It's the sound of silence that Josh Groban finds hardest to hear during the pandemic.
Quarantine hasn't stilled his voice or songwriting, but the give-and-get Groban usually enjoys from interacting with his audience is gone. He sings into a machine and hears nothing back.
“When the song is over, to have silence is so weird,” he said. “The back and forth that I love so much, chatting with the audience, going into the crowd — I’ve had to fill in that gap in my head.”
Groban is doing his best to fill the void with a new album due in November and three themed live streaming concerts, starting with a set featuring Broadway tunes in October.
“This has been a time to get creative in ways we never were expecting,” he said. “One of my goals throughout all of this is to really not push away what I’m feeling but take it out from under the rug and use it for inspiration.”
The album will be called “Harmony,” which was half-finished when quarantine started. Though he hasn't frozen the song list yet, most will be covers of classics that fans have long asked for — like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “She” — with a few originals throw in.
“For me, the songs evoke a feeling of hope, a feeling of togetherness, songs that just make me feel so good to sing,” he said. “It’s an album that for me was was very therapeutic to sing.”
The album will form the backbone for the second of Groban's concerts on Nov. 26. The third will be a Dec. 19 Christmas concert, a first for Groban.
“I think what people are missing right now is the connectivity in real time. It's the feeling that we’re all going to commune and be part of something together,” he said.
The concerts will piggyback on what he's learned about performing remotely. Post-virus, Groban eschews doing it pre-taped and has found a perfect space in Los Angeles to broadcast that has tremendous bandwidth. Tickets to individual concerts go on sale Aug. 25 and start at $30.
He promises intimate concerts “as if we were in someone’s living room” with surprises. “We are going to try and one up ourselves every time we do one of these.”
He jokes that he prepares the same as for any other concert and has the same butterflies, even if some of the audience may be folding laundry while watching.
Groban has been nominated for a Grammy, Emmy and Tony. His last album was 2018′s “Bridges,” with original music, and he was on Broadway in 2017 for a run in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” The pandemic hit after Groban’s tour and interrupted his planned string of concerts at Radio City Music Hall.
Making an album of originals and touring with it “refilled my tank to be an interpreter. My tank kind of ebbs and flows. There are times where I really want to craft from scratch,” he said. “And then there are times when I am reminded just how much I love just simply interpreting and how universal these classic songs can be.”
Groban is pushing himself to work, even though the pandemic has taken away some of his discipline. He does his scales daily and sings regularly, though video games are a constant background temptation.
The virus has forced Groban to work differently. Before the pandemic, he'd bring a bunch of ideas to a co-writer or a producer he had recorded on his iPhone and the two would flush out a tune. Now he's alone.
“It’s made me much more self-reliant and it’s actually forced me to flex my muscles and my songwriting in my song production skills,” he said. “The quarantine has made me much more open, vulnerable and playful in my writing approach.”
One new song, “Your Face,” Groban created on GarageBand software, then, from his bedroom in Los Angeles, sent it to producer Tommee Profitt in Nashville, Tennessee. The two have never met in real life but the result will probably be on the album.
Groban hadn't expected to be sparked creatively during a time of loss and isolation, but he has. “A lot of things have been pouring out during a time frame where I actually wasn’t expecting to do much writing.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits