If he were just another ballad singer who happened to sell more than 25 million albums, Josh Groban would be easy to define.

But his music, most often labeled as "popera," is only one part of the equation.

On one hand, there he is pouring his heart out for "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)."

Then he's singing Kanye West's tweets on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

One day, he's singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" at President Obama's inauguration. The next, he's urinating in someone's coffee cup in the trailer for the new movie "Coffee Town."

As he puts it, "I'm extremely serious about my music and I'm not at all serious about myself."

That's why he often takes a break during his show for a random, unscripted Q&A with the audience.

"I love keeping it loose between the songs," he says. "The songs are serious enough. I think it's fun to really get to know the audience and have fun and crack jokes. If I can get people to laugh and cry in the same evening, I feel like I've done my job."

Clearly it's working for him. Thirteen years after he got his big break — as Andrea Bocelli's stand-in at a Grammy concert rehearsal with Celine Dion — the 32-year-old is one of the top-selling performers in the world. With each album going multi-platinum, the self-described "tenor in training" walks the line between classical and pop for inspirational hits like "You Raise Me Up," "Believe" and "To Where You Are."

Before he teams up with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Wednesday night at Sonoma State's Green Music Center, Groban took a break to chat about 1990s rockers, Tanglewood West and the perfect show:

<strong>Q: What are you up to today?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> We're kind of doing a belated Father's Day barbecue with my dad. I'm home for a precious four days and my brother's going to make tacos and we're going to go for a swim.

<strong>Q: If your brother's making tacos, what are you making?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I can make a pretty mean steak, so I'll probably help my dad with the grilling.

<strong>Q: I just happened to see the trailer for "Coffee Town," where you're urinating in someone's coffee. Now when you started out singing years ago, did you have any idea it would lead to this?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I could have only hoped. I said to myself, "I've checked off so many things on my list. I've sung with Aretha Franklin, Placido Domingo. What haven't I done?" And I realized the glaring omission was peeing in a cup in a dream sequence in an independent comedy.


Q: I saw you tweeted about the "amazing" show you just had at (Colorado amphitheater) Red Rocks. I'm curious, what's the perfect show like for you these days?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> Well, you play so many venues, I mean 90 percent of the venues I've played in the last five years have been indoors. So any time you have a venue that's under the stars. You can hear the birds chirping and you've got the wind blowing on stage. You've got amazing acoustics and talk about the greatest bands in the world — you've got either the Santa Rosa Symphony or the Colorado Symphony. It's amazing. It also helps that at venues like this, people are just drinking all night long.


Q: Speaking of special venues, when you're out here, you'll be playing the Green Music Center. Millions of dollars have gone into this place and some people have called it "Tanglewood West." Are you curious about playing it for the first time?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I am curious and very much looking forward to it. I've played Tanglewood many times and I love venues like this. Like you said, there's been a huge amount of hype and excitement about the beauty of this venue. So yeah, it's going to be just as much of a thrill for me hopefully as it will for people out in the audience.


Q: Before we go, did you ever hear back from Kanye on the tweets you sang?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> No, but he retweeted it. So I think that was his way of saying, all right, I acknowledge this exists. I know Jimmy (Kimmel) tried to get him to rap some of my tweets, but that did not happen.


Q: You'll take the retweet any day?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I will absolutely take a retweet over an offensive name-drop in one of his songs.

<em>Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, john@sideshowvideo.com and follow on Twitter @becksay.</em>