Los Angeles — After 12 long years, internationally renowned singer-songwriter Josh Groban will be back in Manila to perform on February 22.
“To have the opportunity to come back again is something that I've wanted for many years,” the 37-year-old award-winning singer said. “It's just now all the stars lined up for it to happen this time around. I owe it to the fans there to give them a show that's 12 years in the making, to sing songs that are old, to sing new songs, and to sing songs that I haven't sung anywhere else that will be just special for the Manila fans.”
Josh, who is behind such hits as “You Raise Me Up,” “All I Ask,” “Broken Vow,” among others, will be performing at the Mall of Asia Arena, with his five-man band, the Ateneo Chamber Singers, and the ABS-CBN Filharmonika Orchestra.
Produced by Ovation Productions, the show will also feature Lea Salonga as the special guest.
We were able to talk to Josh in Los Angeles about his Philippine concert. Below are excerpts of our conversation.
This is a post-Valentine's show. Apart from your hits, what else is in store?
Well, I think any time you're singing a concert post-Valentine’s, you want to sing romantic songs for those that had a good Valentine's, and you want to sing some sad songs for those that had a bad Valentine's. I'm going to try to get everybody in there.
There will be songs like “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera,” hopefully to do with Lea Salonga, who will be joining us. Then songs like “She's Out of My Life” that I have only ever sung in Manila because that was a place that really took to that song. It'll be a combination of happy songs and sad songs.
Is this the first time you're working with Lea?
First time I'm singing with her, yes. I've been a fan of hers since I was in high school. I've continued to follow her career and been a fan of her voice and her talent for so many years. To be able to invite her on stage and for her to invite me into a community, into a culture in a country that she is such a treasure to the country... She's been somebody who we've all loved very much here in the United States, but I know how adored she is in the Philippines, and rightfully so.
I'm so happy to share the stage with her, and I'm sure she'll sing a little bit on her own, but I'm looking forward to our duets as well.
A few days after the concert, you will be celebrating your birthday too!
Yeah. [And] on the night of the concert will be Lea's birthday [so] it'll be the birthday week. I'm sure some Happy Birthdays will be sung for Lea on that night.
How are you planning to celebrate your birthday?
I'll be on stage in Korea then, I will have a concert on the night of my birthday, which is exactly how I like to celebrate my birthday, working.
I'm not a big birthday celebration person. I always think to myself, 'Oh, we're going to have a really fun time.' Then on the actual day, I get kind of down. 'Oh, I don't really want to do anything.' If I get to be singing music and to be in front of great fans, that is the best birthday present I could ask for.
Are there other places beside Korea you will be visiting after the Philippines?
We're going to be going to Singapore. Those will be the three concerts we do on this trip.
You've performed with a lot of singers. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with them? Let's start with Andrea Boccelli.
Andrea Bocelli was the singer that I stood in for when I was 16 years old at the Grammy Awards. At that time, he was already a great star, and I was a high school student. To have had the opportunity to fill in his shoes at that young age, and then all these years later to have a duet with him, is so full circle for me. He's been somebody who has been very kind to me, somebody who I've looked up to for many years. Yeah, and I love the work he's doing with kids, too.
How about Celine Dion?
That Grammy rehearsal, when I stood in for Andrea, I was singing with Celine. She was my first professional duet. That's not too bad. Still, to this day, one of my favorite voices in the world and one of my favorite people in the world. She's the real deal.
Mariah Carey is a legend. I've never had the pleasure of working with her, but I would love to. Again, one of the great vocal instruments we've ever had. She's a lot of fun on Twitter, too.
Barbra Streisand is somebody that you can learn so much from, as a duet partner. I've recorded twice with her, and each time, I've tried to soak it up like a sponge. It's just a master class to work with her, to see her process, to see how she takes a lyric and finds all kinds of ways to possibly interpret it. The audience gets to hear the final product, but when you're in there with Barbra Streisand, you get to really see her process and see how that process has made her the legend that she is.
And finally: Idina Menzel.
Idina and I first performed together when we did a musical called Chess in London many, many years ago. She's, again, such a great friend, such an incredible singer, obviously great performer and actor as well. She can really do it all, and we both, I have to say, share a real passion for arts education. She's got an incredible foundation. I've teamed up with her for hers, she's teamed up with me for mine, and so it's always great when you meet partners in philanthropy, too.
