Josh Groban on the most metal thing he's done today — and how Celine Dion saved him
Multiplatinum-selling, golden-voiced baritone Josh Groban is once again ready to raise himself up — and you! — with a new album, Harmony. The just-released 12-track collection includes Groban's take on such classics as "The Impossible Dream," "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and "Celebrate Me Home," two original songs, and such guests as Sara Bareilles, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kirk Franklin. The Grammy-, Tony-, and Emmy-nominated singer (and frequent Hollywood guest star) hits the virtual road in the coming weeks, with a Harmony-focused show on Nov. 26 and his first-ever holiday concert on Dec. 19. Before he rings out the old year, let's see if Groban, 39, can sing his way out of the comedic jam known as Stupid Questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Harmony features you and Sara Bareilles duetting on Joni Mitchell's “Both Sides Now.” You also hosted the Tonys with her. All right, let’s hear the pitch for your buddy comedy.
JOSH GROBAN: We’re turning The Odd Couple on its head with The Cod Couple. We work in a deli undercover as music-piracy litigators. Our catchphrase would be “Sing like a canary or sleep with the fishes” before pulling a lawsuit out of a sturgeon. Or something.
You’re offering a series of virtual live-streamed concerts. Between us, how lit are those backstage parties gonna be?
Well, the backstage parties are not so dissimilar from your aunt’s boozy Zoom brunch. We stay online and we open up 10 or 11 bottles of rosé — and sometimes there’s an erotic book club that starts to develop.
People love to shout out song requests at concerts, especially “Freebird!!!” But at your shows, are people like, "Gira Con Me Questa Notte!!!" or "Si Volvieras a Mi!!!” or "Au Jardin des Sans-Pourquoi!!!”
They still shout “Freebird!,” but they want it in 10 different languages. So if they got their way, it would just be “Freebird” all night. But in German, it would translate to something like “Soaring Eagle.” But shouting of any kind is discouraged. Clapping is tolerated.
When you’re singing something really powerful and someone starts crying, what do you do? Do you offer them Kleenex, or just hug them while they sob, gently reach into their pocket, pull out their credit card, and discreetly swipe it with your card reader?
I'd never considered before what to do if somebody's crying, but you just gave me an idea to sell Kleenex at merch. So, I feel like probably option D, but more passively? The house always wins.
How many escalator and hot-air balloon companies have asked you to sing “You Raise Me Up”?
Pretty much only Viagra at this point.
If you had a nickel for every time you’ve been asked to sing that song at someone’s wedding, how many nickels would you have?
I would probably have enough to fill a nice 16-ounce artisan Mason jar three-fourths of the way. Generally when asked to sing that song at weddings, I will then follow it up with another big song of mine called “Broken Vow.”
Noël was 2007’s best-selling album. How’d it go when you called Akon, Beyoncé, Daughtry, Nickelback, and Hannah Montana soundtrack to rub it in?
Everyone couldn’t have been more gracious. “Tell us how we can sell 5 million Christmas albums in two months.” I’m saying, “Beyoncé, Beyoncé! I’m sure you’ll be okay.” Hannah Montana soundtrack was actually the least supportive that day. Hannah Montana soundtrack left a flaming pile of s--- at my door. I knew who it was from because it had glitter.
That makes sense. You played a maximum-security inmate in Muppets Most Wanted. How hard has it been being typecast in Hollywood since then?
Seeing as how I’ve done Muppets and Sesame Street, I'm pretty big with the under-5 crowd. There's a pretty wide gap between that crowd and my other crowd. But sometimes a kid will recognize my singing voice as being the guy in the box. So quite literally I've been boxed in by the industry from singing in the box. There are worse ways to be typecast, I guess. When you're known for being the voice in the box, you don't have to get fancy-dressed for work. You just show up in your PJs, and that's the kind of career I aspire to have after 40.
You starred with Tony Danza in the Netflix comedy The Good Cop. Were you ever Danza’d on the set? I don’t know what that means, but it just sounds like something that’s a thing.
Oh! I was reminded who was the boss constantly. I think to be Danza’d means to be soft-shoed around. He would shuffle around the set constantly. He's an effortless and graceful dancer, and as wonderful as having Tony Danza on set is anyway, I think when you get Danza’d, it means he really likes you and he does a little step ball change around you between takes. And by a little, I mean a lot.
