Josh Groban
Josh Groban (COURTESY PHOTO)

You drive down the highway and look up at the billboard, only to see his face.

You turn on your television to watch your favorite show, and when it goes to commercial, there he is again.

He is Josh Groban. It used to be easy to define Groban as a singer-songwriter.

Descriptions of his voice classify him as anywhere from a tenor to a baritone (he's got the range to encompass both), while descriptions of his career are similarly hard to pin down.

Yes, he's still a singer. In fact, he's coming to TD Garden on Nov. 9 with Idina Menzel supporting as he tours behind his new album, "Bridges."

But he's also an actor. If you turn on Netflix, you can watch Groban alongside Tony Danza in the Netflix original series "The Good Cop."

He has also performed on Broadway as Pierre Bezukhov in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812," a role that earned him a 2017 Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.

How does Groban find the time to be so productive?

"It comes in waves," Groban told me earlier this week in a telephone interview. "When you live the life of an entertainer, you spend a year or two making things, so you are cooped up in a studio and nobody sees you."

How does he find the brain power to memorize song lyrics vs. television show scripts and stage lines?

"It all comes down to instincts and rhythm. I found so many similarities between making music and getting the perfect take in a recording studio and the perfect take in an acting environment.


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"In music, things happen fast. You come up with a melody, write it down, swing the microphone around and record something that came out of thin air five minutes ago. In 'The Good Cop,' you learn five or six pages you will do the night before, or maybe a week in advance, and you spend 15 hours that day working on those six pages. There's so much time spent on every character, every shot, every line. It really comes down to, in music, harnessing the first instinct and energy, and, in TV, it's about making sure your energy stays up when you've been on your feet for 15 hours."

Groban's no stranger to acting, starting with his role as Malcolm Wyatt on "Ally McBeal" back in 2001. He has been on "Glee" as himself, on two episodes of "The Office" as Walter Bernard Jr., on "CSI: NY," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Parks and Recreation" as himself, and many other shows.

"I wasn't a stranger to the acting world, but when you do a cameo or bit part, you're in and out in one week. The stamina of doing it for four or five months is a lot more intense."

Groban sees his acting as helping his music career.

"The music business has changed so much. Back when the music business was at its heyday, and you could think about selling 20 million or 30 million or 40 million records, there were definite places to go to purchase what you wanted to get. That's dwindling now. You were also put into more specific bins. Genres were much more defined. Are you a singer? Are you an actor? Are you a songwriter? There were more places to spend money on things, but less branches to widen your lane.

"With streaming, social media and YouTube, it's become the Wild West, which is bad for the bottom line if you're one thing, but if you have lots of things you are interested in, it's like the Gold Rush. There's all kinds of ways to get aspects of who you are out there, more than ever before. With the messiness of the internet comes more opportunities to show all sides of you and, hopefully, stay with fans who are interested in all sides of you."

Groban's new album, "Bridges," features duets with Andrea Bocelli, Jennifer Nettles and Sarah McLachlan. He said schedules made it difficult to get studio time with each of them, so for the Bocelli and McLachlan duets, he would get an Internet connection through which they could communicate with one another and record simultaneously. He said the Nettles duet was recorded together when she was on tour with Sugarland in Los Angeles while he was in town and they went to the studio together.

Now he's coming back to Boston, a city Groban loves.

"We've played almost every venue there is there. My last tour manager was from Boston. My crew guys are from Boston. There's always a deep connection there. What can I say? The audiences there are phenomenal. Whatever venue we're at, the crowds are the best.

"That said, playing the Garden is a huge honor, and you want to live up to everything that place has seen."

And heard.