“These songs on this album are timeless and iconic, and they’re the songs that — they’ve been singing them since the 50s and 60s,” says Matthew Morrison says of his new album, “Where It All Began.” “There’s an appetite for this music, for fresh, young people to reinterpret this music in their own way. I feel like there’s a demand, and I feel like in 20 years from now there will be a demand.”
Morrison may be best known as “Glee’s” endlessly optimistic and well-meaning mentor Will Schuester, but the Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated star is returning to his first love, Broadway classics, on his just-released second solo album, “Where It All Began.” The album explores standards made famous on the Broadway stage, a place Morrison feels extremely comfortable.
“My love of Broadway began at a very young age,” Morrison says. “My mom used to listen to standards, to old Broadway show tunes and stuff. This is where my career began, this is where my love of music began, so I thought it would be very apropo to do this album.”
Producers Phil Ramone helmed production on the album, which also features a duet with Smokey Robinson on “Ease On Down The Road” from “The Wiz.”
“I met Smokey Robinson at an Elton John AIDS foundation event honoring Motown [in 2012],” recalls Morrison. “I got to talking with him that night, and we shared our love for music, especially this kind of music. We just kept in contact, the conversation kept going beyond that night, and he said he’d love to be on the album. And that was such a surreal experience — when someone like Smokey Robinson comes into the studio to be on your album. It’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Robinson wasn’t the only megastar involved in Morrison’s work: “Where It All Began” is the first album released on 222 Records, the new imprint of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Morrison says that working with Levine was just like being on “The Voice,” but without the cameras.
“The great thing about Adam is that he’s actually very hands-off,” explains Morrison. “He knows how he wants to be treated as an artist, and so he treats his artists that way, giving them a sense of freedom and creativity. You don’t think of Adam as a lover of this music, but he loves the standards.”
While his “Glee” costars like Amber Riley, Naya Rivera and Darren Criss are all exploring solo careers, Morrison points out that the journey from “Glee” to recording artist is different from person to person.
“I think it’s a different experience for anyone,” says Morrison. “For this album, it’s very symphonic and orchestral, so I’m doing the Symphony Circuit of sorts. So I’m playing with the Boston Pops and the National Symphony Orchestra. I’m standing on a stage with 60 piece orchestras behind me. So it’s a much different experience than Naya and Amber will have. Darren’s very live, he’s playing his guitar, he’s been doing that his whole life. He’s a pro. Amber and Naya have been singing their whole lives — I think they’ll be just fine. For them it’s just finding the right music,and it’s been a process for them.”
For fans who can’t experience the live show in person, Morrison’s PBS special, “Matthew Morrison: Where It All Began – Live From the Bushnell,” debuts June 1st.