A few years away from the spotlight, multiplatinum Grammy Award-winning singer Josh Groban is coming directly to his fans with his “Straight To You Tour,” which comes through Cleveland on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Supporting his latest effort, “Illuminations,” which found Groban working with famed uber-producer Rick Rubin (Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and Johnny Cash), the 30-year-old operatic singer has upped the high-tech ante for his latest tour. Not only will the tenor belt out songs such as “Oceano” and “Alla Luce,” but he’ll also take audience questions via text messaging.
The Vindicator talked to Groban about the layover between albums, working with Rubin and what not to do if by chance you get face time with the singer at one of his concerts.
Q. Easily the biggest question fans have is what took you so long to release “Illuminations,” which is the follow-up to 2006’s “Awake.”
A. I think anytime you work with a new producer, there’s a little bit of a getting-to-know-you period as far as what you want to accomplish together. That said, Rick Rubin takes a notoriously long time anyway, even with people he’s worked with forever. A lot of it I can just chalk up to his process. That’s one that takes a much longer time than I would have liked, to be honest, but I think most artists want to finish things as quickly as possible. With Rick, it’s one of those things where it’s just not done until it’s done.
Q. Your press materials talk about how he actually gave you homework to write as many songs as possible. What was the feeling when you finally penned your single “Hidden Away?”
A. It was very much a dam-bursting kind of a feeling. We didn’t make noise for a really long time. So he’ll have you fester with your own melody ideas and these bare-bones demos without ever kind of putting the paint on the canvas. By the time you really sit down and really dive into your songs, it’s a great kind of creative explosion. I think he knows deep down if you’re trying to get someone to write, that silence and keeping someone from that immediate gratification can be a very good thing.
Q. Considering last year you appeared on “Glee,” who is your favorite character on the show?
A. Well, one of my favorite characters I don’t think is really on the show anymore is Sandy Ryerson (portrayed by actor Stephen Tobolowsky). He was kind of the creepy guy who had to stay 500 feet away from kids at all time. I served him a restraining order in my episode. Also just being able to see a cast of amazing musical-theater actors. I grew up loving theater, so to see so many triple threats are getting pop-culture exposure is personally really cool to see.
Q. As far as the “Straight To You Tour,” what do you have in store?
A. This is the most open with the fans I’ve ever been on a tour. I really bust down that fourth wall from the first moment. This is about sharing an experience that will only happen for one night only. Every night it’s totally different, and so I love the unexpected.
Q. Finally, for those lucky few who you do interact with during the show, what are a few ground rules you want them to know about?
A. I’d say keep it above the waist (laughs). Also, stealing the mic would be a bad one, or dousing me with water or any other liquid would be a really bad idea. (With a Hanz and Franz voice): But my burly security team will take swift action against anybody.