Josh Groban admits he’s “talked the talk for a really long time” when it comes to Broadway.
“There’s times where I’ve said, ‘Broadway, Broadway, Broadway, I love Broadway, I’d love to do something like that,'” the 34-year-old crooner tells EW. “And then I’ve thought, ‘You’re not actually going to do it.'”
But this year, that’ll change, with Groban set to star in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Scheduled to arrive on Broadway in the fall, Groban will play the titular male lead, a role that’s required him to learn accordion and perfect his piano playing. “I want it really in my DNA when I start rehearsals,” he says, “because right at the end of my summer tour, I think I have five days off and then I jump to rehearsals for previews.”
In addition to a summer tour with Sarah McLachlan to support Stages — his April 2015 release of theater covers — the Los Angeles native will issue a live version of the 12-song set, a performance DVD, and a version of the concert will screen in select theaters on Feb. 4, one day before Stages Live‘s release. Outside of Stages, Groban racked up acting roles in new CBS comedy Life in Pieces and the John Krasinksi-directed The Hollars.
And in what little free time he has, the Renaissance man will work on material for a new album.
“I have a good couple months at home to put as many songs together as I can for the next record and make as many demos as I can,” Groban says. “I have a lot of songs lined up to record, it’s just a matter of finding that studio time.”
Before he gets to recording, Groban spoke to EW about his hectic year ahead, which includes building upon Stages, his first Broadway undertaking, and competing against some of his idols for a Grammy next month.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congrats on the nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album! It’s your third nomination, but is it still exciting?
JOSH GROBAN: When it comes to awards and things like that, I’ve always kind of never quite been a categorized artist, so whenever I have an album or a song that I feel actually fits right down the middle of what a specific category calls for, it certainly has its bonus at the end of the year.
You tweeted after nominations were announced that you’re in such tremendous company in that category alongside Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, Bob Dylan, and Seth MacFarlane. How do you feel you fit in there?
You see your work that you’re really proud of next to people that you’ve grown up idolizing, and it’s just one of those things you feel like printing out, framing, and putting on the wall because it’s nice. You live in a bubble generally when you’re touring and recording — you’re in confined in alone space, wherever you are, in the dressing room or in the studio — so sometimes it’s hard to grasp that bigger picture of things that are going on. When you see your name listed with people you admire and respect so much, it’s pretty awesome.
What’s changed for you musically since your first nomination for “You Raise Me Up” over 10 years ago?
As far as the writing and the more original music goes, I go into the studio with the same mindset every time, which is to explore and find ways to make music and find music that inspires me and also stays really true to the kind of voice I have. I live to tour, so for me whenever I make a record, I’m always thinking about how is this going to sound on stage, how is this going to feel in front of a live audience. As far as how I got about making music, it hasn’t really changed all that much, but whenever I’m able to decide or take off into songwriting, I like to revisit the songs I’ve grown up with, songs that I’ve always wanted to interpret.
Would you do another covers album?
Absolutely! I certainly enjoy interpreting songs just as much as I enjoy writing them. I’ve wanted to make the theater record for a long time, but a lot of things have to fall into place for a record to feel good, feel relevant, and feel like people want to hear it. And you have to make sure you choose the right songs, and that the right producers are available and ready to make your vision come to life. So there may be another Christmas album way down the road, in the next three or four years.
Have you still been writing music in your free time?
Yeah, I’m constantly coming up with snippets. My iPhone is just packed full of ideas — little thoughts here and there musically. The time that I have off, I try to spend as much of that time connecting with songwriters that I like and brainstorming that next stuff because it’s a big boulder whenever you’re at the top of the process again. This is my eighth record that I’m about to get started on, so it’s a little bit of mind over matter: I just have the do the work. At some point you really hope that the muse is going to show up. For me during my time off, it’s just about collaboration. About getting people who I like and trust and am inspired by, and meeting new people and working with new people that I’m inspired by, and seeing where that leads. Nine times out of 10 you’re digging a hole for yourself you cant get out of, but that one time you plant a really nice flower and it grows into something great.
Is there a timeline for when fans can expect a new record?
I will just say that by the time I’m done with the Broadway run, I’ll have been in one place for many months, so I’m going to be pretty antsy to release a record pretty shortly after I’m done with the show. So I will be working on that while I’m on Broadway. I don’t want the fans to have to wait too long for new music.
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In the meantime, the live album/DVD is coming out soon — why was it important for you to make those versions available?
These songs are meant to be performed live. These songs are written for the stage. As great as purely listening experience can be on a record, the reason why we do that, even when you tour that extensively, you can’t do a couple things. One, you can’t bring out the guests that are on that record and you can’t hit every single date. You can’t reach everybody, so that’s always a goal of mine when making a tour and making an album, is to make a special television show. We do that because we think the show is special and want to capture it and hopefully people can have it and they it to look back on a year from now.
And you also have the movie coinciding with that release.
Most of us — maybe a couple houses in Los Angeles — most of don’t have 5.1-surround sound in our houses. So to experience the show, the closest thing to a live concert experience without being there is these Fathom events. So we’ve connected with them and we’re going to do the Stages show on Feb. 4. You get an audience filled with fans, so it’s a really cool thing.
What can fans expect from your upcoming summer tour?
The summer tour is going to be kind of an expansion on the Stages tour. The Stages tour is entirely music from the musical theater world and we play these kind of classical theaters, so this summer we’re just going to expand upon that to play some larger venues and a couple arenas. And it’s going to be Stages-centric, a lot of song from the theater as well because we’re kind of hindering that.
You also have the play, which is supposed to be coming to Broadway this coming fall. What drew you to Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812?
What drew me to the project primarily was my experience seeing it about four years ago downtown [in Manhattan]. They had a tent set up in the Meatpacking District and it was just an extraordinary experience. Everyone it touched fell in love with it, and I was included in that. I thought it was a one-time event. I continued to appreciate the score and I appreciated Dave Malloy, the composer, and it was always in the back of my head as one of the most unique and brilliant pieces of theater that I’d ever seen.
And then I read an article that said they were thinking of a way to bring it to a theater and bring it to Broadway, so I emailed my theater guy at my agency at about the exact same time that they’d emailed him. It was just kind of one of those things where it was in the stars.
You’re a stage professional, but do you have any nerves about doing Broadway?
My nerves are primarily because it’s a world that I love so much. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I wouldn’t say nerves, just excitement and enthusiasm. The Broadway community has been so warm to me and I’ve appreciated that in my career.
You’re appearing on Life in Pieces and you were on The Muppets in the fall. Do you any other TV plans in place right now?
Literally every TV thing that I’ve done has been somebody I’m friends with in the TV realm saying, “Hey, we wrote a fun thing, you want to be part of this?” And it’s been very organic. Everything from The Office, where Mindy [Kaling] just kind of reached out on Twitter way back when.
You have so much on your plate right now, is there anything else you’re possibly trying to squeeze in this year, musically, acting, or otherwise?
During my free time I’m going to be working on Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, and working on the next record. New Year’s Eve hit and sometimes you have those New Year’s Eves where I’m like, “What the hell am I going to do the next year? I have no idea what’s going on in my life and it’s really depressing.” And then there are some New Year’s Eves where you say to yourself, “Okay, 2016, I already know my entire year upside down.” This is one of those years. I’m very excited to have a busy year. Now I just have to not get sick.
Josh Groban: Stages Live will play in select U.S. theaters on Feb. 4 at 7:30p m. ET, ahead of Stages Live‘s Feb. 5 release.