Friday, February 23, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

INTERVIEW: Josh Groban on Kanye, Kid Rock and the dreamy crooners coming to Tampa Bay

Josh Groban has a beautiful dark twisted fantasy, one involving long roads, grimy fingernails and rest-stop meatloaf: "I would love to be a truck driver for a year," the 32-year-old singer tells me. "Just go off and driiive."

The poperatic You Raise Me Up belter might be overstating his need for freedom just a smidge. He's a smart aleck; you learn that fast when chatting him up during a 20-minute phone call. But at this point in his career — when his comedic chops are garnering as much buzz as his all-world vocal cords — being a creative ramblin' man is appealing. Singer, actor, comedian, old-school multifaceted showman.

Don't fence Groban in, man.

"I don't think I could give up music like Justin (Timberlake) did (for a few years)," says the Los Angeles native, who brings his current tour to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Nov. 8.

"But sometimes you feel like you're just out of batteries. . . . Widening what people see you as gives you more options to express yourself. If you can go and make a silly comedy, you don't have to go and make a funny song."

Often playing against his clean-cut, classicist rep, Groban — taking a break from his award-winning music — has put in legit knee-slapping work on TV (Glee, The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and the silver screen (Crazy, Stupid Love).

When Jimmy Kimmel recently brought a certain unhinged rapper on his show, the late-night host reran a bit that has since garnered more than 5 million YouTube hits: "Josh Groban's The Best Tweets of Kanye West," in which the straight-faced crooner makes music out of such loopy, and real, Kanye Twitter musings as "Man...whatever happened to my antique fish tank?"

When I tell Groban that his uplifting take on "I make awesome decisions in bike stores" could have been a big hit, he laughs: "I gave up some of my best melodies for that bit! They literally put the tweets in front of me and gave me a mike and a piano and said go. Every one of those melodies was off the cuff."

Groban says the "pie in the face" stuff allows him a certain confidence musically, of "not being afraid to be put on a pedestal vocally." He's not going to apologize for having peerless pipes, but he's not a humorless bore, either. "I don't blame people for being surprised (by my humor). My music, especially in the beginning, was serious as a heart attack! But you have to start with a broadstroke image. Then, after a while, you can show different sides of yourself."

•••

Diehard fans of his music — he's especially swoon-worthy in the eyes of female fans and Aunt Shirleys everywhere — need not worry about him giving up his No. 1 talent: knocking 'em flat with his "tenor in training," a thick, soaring prodigious blast of opera-lite for the rest of us.

He'll duet with anyone, anywhere — Beyoncé, Placido Domingo, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, even Ellen DeGeneres for a not-too-shabby Total Eclipse of the Heart — and he makes everyone better.

But his biggest duet? Groban was discovered when he filled in for a sick Andrea Bocelli during rehearsals for the 1999 Grammy Awards. Just 17 and a protege of producer David Foster, Groban rehearsed yowza duet The Prayer with Celine Dion. Grammys host Rosie O'Donnell invited the unknown onto her talk show. "That moment could have ended then and there," Groban says. "But it was a great opportunity, and I thought: This is an open door. Keep going and work your a-- off."

New album All That Echoes blends those rafter-rattling, aria-appropriate vocals with more pop-savvy production by Rob Cavallo, who is best known as a producer for punk trio Green Day.

Yeah, I know: weird.

"Rob and I ran into each other at Kid Rock's house. We were like, what are we both doing here at the same party? But we were extremely compatible."

Wait, hold on a sec: Josh Groban — whose earnest Christmas album Noel is one of the bestselling holiday LPs ever — was getting funky at Kid Rock's house?!

"Kid Rock and I were neighbors when I lived Malibu. He throws a great party."

Oh. Okay. Carry on.

Regarding Cavallo, Groban says, "Sometimes you can't look at it on paper. You just have to go in there and make sound."

And make big sound he does, keeping it clean but sexy, a precious commodity these days.

In a strange, hubba-hubba coincidence, Groban's local stop is around the same time as major visits from fellow class acts Drake, John Legend, Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr., all of whom blend genres and entertainment platforms.

When asked who's the hunkiest of the lot, Groban deadpans: "I'd put me at No. 1, but I'm a little bit biased."

He's joking, of course.

Maybe.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

     
Comments
SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

— The Shadowboxers will open for their mentor Justin Timberlake on May 15 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. You might remember the pop-rock group from their several performances around the 2017 College Football Playoff national championship game in Tam...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

The Ries Brothers were driving to a gig in Corpus Christi, Texas, when they heard about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland."We played Fort Lauderdale like two days before it happened, so it was really bizarre," said...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

It took 10 songs and a solid half hour of furious funk for Mary J. Blige to stop strutting and dancing to sit and sermonize on matters of faith and fidelity."I'm going to say it for you, because I'm a little crazy," she told nearly 6,500 fans Wednesd...
Published: 02/22/18
Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Let's be honest: Imagine Dragons are probably the most successful rock band of this decade.They're not the only group to debut in the 2010s who can also headline arenas, but they're definitely the only one to have such enormous crossover success on a...
Published: 02/21/18
This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Willie NelsonI’m sure that when Willie Nelson had to postpone his recent Clearwater concert after a bout with the flu, you, like me, took the news well, spitting through clenched teeth: "OH NO YOU DON’T, 2018. YOU WILL NOT TAKE WIL...
Published: 02/21/18
Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Go back and read Rolling Stone's 1993 cover story on the Spin Doctors — yep, that's a thing that actually happened — and the first quote from singer Chris Barron jumps out."I don't want to be 50 years old and be out on the road with my vo...
Published: 02/21/18
Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

BROOKSVILLE — From Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars and Carlos Santana — tunes from all over the musical spectrum.Those are a taste of the old and new favorites audiences can enjoy when the Hernando Symphony Orchestra presents its Spectrum...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18
SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

— Prog-punk and emo will meet this summer when Coheed and Cambria and Taking Back Sunday embark on a summer tour that stops at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on July 7. The Story So Far will open. Tickets are $29.50 and up. Click here...
Published: 02/20/18
Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Are you ready for an all-new hip-hop festival in Tampa?Snoop Dogg and T.I. are scheduled to headline the inaugural Halftime Music Festival on May 5 in the North Lot of Raymond James Stadium. Also on the bill: Karol G, Baby Rasta y Gringo and Brytiago...
Published: 02/20/18
SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

— British alt-rock outfit Glass Animals is coming to the Ritz Ybor on July 24. Knox Fortune will open. Click here.— Katt Williams is returning to the USF Sun Dome on April 14. Tickets are $49 and up. Click here.— It's been a while s...
Published: 02/19/18