This summer, singer-songwriter Josh Groban carved out two weeks for an orchestral tour of East Coast amphitheaters. It's one of his favorite things to do.
"I grew up in L.A., with the Hollywood Bowl and the L.A. Philharmonic," Groban says. "It's the kind of music that I make, combined with the fact that I just grew up loving symphony shows."
Groban, 33, writes or co-writes most of his own songs, which tend to be dramatic, serious but not humorless, and well-suited to symphonic textures. He sings with an earnest, wide vibrato (usually enveloped in reverb) like every song is the last you'll ever hear.
Groban's latest album, "All That Echoes," unfolds with orchestral gestures — harps, smallish groups of strings, the odd crescendo here and there — while acoustic guitars, pianos and rock drums provide much-needed backbone. It's easy listening, of the heaviest kind.
The symphonic seeds were planted early. Groban attended the Interlochen Arts Camp, where he befriended members of the Youth Symphony Orchestra while teaching himself to play piano and drums. In college, however, Groban focused on theater. "I always wanted to be an actor, and I always thought the singing part of it would be in service to the acting side of it," he says. "I thought I'd do musical theater or light opera or something like that. So I get into this business, and I get a record deal."
That deal ultimately led to selling more than 25 million records worldwide. Last year, "All That Echoes," Groban's sixth studio album, made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, becoming his third record to top the charts: not bad for a side interest.
Groban's orchestral tour, which kicked off on Aug. 16 in Cary, N.C., arrives at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville on Aug. 29, where he'll perform with a core band that travels with him and the Donn Trenner Orchestra.
Singing in front of 50 musicians won't be a far cry from what Groban regularly pulls off in the studio, where he records his vocal takes live, along with the orchestra.
"That's the best way to do it," he says. "Sometimes if we get a great orchestra performance, I'll go back and sing again on top of it, if I want to just do one phrase or something, to get it a little better. But generally that doesn't happen. I'd say nine times out of 10 we capture a moment. It's usually Take Two."
Sessions are all about the ebb and flow of what's going on in the room, the palpable sense that they're all playing together. There's also some built-in fear, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"It's essentially that magic that happens with a live performance with an audience. You try to capture that in the [studio]. You do four or five takes in a row and pick the best one… It puts you in the role of captain of a very, very large ship."
Groban's success as a recording artist, ironically, led to numerous television and movie roles. He landed the part of Emma Stone's boyfriend, Richard, in the 2011 Steve Carell vehicle "Crazy, Stupid, Love." ("I got the role of kind of a douchebag lawyer," Groban says, "and got a lot of heat for that.")
Soon after, actress and writer Mindy Kaling messaged Groban on Twitter and asked him to appear on an episode of "The Office" as Walter Bernard Jr., Andy's younger brother, a role he reprised the following season in 2012.
"Cameos have come about in the oddest, most serendipitous ways," Groban says. "I feel like the acting side of it has happened really organically, very naturally... I like taking on stuff where it feels like an ace up your sleeve. I like taking on stuff where people go, 'Oh, that was really unexpected and funny.' I don't think I'd want to carry a whole picture, at least not yet."
Groban will soon appear in "The Hollars," "Office" star John Krasinski's directing debut, along with Sharlto Copley, Anna Kendrick and Charlie Day. Comedic roles, meanwhile, offer a nice counterbalance to the gravity of Groban's music.
"It's something I've felt I've always done more naturally," he says. "Some people just have an instinct for when to cry. Maybe it's the music side, but I've always just felt that I can understand the comedic timing of a bit, and it's always just felt like it has come naturally."
"Stage and Screen," one of two new studio albums Groban is working on simultaneously, could be finished in time for a Christmas release. The other album, Groban says, "is one that's more original music along the lines of what I've done, but with new songs, and that always takes a little more time."
For the current tour, Groban chose energetic songs that skew slightly more toward the classical realm. "We want to utilize that sound the best that we can. We don't want to waste 50 people on a pop song that may have had 10 strings. We're going to do all the songs that I know the fans want to hear, but at the same time it gives a chance to really take the stuff that best suits my style of voice with that backdrop."
The music business, meanwhile, "is in a really funny place right now where you're trying to find out what even is a cycle anymore, where people are even buying music in mass consumption anymore," Groban says.
"Basically what you have is your connection with your fan base, because it feels like the industry is just setting tables on the Titanic, you have the ability to just focus on doing the best work possible and hoping your fans like it. The traditional forms of marketing are all getting twisted and turned. So it's great. It's a very, very busy summer and I'm enjoying every minute of it."
JOSH GROBAN performs at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville on Friday, Aug. 29. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $70 to $90. Information: mohegansun.com.
Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to correct the day of the week Josh Groban is playing.