My Sing Off Obsession
Okay guys, so in case you didn’t know, I’m TOTALLY addicted to the show The Sing Off that comes on NBC. My favorite group was Afro Blue from Washington, DC . I really like this group because they take jazz, which can be kinda kooky-sounding to those who don’t love it and they make it something the average music listener can understand. I caught up with group member Danielle Withers to ask her a few questions about herself, the group, the show, and the quest of making jazz accessible.
Tee: Why do you think some people see jazz as something untouchable?
Danielle: I think that a lot of music today, though I love it, is pretty simple. They don’t really explore too much as it relates to song structure and chords. Most songs gravitate between two chords these days, and jazz music is like a mural of music structure in every way. And i think sometimes, when people aren’t familiar with something, it scares them. It’s not what their ears are accustomed too. However, I’ve received countless messages via facebook and twitter from people saying that said they never liked jazz before, but they love what Afro Blue is doing.
Tee: That actually leads into my next question. Why do you think Afro Blue has changed people’s perceptions of jazz and what is some feedback you’ve heard?
Danielle: We’ve put a personality behind jazz music and we’ve been blessed with this amazing platform with which to share it. Because jazz isn’t seen as commercial, we don’t see jazz artists performing on the VMAs or other similar platforms, and it can be difficult to put jazz out there. With The Sing Off as a platform, on NBC in a prime time slot, we can share this music with people who wouldn’t normally see it. Jazz isn’t as exposed as it used to be, and we’re showing the world that jazz still exists and it’s cool and here are a bunch of 20 year olds that love and you can too! You can be as excited about as we are. It proves to the world that complex music can be just as cool as the simple stuff.
Tee: Tell us some dirt about The Sing Off judges?
Danielle: *laughs* There is no dirt. They are 3 amazing musicians that we’ve all looked up to growing up and we still look up to them now. We tend to put celebrities in this magical place where they are untouchable, but they are really cool people and down to earth. They’re really friendly and we’re glad to have met them. They’re really amazing people that make really amazing music and just so happen to have grammy nominations and awards.
Tee: What was your favorite song, or episode on The Sing Off?
Danielle: My favorite episode was definitely the hip hop episode. It’s my favorite for two different reasons: 1) This was the point in the competition that the groups had established REAL friendships with each other, people had really settled into what exactly the competition was and we were all in this “we’re all in this together” mode. It was at this point where it got really fun to work with other people in other groups. 2) Killing Me Softly was my FAVORITE arrangement that Afro Blue did. This song was a true portrayal of who we all are musically, as both as arrangers and musicians. Killing Me Softly was a lot of fun to arrange and to sing. We loved it.
Tee: How did you come to join Afro Blue?
Danielle: Afro Blue is an audition-only class offered at Howard University. Initially it was only for upperclassmen, but as a freshman, I accidentally registered for it. Mrs. Miller, the director of Afro Blue, allowed me to audition anyway, and she was so impressed, she allowed me to join. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Tee: Who does Afro Blue look to, musically,or otherwise for inspiration?
Danielle: We look to The New Group, Manhattan Transfer, New York voices, definitely Take 6. We also look to the different musicians that inspire us as individuals.
Tee: What is your favorite song to perform with Afro Blue?
Danielle: American Boy is my most favorite, as it relates to The Sing Off, but it’s kind of difficult to pick just one with Afro Blue. If I had to pick, however, I’d say Everyday I Have the Blues arranged by Mrs. Miller, but it’s a transcription of the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross version. I love singing songs with Afro Blue where we vocally imitate musical instruments. Everyday I Have the Blues is a great example of that, and that’s why I love it.
Tee: What is the one thing you feel people should know about Afro Blue?
Danielle: People should know that we’re a lot of fun, we’re really silly, we love each other, we LOVE music. All in all, we just LOVE what we do. “Life is short, but art is long.”
Posted on November 18, 2011, in The Sing Off and tagged Afro-Blue, Ben Folds, Danielle Withers, Howard University, Jazz, Nick Lachey, Sara Bareilles, Shawn Stockman, The Sing Off, Washington DC. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.