Already one of the most acclaimed and beloved singers and songwriters around the world, Josh Groban breaks new ground of artistic and personal growth with his long-awaited fifth studio album, Illuminations, to be released on November 15th, 2010, from Reprise Records. The album is the rewardingly surprise-filled result of the unexpected but stimulating teaming with veteran producer Rick Rubin, known for his iconic work with Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and Dixie Chicks among many others.
This unprecedented partnership saw both Groban and Rubin stepping out of their respective zones to come together and create an entirely new zone where art meets intimacy and immediacy meets timelessness. Most importantly, Groban – who ranks as Billboard Magazine’s 14 top-selling artist of the 2000s with more than 20 million units in the U.S. alone — was free to express himself at his fullest by tapping into a new range of expression and emotional connection with lyrics drawn straight from the heart. Lead song “Hidden Away,” went to radio September 13, one of six co-written by Groban and Dan Wilson (former leader of the band Semisonic and co-writer of several cuts on the Dixie Chicks’ Not Ready to Make Nice), provides an emotional and artistic center, its plea for a romantic ideal given a musical setting highlighting the raw honesty and natural gifts of Groban as a singer, musician and writer.
“These are my stories,” says Groban, who co-wrote eleven of the thirteen songs on the album. “For every one of these songs, someone’s going to know it’s about them. I’m going to get a text message about every one! This is a very personal record.”
Elsewhere Groban makes his first foray into singing Portuguese on the vibrant “Voce Existe Em Mim (You Exist In Me),” returns to the more familiar Italian language with “L’Ora Dell’Addio” (a lush collaboration with the great composer/arranger Walter Afanasieff and lyricist Marco Marinagneli), paints a loving portrait of the Big Apple with “The Bells of New York City,” with and offers his own, highly personal take on Nick Cave’s poetic and passionate “Straight to You.”
“Josh is a one-of-a-kind artist and he works in a genre I have never worked in before,” says Rubin. “So there was a great excitement discovering our ‘way in’ to get to his essence and make a fine art album unlike any he has made before.”
For most of the songs, Rubin devised a setting to maximize the honesty and spontaneity of the performances. Recording live with Groban playing piano and singing alongside acoustic guitarists, Matt Sweeney, Smokey Hormel, and iconic organist Spooner Oldham also played on several tracks. From those sessions, multi-hued orchestrations were crafted by David Campbell for nine songs and James Newton-Howard for two, while Brazilian great Carlinhos Brown created the dynamic setting for “Voce Existe Em Mim (You Exist In Me)” in his Bahia home, including the power of an all-girl drum corps – the only drums on the album.
The partnership of Rubin and Groban developed organically and out of deep mutual respect. After an exploratory meeting, both were eager to take on a full album project. “From Day 1 it wasn’t about anything to prove, but two people finding a place to work together – two scared people,” Groban quips.
“We wanted to find our line … and walk past it. From Rick’s view the grandness was something we wanted to embrace. I was given the very lofty task of having more responsibility on this album than I’ve ever had. The bar was set high from the beginning. That’s why it took so long. But I can say that more of me went into this record than anything I’ve done.”
Illuminations was three years in the making, but the writing and recording came in bursts of creativity as Groban busied himself with other projects, including starring in a 21st-anniversary performance of the cult musical Chess at London’s Royal Albert Hall, performing a comic medley of well-known TV theme songs at the 60Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, duetting with Heather Headley at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, guest starring twice on Fox’s hit show Glee, and filming a role in Crazy Stupid Love, a motion picture comedy starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, and , due in spring 2011.
The 29-year-old Los Angeles native first broke through in 2001 with his self-titled 5x-platinum debut, followed by 2003’s 5x-platinum Closer and 2006’s 2x-platinum Awake. In 2007, Groban became the best-selling recording artist of the year thanks to sales of Awake and his blockbuster 5x-platinum Christmas album, Noël, which spent five consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Groban and his recordings have been nominated for more than a dozen awards including an American Music Award, a World Music Award, a Juno Award, two Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award for “Believe” from the 2005 film Polar Express. He has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.