Born Joshua Winslow Groban on February 27, 1981, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Jack (an executive recruiter) and Melinda (an artist and art teacher) Groban. Addresses: Record company--143 Records, 530 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 101, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Agent--William Morris Agency, 1 William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Website--Josh Groban Official Website: http://www.joshgroban.com.
In a meteoric rise to success, Josh Groban took the world by storm while he was still a high school student. His strong baritone voice and his unusual mix of pop mixed with opera and romantic classical music has attracted a wide audience and has led music executives to create a whole new way of promoting talent.
Joshua Winslow Groban was born on February 27, 1981, in Los Angeles, California, the oldest of two siblings. His father, Jack, worked as an executive recruiter. His mother, Melinda, was an artist and art teacher. The family enjoyed attending theater productions, but they had no show business connections.
Groban was recognized for his voice as a young boy. As his voice matured and he became a teenager, he was accepted into the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. He participated in high school plays and had dreams of someday singing or acting on Broadway. When Groban was 17 years old his voice teacher, Seth Riggs, was contacted by multiple Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster, who was looking for someone to sing at charity events. Riggs sent Foster some tapes of some of his students, including one of Groban's voice. "I'm always leery when people send me tapes," Foster was quoted as saying on the ABC News website. "Ninety-nine times out of 100 there's just nothing there.... But [Groban's] tape stuck out like a sore thumb."
Foster booked Groban to fill in for Michael Crawford at the 1999 inauguration of California Governor Gray Davis. A few weeks later, Foster needed someone to fill in for Andrea Bocelli to sing "The Prayer" with Celine Dion at a rehearsal for the 1999 Grammy Awards. Although Bocelli sang at the actual show, Groban was noticed by the host of the Grammys, Rosie O'Donnell, who booked him on her show, calling him "Opera Boy."
Foster continued to book Groban at charity events, and soon David E. Kelley, the creator and executive producer of the television show Ally McBeal, noticed the young man. Kelley decided to create a small role for Groban in an episode of the show, and in the 2001 season finale Groban played Malcolm Wyatt, a teenage boy who was suing the girl who backed out of attending the prom with him. "We expanded his part once we realized he could act," said executive producer Bill D'Elia in Entertainment Weekly. "I don't think even Josh realized he could act." The Wyatt character ended up singing at his prom and impressing his classmates. Groban also impressed the television audience, and the show received thousands of messages from viewers who wanted to know more about him.
In the meantime, Groban had graduated from high school and was accepted as a student in Carnegie Mellon University's musical theater department. However, he decided to hold off on continuing his formal education when he was offered a record deal with 143 Records, a joint venture between Foster and Warner Brothers. Executives took some time deciding what to do with him. Some thought he should try to fit in with boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys. Others thought he should sing only in Italian. Finally Groban and Foster came up with a combination of pop, ballads, classical music, and opera, with songs in English, Spanish, and Italian. His first album, titled Josh Groban, was released in November of 2001.
Initially, radio stations were unclear on how to handle Groban's hybrid musical style, and it was clear that marketing the new artist would need to take a nontraditional path. "We have to do everything with Josh outside of the traditional channels of how we would market most artists," said Diarmuid Quinn, executive vice president at Warner Brothers Records, in the Hollywood Reporter. "There's no MTV, there's no VH1, there's no pop or rock radio. So you're marketing in a different realm."
Groban was asked to return for the holiday episode of Ally McBeal in late 2001. He began to appear on talk shows, including Oprah, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and the Tonight Show, and in a major profile on 20/20. Following the 20/20 profile, his album went from number 108 to number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart, and sales figures multiplied by ten. "When Josh goes on television and opens his mouth, there is this magical vulnerable quality about him that drives people nuts," Quinn said in an article in Billboard. He also sang at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, and at a holiday show for the Pope at the Vatican. He was chosen to sing at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, along with Charlotte Church. At first the two practiced outdoors and at a higher altitude in order to get their voices ready. However, it was finally decided they would lip-synch their performances. "We had about 15 minutes before we went in, and it was the greatest adrenaline rush I've ever had," Groban stated in Entertainment Weekly.
Marketers soon found that Groban's records were primarily selling through the Internet, rather than through record stores. An online community calling themselves "Grobanites" developed, boasting a 90,000-fan database. Groban's fan club website, Friends of Josh Groban, offered video footage, music, and advance concert ticket sales for a fee and, in its first three weeks, 7,000 fans signed up. "The music has brought them together and created this community, which has been really cool," Groban stated in Billboard. "It's wonderful for me to see the music affect them on such a personal level."
In December of 2002, Groban released Josh Groban in Concert, a DVD-CD combo based on a PBS "Great Performances" special. Between this and his debut album, he had become the best-selling new male artist of 2002. Even with all of this success, Groban still longed to sing on Broadway. On September 22, 2003, he got his chance, performing in a one-night-only performance of Chess with Lara Fabian and Adam Pascal at the Amsterdam Theater.
Groban worked for seven months on his next album, Closer, in which he co-wrote some of the songs and played the piano. "I got back into the studio after two years and just made a list of the things I wanted to explore," Groban said in Billboard. "I wanted to step forward in the range of difficulty of the songs. I also had my own point of view and wanted to try and write the kind of songs that I would want to listen to." The new album was released late in 2003, and raced to number four on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 375,000.
When tickets went on sale for a 2004 tour, they sold out quickly. "We put 40 shows on sale and the seats were filled in less than 30 minutes--every market--which is unbelievable," said Gayle Holcomb, senior vice president for the William Morris Agency, in Billboard. He added that "when Ticketmaster went up, people were in a frenzy." Tour stops were scheduled throughout the United States, England, France, Norway, and Sweden. By the time Groban sang at the pre-game show for the 2004 Super Bowl, he no longer had to worry about recognition.
by Sarah Parkin
Josh Groban's Career
Performed at inauguration of California Governor Gray Davis, 1999; played Malcolm Wyatt on two episodes of the Ally McBeal show, 2001; released Josh Groban, 2001; performed at Winter Olympics, 2002; released Josh Groban in Concert, 2002; released Closer, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Josh Groban 143 Records, 2001.
- Josh Groban in Concert 143 Records, 2002.
- Closer 143 Records, 2003.
- Billboard, December 6, 2002, p. 1.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 8, 2002, p. 32; December 20, 2002, p. 53.
- Hollywood Reporter, November 13, 2003, p. 6.
- People, December 1, 2003, p. 46.
- Variety, April 28, 2003, p. 4.
- "A Star in the Making," ABC News, http://www.abcnews.com (January 12, 2004).
- "Josh Groban in Concert," PBS Great Performances, http://www.pbs.org (January 12, 2004).
- "Josh Groban tops album chart," CNN, http://www.cnn.com (January 25, 2004).