For his third project, “Awake,” Josh Groban at first wasn’t sure what he wanted to accomplish. But he knew exactly what he did not want to do. “I realized at the start of this album that I had a blank canvas,” the 25-year-old singer/songwriter says. “And I found my mission: This was not about being anything that I’m not — it’s about not being afraid to be everything that I am.”
“Awake,” due this week from 143/Reprise, delivers on Groban’s determination to move beyond the grandiose, orchestral ballads that have made him an enigmatic star against any mold that typically fosters consistent radio play. He worked with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African group that gained fame as part of Paul Simon’s Grammy Award-winning, African-derived album “Graceland,” and collaborated with Dave Matthews and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik — along with stalwarts David Foster and Glenn Ballard.
“After a certain amount of success, if you have enough yes men around you, you begin to just ride a wave that works-you stop surprising yourself and your fans or putting yourself in a situation that’s scary,” Groban says. “There was a nagging feeling that I needed to bring some different influences onboard.”
The melancholy “February Song,” one of four songs on “Awake” that Groban co-wrote, came to him late one night at home in a fit of divine inspiration. He explains, “I was half asleep on the couch … I was just out of a relationship, I had just finished the whole experience of ‘Closer’ and the tour, and there were a lot of decisions about my future that had to be made, all by myself. I got up, sat at the piano and wanted to write a melody that represented that journey and the loneliness of that feeling-with the assurance that answers would come. It came to me in the flick of an eye.”