The West

Josh Groban, by his own admission, has always been "kind of a bit weird" in people's minds. The US multi-platinum-selling singer has been labelled everything from a "popera heart-throb" to "babe of the baritones" and his style of music, not to mention his influences - ranging from Radiohead to Caruso - have made him an enigma to the press, and even himself.

But 12 years on from making his self-titled debut album - and subsequently winning the hearts of middle-aged women around the world - 32-year-old Groban says he's finally comfortable with his place on the music scene.

"I think my mind and my voice are starting to balance out," the affable singer says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles.

"When I was 17, 18, I was this super-immature kid but I had this very mature voice and I was getting letters from a fan base that was two or three times my age.

"I was just thrown into a very mature world very quickly and in a way I wasn't prepared or ready for it.

"I was singing this very mature music and then I would go home and watch South Park and play video games."

Groban has gone far since being thrust into the limelight by talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, who was made aware of the singer's talents during rehearsals for the 1998 Grammy Awards.

When he stood in for a sick Andrea Bocelli to rehearse The Prayer with Celine Dion, awards host O'Donnell liked what she saw, invited him on her show a week later and the rest, of course, is musical history.

Over the years his talents have taken him from the studio to great sporting arenas - he's performed at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics and sang the national anthem at the 2004 Super Bowl - the same year as Janet Jackson and "nipplegate".

Six albums and 25 million record sales later, Groban says his sound has grown into a good harmony of the old and the new.

"And mentally, I feel I am in a place where I am singing like my age," he says, "and that's a really comfortable place to be."

Not bad for a guy who started out thinking he would become an actor.

"When I was in high school, I thought it was going to be what I did full-time," says Groban, who dropped out of drama at university four months into the first semester.

"I realised that I was better at singing but I am thrilled that the acting world has come back into my life naturally."

Indeed, life has a funny way of turning full circle, with Groban in recent years landing several acting gigs, including on the US TV series The Office and playing the guy Emma Stone's character ditches in favour of Ryan Gosling's chiselled-chested Romeo in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

"There are very few other men in the world that I would be OK with stealing my girl and Ryan Gosling is one of them," Groban laughs.

Currently single - he previously dated Mad Men actress January Jones - Groban certainly won't be short of attention when he hits our shores later this month, given his army of devoted fans known affectionately as Grobanites.

He last toured Australia in 2007 and since then has released two albums: 2010's Illuminations and All That Echoes, which made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in February. All That Echoes features seven of his own songs, including opening track Brave, along with covers such as Stevie Wonder's I Believe and Glen Hansard's Oscar-winning Falling Slowly.

"I'm not thinking about one album specifically, I'm just thinking about hitting the stage in a country I haven't been in a while and saying 'Nice to meet you', all over again with my show," Groban says of what fans can expect from his show.

"When you visit a place you haven't been to in so long all the rules are out the window. You get out there and basically want to connect."

Groban has bittersweet memories of his first trip to Australia 10 years ago, when he contracted strep throat on the flight over.

"I remember feeling a combination of complete wonderment of the country, the natural beauty, the people, the food . . . and I also remember being really sick," he recalls.

"In my mind and in my heart I was beaming with joy to be there but in my throat I was swallowing razor blades."

His last trip was fortunately a much happier and healthier experience, with Groban developing a taste for chilli mussels when he was in Perth.

"Every time I come to Australia I get a perma-grin," he says. "It's been six years since I was last there so I think it's time for a refresher."

Josh Groban plays the Riverside Theatre on April 16. Tickets from Ticketek.

The West Australian

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