The angelic popera star (aka 'hooligan sex god') may be serious about music – but he's still game for a laugh…
We're waiting outside the Soho Hotel in Central London to pick up Josh Groban, and cabbie Richard wants to know who he is. 'He's a classically trained, angel-faced popera singer, a bit like Michael Bublé,' I explain. 'Mum's favourite, sings in multiple languages and is huge all round the world.'
The one thing I wasn't expecting of Josh, 29, is a closet comedian. But tickle my funnybone if he isn't as dry as a desert rat. 'Dry, ridiculous British humour is my favourite – back home in America I was the lone guy in the playground in fifth grade reciting Blackadder,' he says. 'The kids would look at me and go, "What's a bloke?"'
We're not the first to notice his comedy chops. Apart from promoting his new album Illuminations and a forthcoming tour, Josh is in the UK to host an episode of the comedy music quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks, following a guest appearance last year. Buzzcocks is a TV ordeal that you don't survive – let alone return to – without a good sense of humour. 'I felt like the substitute teacher at school. The panel behaved, for the most part.'
He's also recently appeared in Glee, sending himself up something rotten: 'That's nothing like the real me. I will not be hitting on your drunk mum.' And he's been cast in an as yet untitled Steve Carell comedy: 'I play a real knob – a lawyer who thinks he's the life of the party and isn't. My fiancée's played by Emma Stone – which, I should add, didn't suck at all.'
'You meet a nice girl, you want to have a nice time – you don't want to be thinking, "You should have Googled me"'
None of this should come as a total surprise. Josh grew up in Los Angeles and went to stage school. 'My background was acting. For a long time I liked the comedy side of it and I thought for a while that acting was the thing I would be doing. Turned out I was way better at singing.'
Ah yes, the singing. We're well on the way into Regent's Park before we get to talking about the music career that's made him famous. 'Serious angelic Josh,' as he jokingly calls his better-known persona, has been a purveyor of classical pop since he was discovered by producer David Foster and stood in for Andrea Bocelli at the 1998 Grammy Awards on a duet with Celine Dion. A recording contract with Warner Bros followed, as well as a recurring role (as a singer) on Ally McBeal in 2001. A succession of appearances on Oprah and other talk shows sealed his fate as a housewives' favourite, and to date he's sold more than 19 million records.
Nonetheless, serious angelic Josh is not the guy in our cab today. 'I'm unbelievably serious about my music but not at all serious about myself. The amazing thing about promoting in England is I feel so much at home here. There's a seriousness to the art and culture in this country, but everyone wants to have a laugh. It lets me show my other side.'
Josh's success thus far has come in one of the few categories that still actually shifts records: crossover. But unlike hard rock or R'n'B, it's not immediately obvious
what crossover is, so I ask him to describe himself for the benefit of my mum. 'To your mum I would say I'm a nice, young, angel-faced boy with wonderful manners who
sings light operatic music that will sound beautiful between your daytime soaps.' And to my younger sister? 'I'm a scruffily bearded young hooligan sex god who likes to get out his piano and thrash about.'
The hooligan sex god is currently single. I presume that, with a voice like his, he can always serenade women to the New York apartment he calls home. 'Do I use my voice for evil ways? I probably could and probably should. But, strangely enough, I would still like to think that somebody likes me for me. So if somebody doesn't know who I am, I don't tell them. You meet a nice girl, you want to have a nice time – you don't want to be thinking, "You should have Googled me."'
It turns out that Michael Bublé, his most obvious musical comparison, is also a friend. Who'd win in an arm wrestle? 'It depends who's been working out more. I think I might be able to have him. He'd fight dirty – Bublé would tickle me under the table. Hey, YOU magazine, let's make it happen: the two of us locking hands on the cover. That would work!'
02 January, 2011
In a taxi with Josh Groban...
This is a great UK article from the Mail Online.