3 hours from show time in Dallas and the American Airlines Center has these all over the floor backstage which gives me ample opportunities to promote AND rest! Thanks @aacenter!!! #bridgestour #dallas #votebeto #butreally #watcheverytimetrumpandcruzinsultedeachother #nowtheyrefriends #idontthinkso #nope #donttrustit #totalbull #singing #music #posters
How about performing in front of presidents and royalty — how was that like performing in front of Bill Cltin and Prince Charles?
Any time you're in front of a dignitary, it's nerve-wracking. Whether you agree with that dignitary or not, it's a great honor to perform for them. I just remember both with Bill Clinton and with Prince Charles how funny they are. There's a humor, there's a charming humor that they have.
I was performing for Prince Charles at the royal variety show, and I was singing a big song called “Oceano,” which is in Italian. It was obviously in Italian. Prince Charles is very worldly, he knows the difference, and he decided to mess with me back stage. He shakes my hand and he goes, "Your Spanish was excellent." I said, "Very clever, very good." Very dry humor, but yeah.
Singing at President Obama's inauguration was one of the most incredible experiences, looking out at a million people waving flags. That was just so fun. Yeah, I mean, it's a big responsibility, but as a singer, you get asked to do these things sometimes, and you have to let go of the nerves and just try to do a good job.
You're also an actor! What makes you come back to acting?
I think it's all about storytelling, whether you're singing it or whether you're reading a script. The thing that I love about acting is that unlike in singing, where I'm really bringing all aspects of me and myself out there, with acting, I can leave me at the door.
I can dive into a new character and think about the ways to transform into how that person might be thinking. That's very freeing, it's very therapeutic, it's very fun. It's also collaborative. As a solo artist, it's mostly me in the spotlight but when you're acting, you're all in it together, whether it's on stage, on camera.
There is such a communal feel to it all, and you all lean on each other in a way that's a little bit different from being a solo artist in music. I enjoy that aspect of it, too, the discipline of it.
You appeared in 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'
Yes, I did.
With Rachel Bloom-
Who I love.
And Vincent Rodriguez III
Oh, yes. Vincent Rodriguez is one of the most talented performers. I mean, that show is such a great showcase for him and for Rachel, who created the show. They're such multi-talents. I had a really fun time.
I met Rachel at the Tony's a couple of years ago. She reached out and said, "I really want to do a fun thing where you're playing yourself and singing about yourself and singing about this character." I had a really good time doing that.
And you also appeared in Glee. Did you meet Darren Criss there?
I did meet Darren Criss in Glee, and I've become good friends with Darren since then. He's such a nice guy, and he's getting such incredible and well-deserved accolades for his performances. Anybody who's known Darren a long time knows how multi-talented he is. To see him getting recognition is just fantastic.
You've also done Broadway. Talk about what you get from performing on live theater. Do you plan to do another Broadway show?
I would love to do another Broadway show, maybe in the next couple of years. I've got to plan the next one, but the great thing about Broadway theater is that you're doing so many shows a week that each one of those shows is an experience for an audience who's never seen it before.
You're throwing everything you have out for those two or three hours, and then it's done. Then you have the next one, and you throw everything you have out, and that experience that they walk out of the theater, that's forever for them. Then you get to reload, and you get to do that again for them the next time. Even though it's a lot of shows, each one has that same excitement of, "I'm going to give them the story for the first time."
That's what I experienced when I was a kid watching theater growing up, and to be able to finally do it from the reverse, in being on stage, was the most fun experience of my whole career to be able to do that.
How can I possibly express all the feelings from the afternoon of July 2, my last show in @greatcometbway? Just endless love and gratitude for this cast and crew, to the fans of Comet, past present and future, to @rchavkin and @davemalloy my theater parents..."restraining tears of tenderness, tears of joy which choke me". That was the night in a nutshell. After the show, which took everything in my power to get through with my head swimming in thoughts, my dear friend @thelucassteele gave such a moving speech. This whole cast has inspired me and I'm honored to call them my friends. @deneebenton, my Natasha for life. Just the best. After the show I took everyone on a cruise around the Hudson. Just hugs and happiness. I'll never forget it. Thank you all for giving me this experience. I hope to return to Broadway soon.
I did almost 300 performances, and it taught me a lot about my strengths as a vocalist. I pushed myself farther than I've ever pushed myself vocally. And it taught me about the teamwork of acting, about the collaborative spirit of theater. You're helping each other get through good shows, bad shows, sick shows, shows where things are happening offstage where there might be a tragedy in the cast.
