By Megan Riggs | Posted in Onstage
WO: Anything else you’d like fans to know?Read more: http://www.whats-on.com/
(Seggie): If people have any questions, they can find us on sncmusic.com. We’re very active with social media—Facebook, Twitter—we reach out to our fans all the time. People think it’s weird we make ourselves so available to the fans but if it weren’t for the fans there would be no us.
Edit: The link doesn't work anymore, so the full text of the interview appears below:
Straight No Chaser, an all-male a capella group, scored a five-record deal with Atlantic Records after becoming a You Tube sensation with a quirky version of the “12 Days of Christmas” that quickly went viral. Now, Straight No Chaser is touring the country, with a stop at Paris Las Vegas Nov. 7. Formed more than a dozen years ago by students at Indiana University, the group’s albums have included two holiday releases, 2008’s Holiday Spirits and 2009’s Christmas Cheers. So much more than a really big boy band, the 10 men of Straight No Chaser show off vocal talent as well as wit and an infectious energy. The band’s newest album is With a Twist, which features familiar standards like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and a collaboration with Barry Manilow on his famous song, “One Voice.” We spoke with baritone and vocal percussionist Seggie Isho about his experience with the group.
What’s On: How did you get started with Straight No Chaser?
Seggie Isho: Early last year two of the original members left the group. They had small children so they didn’t want to be on the road 10, 11 months out of the year. So, the original guys got together and held auditions in Chicago. I flew out and auditioned. A couple of weeks later I got a phone call saying, “Hey, would you like to be a part of Straight No Chaser?” So, obviously, someone calls and asks if you want a record deal with Atlantic Records and the opportunity to pursue your true passion, you don’t very often say “no.” I literally dropped everything and joined Straight No Chaser.
WO: When did you first start singing?
I: It sounds cliché, but I was in the first grade and my music teacher pulled my parents aside and said, “Listen, your son has a good ear, he has good pitch and can carry a tune, which is not that common for first graders.” Ever since then I’ve been working to perfect this instrument to be able to sing better. I actually went to school for trumpet performance; I was an instrumental major, classical trumpet. I joined Straight No Chaser [at Indiana University] because instrumental and vocal is 50/50 for me…I wanted to be involved with both somehow in college.
WO: What can you tell us about a Straight No Chaser concert?
I: I like to say that we put on a show, it’s not just a concert. When audiences come to see us, they feel like they’re part of the experience. It’s a lot different listening to our albums than seeing us live. A lot of what we do [comes from] our chemistry onstage. We’re really just 10 regular guys from the Midwest who got incredibly lucky, so when we’re onstage we’re always having just the most ridiculous time because it could all be done tomorrow or it could last forever. So, we treat it as the greatest thing ever. We get onstage, have a great time, clown around, make fun of each other—the banter is hilarious. We take songs that the audience is going to know, but they haven’t heard them the way we do them. We don’t just cover songs. We take a song and make it our own, give it our Straight No Chaser twist.
WO: Do you have a favorite song that’s performed during your show?
I: This tour we’ve added a couple new tunes. A couple of my favorites: we do an awesome mashup of “Billie Jean” and Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” which kind of blindsides you as a listener. You hear the bass line for “Billie Jean” come in, it’s so recognizable and then the solo comes in and he’s singing “Poison,” so that’s really fun to see the audience’s reaction on that. And we do a real cool version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” that sounds nothing like the original. Mike Luginbill sings a solo on it and he absolutely kills it.
WO: Are you featured in a particular song?
I: I sing solo on a couple of tunes, and I do vocal percussion as well…The first time I tried [vocal percussion], it sounded awful [laughs]. It’s just something you’re constantly getting better at it the more you do it.
WO: What is the rehearsal process like with 10 guys?
I: Well, we have a musical director, but he definitely takes input from all 10 of us. Sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen, but for the most part, we sit down at rehearsals, we usually get together about two weeks before a tour and in a central location somewhere since we’re all scattered across the country, and we start putting together this music. Sometimes we don’t have physical sheet music to learn songs off of, we just kind of make it up as we go. If we feel a certain vibe or a certain melody, we’ll build off of that and it’s really fun to see the creative process within this group because you’ve got 10 guys with 10 different opinions, 10 different musical tastes and when we’re able to blend them all together we hit the jackpot and get just a killer song.
WO: How do you personally prepare for a show?
I: Today [for example], I’m going to go for a three mile run, then come back, have lunch, shower, then we’ll have sound check and usually we don’t do a lot of talking on show days to rest the voice. And then probably about an hour before the show usually have hot tea with some whiskey in it just to loosen up the vocal cords a bit.
WO: Since you live here, what are some of your favorite things to do in Vegas?
I: I’m a nightlife guy. I was always out in the bars and clubs in Vegas. I’ve got a lot of friends that work in the industry. So anytime I’m home, I’m always out. I love going to Vanity and XS—the hot spots.
WO: What was the experience like meeting and recording with Barry Manilow?
I: It’s funny because we opened for him last fall at the Hollywood Bowl and we didn’t get a chance to meet him. We were in and out so quickly and with all the commotion, we didn’t get to meet him. Then he took a liking to us and reached out to our manager and said, “Hey, I’ve got this song; it’s my favorite song that I’ve ever written. I would really love the guys to back me up on it.” So, obviously, he’s a living legend, we were all ecstatic, like, ”Yeah, let’s do it.” And the entire process, we recorded our tracks in Bloomington, Indiana and he recorded his solo track in his studio in California so we never got to meet him throughout the whole process. But, this summer we opened for him and did the same track, “One Voice” with him in Atlantic City, and we got to meet him and spend some time with him. He’s such a down to earth, humble guy for someone with that kind of stature.
WO: Anything else you’d like fans to know?
I: If people have any questions, they can find us on sncmusic.com. We’re very active with social media—Facebook, Twitter—we reach out to our fans all the time. People think it’s weird we make ourselves so available to the fans but if it weren’t for the fans there would be no us.