Some of singer Josh Groban's biggest life decisions have happened over a plate of pancakes. Take his lead role on the new Netflix series The Good Cop; creator Andy Breckman offered him the role over breakfast in New York City.
But while Groban's been busy acting, taking four months off from music to produce the show, his music career is hardly over. In fact, with a new 2018 album, Bridges, in tow, Groban is on the road, headlining a national arena tour with Idina Menzel.
On Tuesday, October 30, at the Pepsi Center, he will play Denver. Ahead of the concert, Westword spoke with Groban about his drive for creation and his collaborations on Bridges.
Westword: Did you ever think, starting as a kid in the music industry, that you would be headlining a national arena tour?
Josh Groban: Not in a million years. I was very lucky my parents would take me and my brother to see concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and I’d go home, lock my bedroom and pretend to be rock-star guy. The idea of singing in an arena on stage when you’re a kid — you might as well be dreaming of being a spaceman or fireman. It’s one of those things you think, well, that would be so cool to do, but as you get older, you realize it’s something you might not be able to do.
I never grew out of it. This is my sixth tour. I’ve played hundreds of concerts, and every time I hit the stage, I get the same butterflies, I get the same nerves, I get the same flashback to that kid that wanted to do this.
The songs on Bridges have such a full orchestral sound to them. What’s a current favorite of yours on there?
In my mind, [Bridges] was tailor-made for a concert. ... The song "River" is really personal to me. To sing about those kinds of struggles in my life was scary, and also what makes that song very special to me is the responses I’ve gotten from people who have felt very alone in their struggle, and then they hear a song and feel less alone. That’s always the best, best feeling.
You’ve stated that Bridges is about learning lessons. Do you ever feel hesitant to put your stories out into the world?
You have to write fifty bad ones to come up with nine great ones. It’s something that feels vulnerable for me, because I’ve always been able to hide behind really powerful singing. Whenever I’m sitting in a room with songwriters and musicians I respect and say, "Hey, guys, I have a chorus idea or lyric because I went through a bad breakup and wrote a song about it," your first instinct is, Why on earth would I have anything to offer these brilliant people? But, you know, that’s my own insecurities.
It’s important to me to connect with my fan base on a more personal level, and it’s important to me to push this genre into more original music. Sometimes you see a lot of the same songs done over again.
What’s the drive that keeps you sharing and creating?
I think the demon we all have as artists is we get antsy very quickly. The common denominator of all the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet or work with, who have had fifty-year careers and beyond, they always have a fire. They could have all the accolades in the world and could have retired at any time, but have this need to push, push, push. It’s a blessing and a curse. You get bored easily. As soon as you’ve put something out into the world, you feel you got more to say, more to do.
And there are times you’re like, I got nothing. You have to accept the fact you are tired, your brain is dead, so you have to go to the woods and wait until that inspiration hits.
Do you often feel this writer's block?
All the time. If I let my writer’s block dictate my life, I’d just be playing iPhone games all day every day. It’s very frustrating. Very rarely a melody comes into your head and you think, that’s great. A lot of it is just work and breaking through the frustration of not thinking anything in your mind is worthwhile...but the reward is so much greater. And the people I’ve collaborated with who have helped me bring those songs to fruition are incredible creators.
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What type of energy do you exchange in these collaborations on Bridges?
With the singers, all three — Andrea Bocelli, Sarah McLachlan and Jennifer Nettles — have voices I love. To just be a fanboy, it is fun to blend voices with voices you love. On an artistic level, it’s really exciting to write and sing with artists who are different from you. ... When we come together and sing something that you couldn’t do by yourself, you create a new animal and crossbreed a new thing, and that’s exciting.
With Vicente Amigo, I wrote the song with Lester Mendez, and he took the track, played on it at his home and sent it back to us, and we were like, "Oh, my God. Thank you for this amazing Christmas gift."