Josh Groban is very busy.
Currently preparing for the tour to support his latest album, “All That Echoes,” which touches down at the TD Garden on Oct. 28, he is also shooting a master class special for HBO with some young students, and will be appearing on the upcoming Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar CBS comedy, “The Crazy Ones.”
And that fairly neatly encapsulates Groban’s life over the past few years, toggling between the classical crossover career that has led to the sale of over 25 million albums — thanks to his rich vocals on the earnest balladry of tunes like “You Raise Me Up” — and a burgeoning acting career in the comedy world, from appearances on late night shows, sitcoms like “The Office,” and in the films “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and the current “Coffee Town.” The latter endeavors find him picking up where he left off as a musical theater student at Carnegie Mellon University before setting off on a music career under the watchful eye of producer David Foster.
Josh Groban with Judith Hill
When he’s not playing onstage or onscreen, Groban mans a highly entertaining Twitter account that is occasionally commandeered by his rap alter ego, “Jgro.”
We chatted by phone with Groban from his home in New York. Once we finished obsessing over “Breaking Bad” — he noted that as a fan he was very excited that his character on “The Office” was named Walter Jr. — he talked tour, Twitter, and tackling creeps onscreen.
‘Everybody’s got different sides. I was pushed into it a little bit since I was getting some opportunities in the comedy world.’
Q. In some ways this album, on songs like “Brave” and “False Alarms,” has some real rock elements. Was that producer Rob Cavallo, who has worked with folks like Green Day and Paramore, pushing you to take risks?
A. My live shows have a little bit of a rock edge, without at all obviously going into the rock world. I’ve got an amazingly energetic band, and the great thing about filling a space and the rules of engagement when you’re filling that space is that you can take it to a level higher, you can turn the amp to 11 a little bit because it’s the energy of the room. So writing songs and coming up with ideas for the album after feeling that energy every night, [Rob and I] said to ourselves, “OK, the last album felt like an orchestra in your living room, let’s make this record about filling that space. Let’s make this a very vibrant, live, energetic album.” I think the idea of any edge or any rock elements just came out naturally by the fact that we had people like Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums and Rob producing. But there was a lot of thought put into making sure that vocally I was really staying in my lane and musically wanting to pick the best songs that we could.
Q. Listening to your records, it’s clear you enjoy switching up formats: piano and voice, small combo, band, band and orchestra. When you sit down to plan the tour, do you know you want to do it all and then have to figure out how to make it work?
A. I think having that childlike kid-in-the-candy-store mentality at the very first moment is healthy. It just shows that the fire is still burning bright and you’re giddy. At the end of the day, it’s all so much fun being able to plan and really just an honor to have another album and another tour. It’s really cool. But then you have to think continuity: What’s the best way I can share that exuberance, and excitement and that kind of musical ADD while still putting it into a format that is cohesive and a well-thought-out show? And when we thought about in-the-round, it presented so many amazing opportunities that checked off everything on my list for that kid in the candy store. It allows for it to be intimate and large at the same time. The vibe that I wanted for this tour was not to be like a U2 in-the-round thing, but more of an intimate, everybody-can-see-everything kind of a show. And that gives us the opportunity to do musically kind of what you were saying, to have that three-piece combo, to have piano and vocal only, to have the entire orchestra and band playing on all cylinders. And to be able to do it 360 and to feel that energy 360 is a great challenge. Some of my favorite artists from many years back did those kinds of shows: no bells and whistles, stage in the middle of the arena, and just concentrated on telling the story to people all around you, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s four front rows and in keeping with the intimacy, we’re just going to be selling the lower bowl and making sure everyone has perfect sound and view.
Q. Twitter has proven to be a great medium for you. Do you feel like you’ve gotten fans from it that you might otherwise have missed? Have people told you that?
A. Absolutely. Earlier on in my career I was really protective of the brand of the seriousness of the music. And because the music was so serious, I would go home and hang out with my friends and basically talk to them like I do on Twitter and they would say, “Seriously, you would lose so many fans if they knew how crazy and weird and funny you are.” But you’ve got to think that people are not one thing. Everybody’s got different sides. I was pushed into it a little bit since I was getting some opportunities in the comedy world. People like Jimmy Kimmel were giving me funny things to do, and so I would test the waters and my fans were like, “That’s really funny. We can laugh at you and cry at you at the same time.” I thought, OK, this just widens the whole thing, I can be myself.
Q. And funnily enough, it seems like being yourself has helped you land character roles in TV shows like “The Office” and films like “Coffee Town,” that are getting you away from playing yourself in jokey cameos.
A. That’s important to me. I’ll make the odd cameo as myself if I think it’s something that’s really funny, like the story line on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” where Sweet Dee is obsessed with me and comes to my shows, so this season I had to show up for a second as myself. I’ve always loved acting, and diving into another character, especially something like “Coffee Town” or “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” it’s really fun for me to put whatever it is I’m known as aside and play a character. And I really like playing weird, douchebaggy types onscreen. (Laughs.) I don’t know why it’s fun for me. I always sat behind those guys in school, so I’ve had a lot of training. I got wedgied by all those guys constantly, so this is my way of getting back at them. (Laughs.)