Josh Groban to perform songs made more poignant by the pandemic
The pandemic was on Josh Groban’s mind when he realized it was time to sing the 1966 Joni Mitchell classic “Both Sides Now.”
“It’s a song I’ve loved for a very long time. It’s also a song I was afraid to sing,” the Grammy-winning vocalist, songwriter and actor told the News-Press recently. “In order to sing it honestly, you need to have felt the shifts in perspective that the song is about.”
He felt he experienced those changes in perspective during COVID-19, which he described as “a splash of cold water” that has affected how people, including the youngest generation, perceive the world.
The singer said the pandemic has made “Both Sides Now” and other songs on his latest album, “Harmony” (Warner Records, 2020), that much more poignant.
Mr. Groban is performing tracks from “Harmony” during a tour that brings him Saturday to Santa Barbara. The concert will start at 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St.
“I love Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Groban, who grew up in Los Angeles and has acted in movies such as “The Muppets Most Wanted” (2014) and TV shows such as NBC’s “The Office.” “It’s always been a place I’ve escaped to for the solace, good food and culture.”
He added that the Santa Barbara Bowl, with its ocean view, has always been one of his favorite venues.
“My favorite thing about doing these summer shows is when you find venues that utilize their natural surroundings,” Mr. Groban said.
Mr. Groban is glad to be back touring after the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“I was about two songs into the recording (of ‘Harmony’) when the lockdown happened,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would be able to finish the album.
“The world changed, and the process of making the album changed, logistically and creatively,” Mr. Groban said. “Usually I would be there with all the musicians.
“We had to do everything remotely,” said Mr. Groban, who recorded his vocals in his bedroom or at a studio without the musicians.
Among the songs is one certainly made more poignant by the pandemic, “The World We Knew,” made popular by Frank Sinatra.
“I don’t normally sing this style of music, but there was something very operatic about it,” Mr. Groban said. “I felt it was very on the nose to how I was feeling when we recorded it and were afraid of all the change happening.”
The album also features Mr. Groban’s rendition of “The Impossible Dream (The Quest”) from the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”
Again, the pandemic influenced Mr. Groban’s interpretation of the song, especially in light of singing on stage after all that has been experienced during the pandemic.
“I listen to that song now, I sing it now, and it takes on a meaning far more poignant than I was expecting it to,” he said.
Mr. Groban has been drawn to music since his youth. Today he remains an active arts education philanthropist and advocate as a member of Americans for the Arts Artists Committee and his Find Your Light Foundation. He knows first hand the importance of helping young people through arts, education and cultural awareness.
“Ever since I was young, I just kind of recognized music as a language for me that felt the most honest, the most expressive,” Mr. Groban said. “That’s why arts education is so vitally important. It’s a key to unlocking expression and confidence.
“I will never forget those moments when I was in seventh or eighth grade when those teachers gave me those songs to sing or put me on a piano or a drum set in a production of a show.
“It’s something that felt like a natural fit for my soul,” he said. “It allows me to be myself, to express myself better than I can otherwise.”
In recent years, Mr. Groban realized a lifelong dream of performing on Broadway. In 2017, he concluded his Broadway run in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”
“Talk about an impossible dream!” said Mr. Groban, who played Pierre and had acted in plays during his youth. “It was totally a dream come true.
“I had to make a decision when I was 17, 18 years old, to put aside the theatrical dreams, to take an interesting fork in the road,” said Mr. Groban, who focused his career on recording and performing music. “Theater was always my home, always a place I could come back to.”
And after the pandemic lockdown, Mr. Groban is excited to be back in concert.
“Every time I go on stage, I feel the same excitement, the same nerves, the same desire to sing these songs the best.”