen, on this Christmas occasion, Randy Travis and "Labor of Love." Watch.
(MUSIC PLAYING, "LABOR OF LOVE")
KING: Tune in next week when our holiday music special continues. Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Angels & Airwaves, all next Friday night on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: We end the evening with a special encore presentation, Michael Buble singing a holiday classic, "White Christmas." And don't forget, tune in next Friday night when we will be sharing more Christmas hits from the stars.
Now, Michael Buble.
(MUSIC PLAYING, "WHITE CHRISTMAS")
KING: What a night. And we'll have even more music with more artists next Friday. Check out our Web site, cnn.com/larryking. You can e-mail upcoming guests. You can send a video e-mail or download our podcast. We've got quick votes too. Or you can sign up for our newsletter, all at one great Web site, cnn.com/larryking.
Monday night, our special guest, presidential candidate who has forged forward, Mike Huckabee. That's it for us tonight on LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned now for "AC 360" with Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.