You also hosted the short-lived reality show Rising Star, which featured a giant screen of at-home voters as well as Kesha, Brad Paisley, and Ludacris as the judges. What was your first indication that Rising Star was a... falling star?
When the real judges were Twitter. We all felt judged. You know, having a show that's based on a wall was probably a bad foreshadowing of things to come, and America knew better.
How would you describe the sound that would occur if Josh Groban, Kesha, Ludacris, and Brad Paisley collaborated on a song?
It would be the everything bagel of music. It would seem on paper like none of those ingredients should match, yet it would become the No. 1 requested bread for America's… schmear? I have no idea how to finish this metaphor. I'm so sorry. All I know is BTS would be trembling.
You’ve been nominated for a Tony, Grammy, and Emmy. Would you like to be nominated for an Oscar but lose, so you can have a coveted nominations-only, winless EGOT?
Yeah, I think they call that “EGOT adjacent.” I was almost nominated for an Oscar because I sang a song that was nominated, from The Polar Express, but I did not write the song. I still had to stand on the side of the stage with the camera on me while I lost, even though I wasn’t really even up for it. But my gosh, it would be a huge honor to be EGOT adjacent. It’s just an honor to be nominated, but to be nominated in every award is its own tragic honor.
There's a legendary story that David Foster discovered you when you were in high school, and your first gig was rehearsing a duet with Celine Dion at the Grammys as a fill-in for Andrea Bocelli. Let’s flip the script on that story. When did you discover David Foster?
I discovered David Foster when I drove through his Jurassic Park house gates and noticed about 150 platinum records on the wall. And while we're talking, I'm reading the names on the records and it's just dawning on me in real time, who he is and what he's done. This was before Wikipedia. And I think the internet has done a lot of bad things, but one of the good things is it's given young and stupid singers far more information before having a really awkward big break.
You're suddenly rehearsing with Celine Dion. Do you just stop her mid-note and say, "I can't work under these conditions. I need a 72-degree glass of Evian right now"?
The thing about being in an arts high school, which is where I was when I was plucked for this, is even though I was getting quite used to being Evian-misted between rehearsals, I had to shelve my ego at the door in order to enter the world of... uh, hang on, let me look at my notes here, what was it? Oh, yes! The Grammys! [Laughs] No, who am I kidding? I was totally scared s---less! I was shaking, Celine had to take my hand, and she used the stage direction of holding my hand in order to keep me from trembling. I mean, what a mensch.
You are double jointed. What was the most awkward fan interaction you’ve ever had to wriggle out of?
Well, anytime they want me to learn a secret handshake, if your fingers are double jointed, there's only so many things you can do. The flip side of that is I will always win a thumb war with a fan. Because my thumb is like The Matrix. My thumb is Neo. I can dodge, I can juke left, I can juke right; my thumb can go in directions it shouldn't go. I will destroy your thumb. Put that on a pillow.
When I do karaoke — you get five Zimas in me and I'll take a crack at just about anything. I sing in ranges I have no business singing in. I sing in styles that only my own mother would say, “That was a great effort.” I do a really good country voice, but I don't have the stories to sing country music. It’s hard to sing about getting a kale wrap from Erewhon in a twang.
What should I get my mom for the holidays? I feel like you know all moms.
My advice to anybody who's trying to win over their mom this holiday is to — I don't know what access you have to a 60-piece orchestra, but find a really nice antique U47 Telefunken microphone. You can probably get a smaller room at Capitol records. I'd say pick 10 to 13 of your favorite classic songs and don't overthink it. Just sing the s--- out of them and then make sure you thank her in the lyric booklet and, you know, comb your hair, put a nice picture on the front of the album. You don't want to be disheveled. And then release it around the world. She will take notice.
There are metal covers of your songs on YouTube. You love System of a Down. What’s the most metal thing you've done today?
I went out to check my mail without shoes on. It’s safe to say some dirts got trailed into the house and my feet are filthy. When you just don’t give a s---, when you’re living that DGAF life, sometimes you go to check the mail and you’re like, “F--- shoes.” You know what I mean? Anyway, my fans get it.