A few years ago Abby and I had the pleasure of working on a Valentine's Day CD project for Josh Groban. At that time, Abby talked with Josh about his thoughts on the CD, Valentine's Day, and his music in general. This is part two of that interview.
A: Speaking about the CD in relationship to Valentine’s Day, is there an overall emotional tone that you’re envisioning?
J: I think music is one of the greatest ways to really make people feel things that they either want to feel or didn’t know they felt. I try to always make an emotional connection with my music, and I try to always let the music speak for me. Because I’m obviously really horrible at speaking. [laughs]
When I make music, I want it to represent what I’m feeling from the ground up. I think this CD for me represents some of the songs that I’ve done in the past and the present that have a bit more of the emotional connection—have a bit more of a heartfelt quality to them. It also represents a little bit more of my romantic side. I think there are many, many sides to me, but this CD most definitely will represent the more emotional side of me—which all guys have, whether they want to admit it or not.
A: You certainly have a very romantic image in the minds of many of your followers.
J: Yeah, I mean. [laughs] I think that’s really funny because I make very romantic music, but I’m just not that romantic of a person. It’s just that … I’m such a goofball. But I meet people every day, and they’ll say, “Look, I have this tattoo of you on my arm!” And I’m, like, “Oh, wow! Thank you!” It’s one of those things that I don’t understand because it’s me. I don’t look in the mirror and go, “Hey, tiger!” So when people come up to me and say, “Hey, tiger,” it’s kinda strange to me.
A: Are you surprised at the way your singing affects people?
J: Yeah, I am. Just because … like I said, it’s something that I grew up with. It’s something that, when I wake up in the morning and sing, that’s just how it sounds and … for me, it’s just me. That being said, I’ve always looked at it as being my best way of communicating. So, it’s always very gratifying to find that what I’m trying to say through my music is being listened to, and is being appreciated and understood.
As far as sometimes the fanatical connection—it’s fun. It’s neat. But for me, I just go home at the end of the day, take my shoes off, and watch SNL and think, “What are they screaming about? Come on, guys. Get a grip!”
A: Is there a specific message that you’d like to get across to your fans with this CD?
J: Yes, there is. I didn’t used to make the effort [of being romantic], and, believe me, I’ve realized that making the effort is really all the battle on Valentine’s Day! You’ve gotta open up that part of yourself and really try. I think that—to all the guys out there, certainly, go out and give it the effort. Do it with music! [laughs] Music is the best way to express how you feel, even if you don’t sing it. I’ll do the singing for you!
A: What qualities does a song need to have for you to choose to record it?
J: It needs to represent a story or emotion that I feel very, very deeply, and I have an emotional connection to. That’s one of the reasons I love musical theatre so much, because you can get up and you can tell that story.
I’ll never forget when I was little and I would see concerts and shows. I would sit there and get chills, and I’d say to myself, “What is this that’s making me feel this way?” I wanted to find out what that was and I wanted to make people feel that way.
I want to be able to tell that story, whether it be through concerts or shows .. and so, as I was signed to one of those labels—which was really an unexpected path for me—all of a sudden I was given the opportunity not to be a character, but to be me. To go out as myself and record music that I wanted to record and really represent all sides of me.
Kind of a daunting task, but it really made me think about what I want to say—who I am —and what is it that I want to get across to people.
It also has to be honest. I’m not a good liar. It has to be something that is very grounded, and something I can get out and sing a hundred nights in a row and just feel it every single time. There’s so much music out there that just represents a need for the market or a need for radio or whatever it is, and the poor artist just has to feel like, “Well, I guess whatever hit they next give me is whatever I have to sing.”
I feel very fortunate that my fans have been very, very loyal and … I feel like I’ve got a very smart group of fans. They love all types of music and they appreciate the albums as a whole. There’s a great feeling when you can put out something that from beginning to end you feel very passionately about. And you know your fans are going to listen to it all the way through. I’m really, really excited about this album and really, really excited to give them the downside of me, just to show that side as well.
A: The feelings that you put across in your music … do you think your feelings are the same as everyone else’s? Are they universal?
J: I think so. I think the reason there is such a huge emotional connection between a fan and a musician or artist or band is because the emotions are the same. Even crossing genres. I’m not singing Norwegian death metal, but I guarantee you that the emotions sometimes are the same.
When I wake up in the morning, this is the kind of voice I have, this is the kind of music that I do, this is the kind of music that I choose to do. But whether it be myself, another rock band out there, a rapper, my fans, whatever, we’re all feeling the same thing. And emotions are universal and music is universal. And, so, the job of every artist out there is to connect with their audience, and make them understand better what they’re feeling and make them feel like they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. It’s great to be able to do that.
For me, my family’s always said, “I listen to your voice and I feel something.” That’s the one thing for me that … I listen to my voice and I get critical. I turn it off. But the songs to me represent something, and when I’m singing them, I feel something very emotional. It’s very hard for me to listen back to myself. It’s like an actor watching themselves back on the screen. It’s just … one of those things where I’m not able to sit back and enjoy my own singing or enjoy my own music. I’m only able to enjoy performing it. So that’s the one thing that I don’t think I’ll really be able to share with my fans, but I do feel that way about a lot of other artists … I can understand how they feel.
A: Do you feel a responsibility to be honest with your feelings in the songs that you’re singing?
J: Oh, completely! I think it is the responsibility of anyone who has the platform to do so. And for me, yeah, I’m very, very careful. That’s why it’s taken me such a long time to finish albums and get things together because … I don’t just choose things willy-nilly. I feel responsibility to my fans. I certainly feel a responsibility to myself. To choose things and write things that from track one to track thirteen represent absolutely honestly how I’m feeling and what I’m going through at that moment. Because, otherwise … like I said, I’m not a very good liar. And to put things out there that just aren’t you and aren’t what you’re going through and are obviously just … just for the sake of vocal theatrics or whatever—your fans will know. They’re not stupid. They’re going to know you’re not being honest with yourself or with them. And it shows.
A: Have you received much feedback from your fans in response to this responsibility?
J: One of the most gratifying things for me is reading fan mail and making time to meet with fans. The things they have to say are so emotional and touching to me. The way that the music has affected them, it’s just greater than anything I could have expected when getting into the music business. Whether it be a really simple thing, like they had a really bad day and the music really helped them, or there’s been a death in the family and the music really helps them get through a hard time, or anytime that music can help people, or raise their spirits higher and make them feel like they aren’t alone … make them feel like they can do anything.
I have so many situations in my life where music has really been the only thing that’s gotten me through the day. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when you can say, “I did that for someone else.” I couldn’t appreciate more the feedback I’ve gotten from fans and the way that they’ve moved me with their reactions to my music. It’s the greatest feeling.