Just as the Bridges Tour was coming to an end for multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated Josh Groban, the world started shutting down as COVID was the only story around the globe. Groban's latest album, "Harmony" was released in November of 2020 to great critical acclaim, but with support coming through live-stream concerts.
Now, 18 months later, Groban is finally able to return to the stage with audiences for a full-blown tour. The "Harmony Tour" 2022 summer shows started on June 16 in Detroit, Mich., and this Sunday the tour will take the stage at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Mo.
Before hitting the road, Groban was gracious enough to spare a few minutes to share his thoughts on returning to touring, new music in the works, and what he does on days off when he's on the road.
Mike Sorensen: Well, I know we're here to talk about the tour that's coming up. So the simplest question is, how does it feel after the last couple of years to be able to get back and do a full tour again?
Josh Groban: We're just overflowing with gratitude, just to be able to get out there and do what we love, and to see our fans again after having to look at them through a live stream camera. Over the last two years their support has meant everything to me. They've expressed to me on social media that these songs have meant a lot to them, getting through the last many months. And so, for all of us to be in the same space again, and to be able to celebrate being in the same space, we're connecting with songs we all love. It's just something we're gonna have a blast doing. It's always an incredible privilege to be able to go out on the road, but this year feels especially so.
MS: Looking at the lineup that you got, like taking the Preservation Hall Jazz Band out with you, you've obviously worked with everybody from Pavarotti to Sting. What do you look for when you're looking at these collaborations or for a project? What sets you off and makes you want to jump in with those partnerships?
JG: You know, in my own career, I've tried not to think too hard about genre, I've just tried to go where the goosebumps are. And when I work with artists, and collaborate and bring artists out on the road with me, I really try to think in the same way. My fans have been so incredible and eclectic in their willingness to take in an entire night of different kinds of genres, different kinds of music, that all is just incredible and feels good. Whether that's when I was able to go out with Angélique Kidjo or a jazz pianist named Yue Liu or Chris Botti. You know, it's always so much fun for me to go out, Foy Vance came out with us and Sarah McLaughlin.
So you know, every time I tour, I think my fans have kind of gotten used to - in the best possible way - the idea that the night is going to be a lot of different things. And they're going to hear things that they want, and they're going to hear things that they didn't know they wanted. To work this summer with a band like Preservation Hall, who I've been listening to my entire career, it's impossible not to have a great night when you're hearing a band like that. Eleri Ward is just one of my favorite voices out there at the moment, and she's doing really inventive and wonderful things with her voice. I know the audience is going to be thrilled to see her as well. And then my dear friend, Lucia Micarelli, who's just one of the greatest violinists on the planet, is coming out during our set to be a special guest as well. It's going to be a big night of lots of different styles. Hopefully people will sit back and relax and enjoy it. That's what we all want this year.
MS: Looks like a great lineup for the whole year, I'm excited to see it.
JG: And I'll sing a little bit, too! I've got a few things I'm going to do as well.
MS: With this tour in support of the "Harmony" album from 2020, have you started looking at more new music yet? Is there anything fans should be on the lookout for as far as anything upcoming?
JG: We're calling it the "Harmony Tour," but it's really just, let's get out and have some fun. The album came out a bit more than a year ago now. So it's going to be an incredible thing to sing some of the songs from this album, finally, in front of an audience. But also, you know, I'm halfway done with a new record as well. Everybody's cycles are kind of all over the place at the moment because it's been a moving target, when people can go out, when we can tour, all that stuff. So, you know, it's not the way I've usually done it, and it's not the way I will continue to do it. But this time around, we wanted to seize on an opportunity to get out in front of the fans again for the first time in a while. And it just so happens to be at a time where there's gonna be a lot of new things coming out next year as well. So that's good news.
MS: Absolutely. New music or standards, whatever. The more the better, I think.
