By Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:49:00 11/09/2008
Josh Groban described both Charice Pempengco and Lani Misalucha as terrific singers in our recent interview with him in a private villa at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood.
Josh, casually dressed this late afternoon, heaped praises on the two Filipina singers. He recounted doing an impromptu duet with Charice in a dressing room while they waited to perform separate numbers in a show. Saying he was blown away by Charice's pipes, Josh predicted bigger things for the young singer.
Josh said that singing "The Prayer" with Lani at his concert in the Philippines last year was an unforgettable and moving experience. He gushed about Lani's vocal range and prowess, which was quite a compliment to the songstress since he has sung "The Prayer" with such renowned performers as Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church.
The LA-born Josh is no slouch himself when it comes to singing. His new two-CD set, "A Collection," which features some of his memorable hits from his four multi-platinum albums, gives ample proof. It's remarkable that in a short span of seven years, Josh has sold more than 25 million albums. He stunned the music world when he became the best-selling recording artist of 2007 with the unprecedented sales of "Awake" and "Noel." The latter, a collection of holiday songs, was the best-selling US album of 2007.
Six tracks from "Noel" are on disc 2 of "A Collection": "Silent Night," "Little Drummer Boy," "Ave Maria," "Panis Angelicus," "Petit Papa Noel" and "Noche de Paz (Silent Night)." Among the 16 songs on disc 1 are "You Raise Me Up," "Smile," "To Where You Are," "February Song," "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)" and "Hymne a L'Amour."
It's too early for a recap of his career but this collection of hits so far prompted us to ask Josh about the highlights of his remarkable seven-year journey. "I think some of the big events have been very meaningful to me," said the baritone, still boyish-looking at 27.
"Meeting David Foster and a Celine Dion rehearsal in 1998 were big moments," he said. Josh's vocal coach introduced him to David, the Grammy-winning producer and arranger, who hired him as a rehearsal singer for important shows. So there was Josh, only 17 and still in high school, suddenly face to face with Celine Dion, rehearsing "The Prayer" with her. He was a stand-in for Andrea Bocelli at the rehearsals for the Grammy Awards. "I didn't know it was my big break," said Josh, beaming. He admitted that singing with Celine for the first time was thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time.
Thanks to a recording contract offered to him through David, it didn't take long for Josh to be an artist in his own right, who eventually got to sing "The Prayer" with Celine Dion and then Andrea himself in shows, not rehearsals.
"Appearing on 'Ally McBeal' was a huge break," Josh said. Also an actor, Josh was cast in the 2001 season of Calista Flockhart's TV series, where he sang "You're Still You" in an episode. The enthusiastic response of viewers-through thousands of e-mails-made producers ask Josh to reprise his role the following season.
"Meeting Oprah and being on her show-five times now-and having that relationship with her are incredible," Josh said. He expressed gratitude to Oprah as it is acknowledged that his appearance on her show in December last year propelled "Noel" to the top of the charts.
"Performing at the Olympics," Josh mentioned another peak-the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah where he sang "The Prayer" with Charlotte Church.
When we met Josh at a holiday party last year, he told us that Filipinos are the best fans in the word. He hopes to return to Manila soon for another concert. He admitted that, to this day, he is still surprised when he goes to far-flung places and discover that people know his name and his songs.
Josh left college after a few weeks into the first semester because he got a record deal with Warner Bros. also through David. Asked what would have happened if he did not get such an offer at that point, he said he would have finished college and then ... still tried his luck in the music field.
The singer, who sang a duet, "All I Know of Love," with Barbra Streisand, recently added two more legendary vocalists to the list of artists he has sung with: Placido Domingo and Charles Aznavour.
He'd like to work with rock artists, and maybe do more acting, especially in shows or movies that would tap his comedic side. When we brought up his appearance in Jimmy Kimmel's video spoof with Ben Affleck, he laughed and expressed how much fun that was.