It seems no one knew what to expect when Josh Groban teamed with super-producer Rick Rubin for the singer’s fifth album, Illuminations – least of all Groban and Rubin. Fittingly, the results both defy and exceed any possible expectations as each of the collaborators stepped out of his zone and together they created an entirely new zone, one where folk meets classical, where art meets intimacy, where immediacy meets timelessness and where, most importantly, Groban was free to express himself more fully, more truly than ever before.
“These are my stories,” says Groban, who co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs on the collection, complemented by personalized if surprising selections written by Nick Cave and the poignant mother-son collaboration by Kate McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright. “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.”
Groban teamed with singer-songwriter Dan Wilson (former leader of the band Semisonic and co-writer of several pieces on the Dixie Chicks’ Not Ready to Make Nice including the 2007 Grammy song of the year title track) on most of the songs. Most of the recordings were done live in a casual setting with Groban playing piano and singing alongside acoustic guitarists Matt Sweeney and Smokey Hormel and, on some songs, iconic organist Spooner Oldham. From those sessions, 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.