As part of his North American tour, singer-songwriter sensation Josh Groban is coming to Boston's TD Garden this summer with his Straight to You Tour, named for a song from his album Illuminations.
100 Legends Way, Boston
7:30 pm | $57.50-$108.60
From JoshGroban.com: It seems no one knew what to expect when Josh Groban teamed with super-producer Rick Rubin for the singer's fifth album, Illuminations - least of all Groban and Rubin. Fittingly, the results both defy and exceed any possible expectations as each of the collaborators stepped out of his zone and together they created an entirely new zone, one where folk meets classical, where art meets intimacy, where immediacy meets timelessness and where, most importantly, Groban was free to express himself more fully, more truly than ever before.
"These are my stories," says Groban, who co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs on the collection, complemented by personalized if surprising selections written by Nick Cave and the poignant mother-son collaboration by Kate McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright. "Every one of these songs, someone's going to know it's about them. I'm going to get a text message about every one! This is a very personal record."
Groban had certainly never made a record like this before. But then neither had Rubin, whose nonpareil career runs from the early days of rap with Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys through the hard-edged rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica to Johnny Cash's latter-day life-embracing American Recordings series. What the combination brought out was a new range of expression and emotional connection from Groban, music that taps into generations of Americana and reaches across the oceans and lyrics drawn straight from the heart. In the course of the album, we see aspects of Groban unknown in the acclaimed stretch since he first stepped into the spotlight as a teenager, beyond even the personality and wit he flashed in his much-shared Emmy Awards medley and his noted guest role in last season's Glee finale. The words he offers in "Hidden Away" could almost address the mission of the album itself:
Sing it out
So I can finally breathe in
I can take it all the same
Reaching out for someone I believe in
All I really need today
Illuminations was three years in the making, but the writing and recording came in bursts of creativity, maximizing the spontaneity and personal touch. Groban teamed with singer-songwriter Dan Wilson (former leader of the band Semisonic and co-writer of several pieces on the Dixie Chicks' Not Ready to Make Nice including the 2007 Grammy song of the year title track) on most of the songs. Most of the recordings were done live in a casual setting with Groban playing piano and singing alongside acoustic guitarists Matt Sweeney and Smokey Hormel and, on some songs, iconic organist Spooner Oldham. From those sessions, orchestrations were crafted by David Campbell for nine songs and James Newton-Howard for two, while Brazilian great Carlinhos Brown created the dynamic setting for "Voce Existe Em Mim (You Exist In Me)" in his Bahia home, including the power of an all-girl drum corps - the only drums on the album.
The partnership of Rubin and Groban developed organically and out of deep mutual respect. After an exploratory meeting, both were eager to take on a full album project.
"From Day 1 it wasn't about anything to prove, but two people finding a place to work together - two scared people," Groban quips. "We wanted to find our line ... and walk past it. This from Rick's view was to be a fine art record. That grandness was something we wanted to embrace. We started out thinking we'd do a little folkie record. We wanted the looseness of that, the rawness of an intimate folk record and the power and warmth of a classical record."
Rubin right from the start challenged Groban to tap deeper into his full range of talents than he had before, as a singer, musician and, crucially, a writer.
"Rick picked a few songs he liked for me and said, ‘Beat these.'" Groban recalls. "He said he'd be fine making a covers record with me, but if I wanted to do something special I should write songs that speak for me. So I went into a hole and wrote feverishly. I didn't try to better the classics he gave me, but wrote songs that were more me."
The song "Hidden Away" is a prime example of how this took shape. With the core band's tracks recorded all in one take - Groban's vocals included - it mixes intimate warmth and grandeur. The opening piano chords and the unfolding melody evoke a timeless Americana, a thread from Stephen Foster through Aaron Copland through Paul Simon and Randy Newman, as Groban makes a heartfelt plea not to hide true love or one's true self.