Josh Groban has recorded covers of songs by Stevie Wonder, Glen Hansard and an obscure Danish band for his next album, “All That Echoes,” which Reprise/Warner Bros. will release on Feb. 5.
Groban introduced six of the album’s songs at a listening party Wednesday at the Sunset Towers in West Hollywood. Included in the half-dozen were his versions of Hansard’s Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly” from “Once,” Wonder’s “I Believe When I Fall in Love” — two songs he considers among his all-time favorites — and “Hollow Talk,” a 2009 release from the Choir of Young Believers, who hail from Denmark ( Editor: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the group was from Norway).
“Hollow Talk” was brought to Groban’s attention by Warner Music International marketing executive Dion Singer and the Groban version is almost as sparse as the original — an acoustic guitar, piano, a few strings and the sound of passing cars. “It’s such a cinematic song,” Groban said, recalling that producer Rob Cavallo told Groban “I feel there is a cityscape in it. So we went out on Sunset Boulevard and recorded traffic.”
The first track played, co-written by Groban, was “Brave,” which he said could be a single. “I really like sad songs – woe is me, depress-o,” he joked. “It feels like a natural thing.”
A ballad, the arrangement and instrumentation step away from the trademark Groban sound. As the song builds, the dominant musical sounds change, going from an upright bass and piano in the beginning to a military snare drum to a chiming electric guitar.
“There was a very open-minded feeling” in the studio, Groban said about producer Cavallo, who most recently produced Green Day’s trilogy. “Nothing felt contrived. We took three of our favorite string players and let them jam for an hour (on a each song). We’d take their improvising and then add 20 players to what they did.”
Another Groban co-write, “False Alarms,” exposed shades of Roy Orbison in his voice and Cavallo’s string arrangement pushed the song in the direction of the Moody Blues’ epic work of the 1960s. Groban also noted the album will feature two songs in Italian, one of which is with Laura Pausini, and a song in Spanish with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. They continue to work on the mixing of the recordings and the track listing.