10 July, 2011

Very serious voice also has a lighter side...

An article by David Lindquist from IndyStar.com
Operatic pop star Josh Groban made a career based on refined anthems of yearning, but he's no stranger to comedy.

In January, Groban sang the tweets of rapper Kanye West for uproarious effect on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." (Seated at a grand piano, Groban interpreted West gems such as "Fur pillows are hard to actually sleep on.")

Groban will make his big-screen debut in "Crazy, Stupid, Love," a Steve Carrell film that opens July 29. The singer portrays a disreputable attorney, in decided contrast to his nice-guy image.

"(The role) is taken from a few people I've known in my life," he said during a phone interview.

Groban, who celebrated his 30th birthday in February, will promote current album "Illuminations," during his Tuesday visit to Conseco Fieldhouse. Produced by Rick Rubin (whose credits include work with Johnny Cash, Jay-Z and the Red Hot Chili Peppers), the album sold 190,000 copies in its first week of release.

Los Angeles native Groban talked to The Star about his voice and the making of "Illuminations":

Question: When I spoke with you seven years ago, you said your voice would not sound as good then as it would when you reached 30. How did your prediction turn out?

Answer: I think I was right. I feel like I'm able to do stuff now that I was so terrified to do at that time in my vocal life. As you continue to be a student of technique, you grow. You build confidence and your range grows and your stamina grows and your breath support grows. I'm having more fun vocally onstage than I ever have. I feel like I'm in my prime or approaching it.

Q: It seems rare to hear mainstream singing that hasn't been tweaked by Auto-Tune or other mechanical devices. In your case, is it important to have the integrity of "What you hear is really what I can do"?

A: One hundred percent. I think that's a wonderful thing about getting out on the road. You want people to get the pure, unfiltered version. When people walk out of a show and say, "Wow, it sounded better than it does on the record," it should be taken as a compliment. I think we've all become so cynical as to say, "Well, what is that? Who's really doing that?"

One of the great things about working with (15-time Grammy Award winner) David Foster and Rick Rubin is that they're really take-no-prisoners vocal producers. They are all about having the most open, clear microphone to bring out the nuances of the people they like working with. I'm singing the same way on a studio mic as I am on the stage. I'm proud of that fact.

Q: A few albums ago, you wrote songs with Dave Matthews and Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik. "Illuminations" includes six songs you wrote with Dan Wilson, who's known as Semisonic's vocalist and the co-author of the Dixie Chicks' hit "Not Ready to Make Nice." Why did you and Wilson click?

A: Dan really is the co-writer du jour in the industry. He's developed such a name for himself as a writing partner, with a line of people around the door waiting to work with him. When Rick Rubin listened to the melodies I was writing, he felt the lyrical content should be poetic and chivalrous and traditional. He didn't want the lyrics to be too casual-sounding.

He suggested that I fly to Minneapolis to try writing with Dan. We would get up early and work late. Every day, we wrote two or three new things.

Q: I've seen the trailer for your "Crazy, Stupid, Love" film. Is it accurate that you studied acting?

A: I went to an arts high school, where I studied drama, and then I was a theater major at Carnegie Mellon University before I was signed. Acting was something that I thought would be my world. It was a real fork in the road to be given the opportunity to record and to play myself.

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