Josh Groban enjoyed singing sad songs about a breakup on his last album, 2010's Rick Rubin-produced "Illuminations." So when the singer started recording his latest album, which is about another breakup, he changed his approach.
"I'm in a different place, different mindset and the same thing goes — but I wanted the record to feel more energetic, more dynamic, more positive, more rhythmic and uplifting," he said.
"The last record, I was very proud of it, and it was a good record, but it was sad," he continued. "I was in a very, very tough place. I was going through a lot of changes in my life. I had gone through a really bad breakup. ... It felt like I was getting a lot of it out of my system lyrically and musically, so it was a little bit of a sadder record."
Groban doesn't have Rubin by his side on "All That Echoes," out this week. Instead, he's got Warner Bros. Records chairman and Green Day producer Rob Cavallo.
"For a guy who's at the top of the label chain to also say, 'Let's take chances and let's make music that just makes us feel really, really good' was so impressive to me," Groban said of Cavallo, who has also produced records for the Goo Goo Dolls, My Chemical Romance and Paramore.
Groban, who turns 32 this month, isn't just building his musical resume: He'll star as a failed rock band member working as a barista in the upcoming CollegeHumor indie comedy "Coffee Town," written and directed by "Arrested Development" writer Brad Copeland. The film will be released this year.
The singer talked about "Coffee Town," singing about relationships, album sales and more in a recent interview.
AP: You cover Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" on the album. How'd that come about?
Groban: The reason I think people relate to Stevie Wonder's love songs is because they really, truly, genuinely make you feel the way you feel, the way love is. Sometimes it's just "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and it's really as simple and cheesy as that. And sometimes it's a song like "I Believe," which we close the album with, which is that my past has been crap. I've missed the mark. I admit it. I'm not perfect. But when love comes my way again, kick up the gospel choir because I'm not going to let it go. ... That's where I am right now, which is that when it comes along again, I'll be there to grab it.
AP: Is it easy singing about your breakup?
Groban: You're exorcising the demons a little bit when you sing about love lost and the things that didn't quite work out. But you learn from that and you grow from that, and there's often times great art from that. My voice does sad really well, so I think selfishly sometimes it's more fun to sing the sadder songs just because sometimes the sadder melodies are the most beautiful.
AP: You were 20 when you released your debut in 2001. What's it like to think about that time as you reflect on your life?
Groban: I was blissfully naive. I'll tell you, when I was 17 and signed, on the one hand I kind of missed out on having a pretty raucous college experience, where I could wake up on the bathroom floor and say, "All right, not doing that again." ... If I could go back and talk to that kid though, I would just tell him to just chill out a little bit. I was just nervous as all hell. I was really worried a lot. I was anxious a lot.
AP: Your last album went platinum, selling 1 million units, but most of your records have sold 5 million units each. Do you think about record sales a lot?
Groban: I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't important. It's your ticket to make the next record and I want to keep doing what I'm doing. But mostly it's the validation that you've done something that people want to have and own.
AP: What was it like working with Rob Cavallo compared with Rick Rubin?
Groban: Rob was a great change of pace in a certain way because he likes to work very much based on riding a wave of energy when it's there, which is pretty compatible with how I like to work. ... And whenever I would have doubts (like), "I don't know if this is my wheelhouse" or "I don't know if this is right for my voice," he'd be great at saying, "I don't know if you should sing that" or most of the time saying, "Well, shoot, let's expand what your wheelhouse is."
AP: You're building your acting reel. What's that been like?
Groban: It's great to let out that other side because the music side is so serious that to be able to have an outlet for your funny bone, for your weird, oddball side is just cathartic for me. And it's actually what I started doing. I was in improv theater before I even started singing, so the fact that the comedy side is starting to work its way around in my world strangely, considering the kind of music I sing, I'll take it. It's wonderful.
AP: Do you want to play a serious role?
Groban: Yeah, sure. I think I'm probably better at comedy, but comedians take serious roles sometimes and it actually goes really well. ... I'd love to play a bad guy actually. I'd love to dive in and play some kind of French assassin, like "The Professional."
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