Somebody has something going on, something in your own life. You walk into that stage door, and everybody has each other's back, and you have to come together and tell the story. I think that there is something very beautiful about that.
It's cliché to say the theater community, but it is a community, and I have felt more of an embrace from the theater community. Here I was an outsider, coming from music, and thinking to myself, "Hi. I really want to do well by you. I want to do the best that I can." They had every right as a community to say, "Hey Josh, that's nice. Maybe you're just here to sell tickets. We're doing our thing, and you do your thing."
But from day one, the theater community embraced me, they welcomed me, they let me do the work with them and prove to them how into it I was. I feel they're always going to be a part of my family. As much as I enjoy and love my music world, it's a bit lonely in comparison to the familial feel of the theater community that I've had.
You have several accolades including being named one of the 100 sexiest men and one of the 100 most beautiful men.
(Laughs) I have to say, it was not in the Sexiest issue, it was in the Beautiful People issue of People magazine, and it was in their musician section. They really at that point in the magazine just needed spaces to fill. I don't think there was a huge consensus within the magazine. "We've got to have Josh." I lucked out that year. I don't know, there was maybe something going on with my hair that year that they liked. I don't know. But yeah, that was fun.
You didn't have your beard yet that time.
No, it was clean-shaven. I had stubble, but it was before I grew the beard. When you have the chance to grow a beard, it kind of feels like part of you after it. You get sad when you have to leave it. Every time I've shaved, it slowly comes back.
Is there a reason for growing your beard?
I don't know. I feel like it adds a bit of gravitas to my face, you know? For always being the boy wonder, the little kid with the big voice, quite frankly, I feel like a man now. I feel like I like my voice for the first time. So that's always nice.
Looking at your life now, what would you say to your younger self?
I would say to my younger self, "Enjoy the moments more," because I was very nervous. I was very scared, I was very caught up in all of the fame and pressure of that time period.
I was very immature in some ways and very mature in other ways.I've got experiences, but then I'm also glad that I had those insecurities and that I had those immaturities then because that's how you learn. That's how you grow as a person.
If you don't have those moments where you make mistakes and don't know all the answers, then I don't think you grow into the person that you want to be. I think that if you have everything and feel like you have it all there at a young age, you don't want to peak too early.
Mostly, I would tell that young kid that it's okay to enjoy it and feel a little freer to enjoy it. I was holding on so tightly then that it felt more pressure, but that's okay. I'm enjoying it now.
I would have made more time earlier on in my life for a personal life. I would have focused more of my attention on balance in my life.
As I said, I was so grateful for the opportunity and so excited and nervous about having so many things and so many pressures that I had to accomplish that I really viewed anything that was personal, or balanced out any kind of personal happiness or private happiness. I really made that a secondary priority.
That was something that was maybe necessary in order to reach what I reached, but if I could go back, I would be able to tell that person that it's actually okay to balance. The balance actually makes you a better person, makes you a better artist, makes you all those things. So, I would go back and maybe do that differently.
Otherwise, I feel very lucky that I had great people around me who kept me from making regrettable decisions. I had a great team, great family. I could've been led astray many times, and I had those harnesses to pull me back. So I could have had a lot more regrets, had I not had the right people around me.
And now you're here, about to go back to the Philippines. What are you looking forward to doing or eating there?
I want to hear some music. I want to listen to some of the great singers in the Philippines. I'm hoping to do to some karaoke because I will be put to task by the singers at your karaoke bars because you have some of the best singers.
I was mentioning earlier, I think per household, there are so many talented, undiscovered singers in the Philippines that it's intimidating when you come from overseas and you're singing there. You're thinking probably at least half of my audience can sing better than me. I don't know, maybe I'll do karaoke, maybe I'll be too scared.
But I just remember that the food culture in the Philippines is so wonderful. There is such great traditional Filipino food, and there is also such incredible experimentation with those traditional elements for a new style of cuisine, too. I'm such a foodie that when I go back, I like to ask people who are locals what they're eating and try a little bit of everything.
Please invite your fans to your show.
To all my incredible fans in the Philippines who have been so loving, so supportive and so patient throughout the course of my career, it has been too long since I've seen you.
So, I want to start this message with an apology for that, but also want to say that it's such a great privilege and excitement and honor for me to finally come back and do a concert that I've been waiting for and hopefully you've been waiting for, for many years. I will see you then. And, thank you so much for all these years of love and support. I love you right back. — LA, GMA News