Born in Los Angeles in 1981, Groban began singing in seventh grade, but put music aside for a few years until he enrolled at the Interlochen Arts Program. In late 1998, he hooked up with a friend of his vocal coach, producer/writer/arranger David Foster. Groban worked for Foster as a rehearsal singer on a series of high-profile events, including the California gubernatorial inauguration of Gray Davis and the Grammy Awards (at which he rehearsed Foster's "The Prayer" with Celine Dion in place of Andrea Bocelli). He was accepted into the theater department of Carnegie Mellon University, but put his education on hold when he was offered a recording contract at Warner Bros. through Foster's 143 imprint.
Groban made his recording debut singing "For Always" with Lara Fabian on the soundtrack to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and appeared in the 2001 season finale of the television series Ally McBeal. His debut album, Josh Groban, was released in November 2001. Over the next year, Groban became a star. His album went double platinum, and he had his own PBS special in November 2002. A month later, he performed "To Where You Are" and "The Prayer" at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, and joined the Corrs, Ronan Keating, Sting, Lionel Richie, and others for a holiday performance at the Vatican in Rome.
In November 2003, Groban issued his second album, Closer. Two months later, he earned his first number one record when Closer skyrocketed from number 11 to the top spot on the Billboard album charts. It continued charting and selling well, eventually earning a quintuple-platinum certification -- making it the best-selling classical album of the decade. Three years later, in 2006, Groban released his third studio album, Awake, featuring guest appearances by the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. The album nearly equaled its predecessor, earning a double-platinum certification. The holiday-themed Noel appeared in 2007, with Awake Live following in 2008.
In 2010, Groban decided to mix things up, joining famed producer Rick Rubin for his fifth studio album, the Americana-informed Illuminations. It charted well, peaking at number four in the U.S., and earned positive reviews. Three years later, Groban returned with the Rob Cavallo-produced All That Echoes, featuring guest appearances from trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and Italian singer Laura Pausini. All That Echoes debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, and Groban sustained his popularity through various cameos on television and movies.
He returned to the studio for 2015's Stages, a collection of songs from musicals like Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Carousel, as well as classic songs from The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory. An accompanying live CD/DVD recording for PBS was released in early 2016 with guest appearances from Kelly Clarkson ("All I Ask of You") and Audra McDonald ("If I Loved You"). Bridges followed in 2018, and included the singles "Granted," "Symphony," and "99 Years," the latter of which was a duet with country singer Jennifer Nettles. Recorded in New York, Los Angeles, and London with a handful of producers including Steve Jordan, Dann Huff, Bernie Herms, and others, the album found the performer singing in a variety of languages besides English, including French, Italian, and Spanish. The record peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. Bridges Live: Madison Square Garden, a concert album documenting the supporting tour for Bridges, arrived in April 2019.
A stand-alone cover of Elton John's "Empty Sky" arrived in February 2020. The song paved the way for a full covers album later that year. Titled Harmony, the record featured standards as well as renditions of songs by Sting, Kenny Loggins, Robbie Williams, and others. The set also found Groban joined by guests including Leslie Odom, Jr., Sara Bareilles, and Kirk Franklin. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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