One of the best voices in the world singing some of the best songs ever written.
It will almost certainly prove a winning combo when singer Josh Groban performs in Wilmington for the first time on Friday, July 15 at Live Oak Bank Pavilion. Groban will sing songs from her 2020 album “Harmony,” which features her renditions of timeless classics such as Roberta Flack’s pop hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and musical theater standard “The Impossible Dream” by “Man of La Mancha”. .”
Also on the bill is an illustrious cast of supporting actors including the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, violinist-singer Lucia Micarelli and singer-songwriter Eleri Ward.
Groban, of course, has been known for bringing a classically-trained flair to all sorts of styles, from pop to folk to musical theater, since he was first noticed in the early 2000s. platinum albums, a mix of originals and covers, have won both popular appeal and critical acclaim.
I caught up with Groban in a phone interview last week. The interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Related:Josh Groban rose to fame at such a young age: ‘I should have had a shrink back then’
From 2020:Josh Groban tackles his ‘bucket list’ of songs on new album ‘Harmony’
StarNews: So, I’ve asked this same question of almost every artist I interview: How was the pandemic for you?
Josh Groban: I mean, there were definitely days when it was all about pajamas and Netflix. And then there have been days when you wake up in the morning and decide to have a cup of coffee and be useful. And I think ultimately it taught me some valuable creative lessons.
I think one thing that was probably similar for anyone who is artistic is that it just boiled down to the simplest form of doing it when no one is looking, no one is listening. You do it just for yourself. And some of it was just therapeutic, and some of it turned into songs. So it was productive.
And now you’re back, performing those songs from “Harmony” to the public for the first time.
Everything was (awesome) for me and my group. Nerves just went out the window. All constraints have gone out the window. We’re just gonna have a good time playing with each other.
Is there a quality these songs share other than, you know, you want to sing them? Is there anything they all have in common?
I had a stack of songs I wanted to sing based on fan requests, and things I wanted to sing, and things, you know, musicians and producers and relatives and friends (wanted). As a singer, you accumulate a lot of songs. But all of a sudden, when the world is completely turned upside down, the relevance of certain songs starts to change and all of a sudden there’s a classic song that could have meant something very, very different in the 70s which (now has) fresh ears.
“It’s now or never” has definitely sounded different since the pandemic.
“Now or never.” “Both sides now.” “The impossible dream.” There are songs that, you know, all of a sudden you sing them through the prism of what that change has been. And they do what great songs often do: they continue to have new meaning and relevance in the world we live in.
Just to talk about it more specifically, we mentioned “It’s now or never”. Obviously, Elvis Presley is famous for singing that one, but you bring your own interpretation to it.
The interesting thing about how this song came about was that it was a tribute song (for NBC’s 2019 “Elvis All-Star Tribute”). We were all assigned different songs to sing, and this is the song they gave me.
When I was talking to the producer and director of this show, we were talking about the fact that Elvis liked this song because it had classical roots, because it was based on (19th century Italian song) “O Sole Mio”, and Elvis really liked classical singing. And in a lot of the songs he sings, but especially on this one, he really opens up, he’s more lyrical. And so we really leaned into that.
But yeah, I love singing it because it represents, I think, how much crossover there is in popular music.
You also mentioned Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” which, I mean, is hard not to turn into a puddle at the end of it. On the album, you sing it in duet with Sara Bareilles. Why was this included?
It’s a song that I’ve had great respect for my entire career. You have to live long enough to be able to experience these things and see what these shifts in perspective look like. (The song is) about idealism. Ultimately, it’s about allowing the experiences of your life and the beauty of those experiences to simply be. And so, it’s been a splash of cold water for the past two years, hasn’t it? If there was ever a time when this song was relevant, it’s now.
You also have some of your own songs, “Your Face” and “The Fullest”, on the album. When you’re writing, is it the kind of thing where you sit down and say, “OK, I have to write a song today”? Or is it something that hits you and “I have to stop everything and do this now”?
So those are two songs that weren’t supposed to be on the album and weren’t supposed to be written at all. They just kind of represented how I felt at that time.
They were songs, I wrote every day, not because I had to but because I wanted to. It is, I think, a really healthy place to go. Sometimes you write because you have to. Great things just come from sitting down and doing the work.
Waking up in the morning (during the pandemic), “Will it just be another day that goes by?” And we all appreciate coming back into the world now, but for many, many weeks and many months, that was our reality – where we wake up and all of a sudden we have to make a decision: am I going to be of use today? today? Or am I gonna be, you know, just on the couch again? For me, writing was a way to stay useful, and I was grateful to have it.
Thank you very much for your time. We are delighted to have you in Wilmington.
I’m really, really excited for this. Thanks.
In other news:A look back at The Barn, a former jazz club in Wilmington where the greatest came to play
Read it:Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon will make his directorial debut in Wilmington
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or John.Staton@StarNewsOnline.com.
WANT TO GO?
Who:Josh Groban, with the New Orleans Preservation Hall Band, violinist/vocalist Lucia Micarelli and singer-songwriter Eleri War
When: 7 p.m. on Friday July 15
Where: Live Oak Bank Pavilion, 10 Harnett Street, Wilmington
Information: Tickets range from $24 to $175 and up, plus taxes and fees.