Josh Groban? approached Kelly Clarkson to duet on his new album Stages feeling like “it was a little bit of a long shot, probably. She’s got a new baby. She’s got a new album. But I decided to reach out.”
He’s certainly glad he did. He and Clarkson join forces on Stages for an eyebrow-raising collaboration on the iconic “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera. It may be a choice that catches some off guard, but Groban says he wasn’t at all surprised that Clarkson had the moxie to lend her pipes to the Broadway classic — and deliver.
“I’ve been a fan of hers for awhile,” Groban told Billboard. “I just have always felt like her voice could do it all, and she certainly has proven that she likes to take risks. I was excited by her excitement; she loved theater and loved that song and wanted to take a crack at it. And, like, that night she sent me an iPhone demo of her singing it; she was like, ‘What about this? Is this gonna be OK?’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, people are gonna be shocked when they hear you really open up on this,’ because she can do it.
“Whenever you can take a classic song that everybody knows and add a nice surprise to it, that’s always the best thing. You give people what they weren’t expecting. So I think Kelly and I singing this song is one of those.”
Groban, who was studying musical theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh when he signed with producer David Foster, says he’s long wanted to do an album dedicated to theater classics but “always kind of viewed this album, wrongly, as kind of self-indulgent. … As the years went on, I started talking to more and more fans who were really requesting it, and it felt like I was the right age to do it, at the right stage of my life where I could express these songs honestly, so we went for it.” Stages features 13 songs chosen from “hundreds” Groban says he considered, and it also features duets with Tony Award winner Audra McDonald? on “If I Loved You” from Carousel and with trumpeter Chris Botti on “Old Devil Moon” from “Finian’s Rainbow,” which was Groban’s first theatrical lead as a teenager.
Groban will launch a 24-date North American tour to support Stages on Sept. 12 in Atlanta, returning to theaters after playing arenas on his last run. “I felt like that’s where these songs belong,” Groban explains. “I love playing the arenas; it’s a great energy, and certainly lucrative. But for me the most inspiring musical moments I had growing up were hearing these songs in these kinds of theaters, and I think we found some beautiful spots and it’s going to be a nice little run. We wanted to present these songs in their own world.” Groban also predicts the tour’s production will be appropriate to the music as well.
“We knew we wanted to tour this album, but I didn’t want to do it on a huge scale,” he said. “I wanted to do it in a more intimate environment where we could put an orchestra on the stage and hear them with or without the mics. There’s going to be some nice visuals, but I don’t want it to be heavy on the stuff. I want to be mostly music-forward. And as far as the set list, we’ll tackle all the things on the ‘Stages’ record for sure. That’s going to be the vibe of the tour, but we’ll probably throw a few surprises in there as well.”
The itinerary for Groban’s “Stages” tour includes:
Sat, Sept. 12, 2015 Atlanta, GA Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Mon, Sept. 14, 2015 Washington, DC DAR Constitution Hall
Wed, Sept. 16, 2015 Philadelphia, PA Verizon Hall at Kimmel Center
Thu, Sept. 17, 2015 Pittsburgh, PA Benedum Center
Mon, Sept. 21, 2015 Toronto, ON Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
Fri, Sept. 25, 2015 Boston, MA Citi Performing Arts – Wang Theatre
Sat, Sept. 26, 2015 Wallingford, CT The Dome at Oakdale Theatre
Tue, Sept. 29, 2015 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
Fri, Oct. 02, 2015 Providence, RI Providence Performing Arts Center
Sat, Oct. 03, 2015 Albany, NY Palace Theatre
Tue, Oct. 06, 2015 Syracuse, NY Landmark Theatre
Wed, Oct. 07, 2015 Buffalo, NY Shea’s Performing Arts Center
Fri, Oct. 09, 2015 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre
Sat, Oct. 10, 2015 Cleveland, OH State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare
Tue, Oct. 13, 2015 Louisville, KY Palace Theatre
Wed, Oct. 14, 2015 Indianapolis, IN Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
Fri, Oct. 16, 2015 Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre
Mon, Oct. 19, 2015 St. Louis, MO Peabody Opera House
Wed, Oct. 21, 2015 New Orleans, LA Saenger Theatre
Fri, Oct. 23, 2015 Austin, TX Bass Concert Hall
Sun, Oct. 25, 2015 Dallas, TX Music Hall at Fair Park
Mon, Oct. 26, 2015 Houston, TX Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
Thu, Oct. 29, 2015 Los Angeles, CA Dolby Theatre
Tue, Nov. 03, 2015 San Francisco, CA The Masonic