JG: Yeah. I think so. I think we're excited to do it and people are excited to do it. We know it's still a little bit of a weird time. People are - rightfully so - tentative to go out there and be part of it, but we hope they do. It's just one of the reasons why we were so happy to do these outdoor venues, because it's just fresh air under the stars and should be a good time.
MS: I know you mentioned you don't worry about genre when you're doing projects, and I know you've got a background on stage with musical theater. Are there any roles that you would look at that are like a dream role, that you would jump at if you were given a chance?
JG: Oh, man. Yeah, I mean, there's plenty. Growing up as a theater kid, listening to all of the great musicals in the 80s and 90s, it was just such a golden era for new musicals. There are tons that I would love to step into, at some point. I was really spoiled by doing "The Great Comet of 1812," by the newness, by the freshness of it. I think probably the only person that could lure me to a revival was probably Sondheim. His work has meant so much to me, and his friendship meant so much to me. Those roles are, are just, I feel really tailor-made for my voice. So maybe one day soon.
MS: Personally, I think when they do a next revival for "Guys and Dolls," I think you're perfect for Sky Masterson.
JG: Oh, yeah. Oh, that'd be good. That'd be fun!
MS: Now that you're getting back out on tour and not just a live stream, I know you've talked about albums and work, but what do you do in your downtime when you're out on tour? Any shows you watch or anything like that?
JG: Yeah, I mean, for me, the summer tour is baseball season, and so I try to get out to as many ballparks as I can. I love baseball. I grew up in L.A., so I've been a Dodger fan my whole life, but I love all the old ballparks. There's something incredible about exploring and experiencing a city not just through the great food, but also through a game, seeing what the culture is at each park and what the special food is that each park has. There's something really incredible about baseball stadiums. So whenever we have a day off, I try to go catch a game if there's one going on.
MS: With this tour, you're running through the summer. Are there plans to expand that yet at this point?
JG: We were actually at the end of the last tour. When the world shut down, we were lucky that we were just at the very tail end of some extended Florida dates that we were doing from the "Bridges Tour." We were like two shows to the end. So we were very lucky in that regard that we got out, right when we were supposed to be done anyway. A lot of artists were not as lucky. We did some summer shows last summer, just kind of hit some wineries. We just wanted to get out and dip our toes back in the water and just kind of do a few shows. But as far as a big run like this, this is our first big North America run since 2018. So we're definitely excited and grateful to be out there again.
MS: I know some of the staff at the Amphitheatre and I know they're excited for the show coming up in St. Louis. I'm sure the fans are even more excited for it.
JG: That's great! We're even more excited for it. It's just one of those things where you pull up at the venue and you go backstage and there's nothing like it. You know, there's all different ways to pirate all different kinds of art and entertainment these days. And there is no way to duplicate what COVID took away from us, what you experienced when you're in a place with music or theater or a play or dance or an art form that you love. There's nothing that can take away that feeling when you walk back to your car and you just feel like you've been given as a shared gift, whether you're onstage or offstage. There is nothing like it. It's why 20 years in this still feels just as fun, just as nerve wracking, just as passionate as when I first started.
MS: I think you've answered everything that I had. And again, I appreciate a few minutes. Is there anything you want to just say to our readers or to your fans out there?
JG: Well, You know, this is a big thank you tour. This is a way for us to say thank you to those fans that have made our music the soundtrack to their lives over the last two years. And we all deserve to go out and feel good with music we love. We promise a great, great show. And we hope, obviously, people out there bring the family.
MS: All right, well again, I appreciate the time today. I know you're plenty busy getting everything in order, so I'll let you get back to it.
JG: Always great chatting with you. Thank you so much.
The "Harmony Tour" runs across the U.S. with dates slated through the beginning of August, including stops at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatres in Tinley Park, Ill. on Saturday and Maryland Heights, Mo. on Sunday. Groban will be joined on the road by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Lucia Micarelli, and Eleri Ward. To purchase tickets or to find additional stops on the tour, please visit joshgroban.com.