It’s a week before tour kickoff and Josh Groban is feeling good.
He and his band have been rehearsing in Los Angeles, solidifying the setlist and finalizing stage designs, and so far, it’s been a series of happy exhalations.
A monthlong U.S. leg of the tour will launch Thursday at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth with Idina Menzel sharing the bill — and yes, that means there is the potential for duets.
Groban, still of boyish good looks and quick wit at 37, has been tremendously busy since wrapping his Broadway debut in July 2017. His nine-month stint playing “Pierre” in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” earned him raves — and a co-hosting gig at this year’s Tony Awards.
Since then, he filmed a new Netflix series, “The Good Cop,” opposite Tony Danza, and recorded his eighth studio album, “Bridges.” Both were, coincidentally, released on Sept. 21.
So there is much to discuss with the charming and garrulous Groban, including his relationship with Menzel, his songwriting motivations on the new album and working with Danza.
Q: The tour kicks off here soon. How are you feeling about preparation?
A: There is a unique challenge that is so fun when you play larger venues, finding ways to fill that space with energy. When you do a setlist, you want to showcase the new songs but also old songs (fans have) loved for 20 years. Coming out and starting in Atlanta, it’s gonna be a really exciting night. You never forget your first (laughs). As many dates as we’re going to do the next six or seven months, to start in Atlanta is really special.
Q: What’s the setup with the band? Do you have an orchestra?
A: We’ll have local musicians on stage for orchestra and choir, so they’ll be Atlanta-based [the Georgia Boy Choir will perform]. My band is mostly the same band I’ve had for several years. You want the show to be vibrant, but it’s important that it never becomes a circus. The visuals and the lights are exciting, but the music is the star. Whenever I’ve gone to a show that has all the inflatables and props and all this stuff, I find myself yawning and I don’t know why. From my personal experience, the nights I’ve been most enthralled have been with exciting visuals and a stage full of incredible musicians — that will always hold my attention.
Q: You and Idina did (the musical) “Chess” together in London a decade ago. Is that the last time you worked together?
A: We’ve done stuff over the years, charity events. We just recorded a version of (my 2006 song “Lullaby”) to benefit the child victims of this immigration policy — that will be released soon. We’ve been friends and part-time collaborators over the years. It just made sense that at some point we would share another stage together. That she had some time and just released a live album, it felt serendipitous. We’ll have some opportunities to sing together.
Q: This is the first album you’ve done significant writing on in a while. Did being on Broadway spark that for you?
A: A huge number of the songs were begat in that dressing room. You have a lot of downtime to eat ramen and write. I had a ton of things in my iPhone that I wanted to get out.
Q: What’s the story behind the title?
A: It’s always the hardest part, coming up with that one word or words. Sometimes your subconscious realizes there is an arc to your songs; you realize listening from songs one through 12 that you were in a headspace, that there was an overriding cathartic feel. Sometimes a word pops out at you. Having a song like (a cover of) “Bridge over Troubled Water” on there (was part of it); the message of a lot of songs had a lot to do with connectivity, togetherness, being inclusive. I thought as an artist, you have an opportunity to bring people together under one roof. There’s so much divisiveness and fear and confusion. I certainly have fallen prey to the Twitterverse sparking my anger. But ain’t nobody’s minds are being changed right now. Hopefully this (album) gives people a little positivity, a little light. I’ve recorded albums in the past that were a little darker. I did not want this album to be that.
Q: So you have this TV series now, too. Did you ever see yourself doing a procedural?
A: Not in a million years. To go from playing a drunk and angry Russian (on Broadway) to this angelic crime detective — talk about a 180! But my music career was an insane fork in the road, too. All of the best things that have happened in my life have been because someone said, “Hey, this is interesting and if you’ll indulge me … .” Every time I’ve taken a risk and it’s been organic, doors have opened and I’ve always won. It’s always made me a better actor, a better singer, whatever. I took (creator) Andy’s (Breckman) lead. I asked him every question as to why me, and he said look, there’s a chemistry (with you and Tony) that I feel in my soul is right for this. He so sees the character dynamics in his own head. I was so honored he thought of me.
Q: I ran into Tony Danza at a Grammy event in January, and he couldn’t stop raving about working with you. I assume he hasn’t been so bad to work with?
A: He’s been a blast. The guy has just as much charisma off stage as he does on. To have a Tony Danza to go work with, it’s like hitting the lottery and it’s not just his “poisinality”! I was such a newb to the single-camera world. Neither of us was 100 percent sold on the idea when it was presented to us, but to embrace the oddness of us being together and to break through that together … we had so much fun having Italian dinners on set. He kinda took me under his wing. He’s just such a pro.
With Idina Menzel. 8 p.m. Thursday. $55.50-$205.50. Infinite Energy Arena, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 770-626-2464, infiniteenergycenter.com.
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