Vocal Asia 2015: Naturally 7 XXL Special

Origin From : Vocal Blog
Author : Juliana Baron
Date : 2015.08.14

Naturally 7 – The Band

Founded in 1999 in New York, Naturally 7 is an American music group with a special style of a cappella they call „Vocal Play“. It’s to just singing without instruments, according to Naturally 7 it is the „art of actually becoming an instrument“, using the human voice to create the sound of the instrument. The seven vocalists have an incredible ability to simulate instruments ranging from a full drum kit to brass instruments to electric guitars or bass cello. If you don’t see them performing, you can hardly believe it’s all vocal techniques.

I had the honor to have a talk with these seven outstanding artists during the Vocal Asia Festival 2015.

And as a very special treat for you Vocal Blog readers, the singers dedicated a groovy ad lib jingle to our blog, so let’s begin with a little YouTube impression of what these guys can do with their voices:

Naturally 7 – The Vocal Blog Jingle

The Interview

Juliana: I am so delighted to meet you guys in person here in Shanghai. Thank you for having a to talk about your band, your music and for sharing some Naturally 7 experiences with Vocal Blog. It is not your first time in China – you came here before on Michael Bublé’s tour as the special opening act. But last Sunday, you had your first own gig here in Shanghai.

Rod: Yes, right.

Juliana: How was it?

Rod: Yeah, it was good. Actually, you know, when you travel a lot you are not really sure sometimes what exactly to expect when you are doing something like this. And also, we were questioning how much would the audience understand of what we say and what we sing, but the response was great, we were definitely pleased and we are looking forward now to more here. So the first reception here was: very warm.

Juliana: How big was your audience, when you were here with Michael Bublé?

Roger: (laugh) Probably about 15 thousand people, something like that.

Juliana: So, honestly speaking. What is better: having 15 thousand people and it’s not your own concert or having like 1000 people who are only coming for you?

Kelz: Oh, that’s totally different! I mean, it’s a different energy you get in an arena that you don’t get in a concert hall. And vice versa. For me personally, in a theater where the audience is right there and you can see the faces of the people – I like that. You can actually better connect with the individuals who are there.

Juliana: Do you think it is different for a cappella which is more intimate?

Kelz: I mean that helps, I’d say that helps. But I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the thing. Music is a universal language. So I think when people can identify with the lyrics that they hear, or what  they might personally going through at that point – that’s something that helps … maybe he’s been having a really bad day, he comes to the show, the energy is high, the music is great and what’s being said something in one or perhaps even all the songs, something speaks specifically to that person – those are the type of things that help to connect.

Roger: You said, 15 thousand versus one thousand at a Naturally 7 show. Well, „Naturally 7 show“ – It’s our show, we love our show, it’s always more fun to do our show. That audience came for you. That’s the beautiful thing. If we had 15 thousand people at our show and one thousand – I think I still would be a person, I would always be amazed by the 15 thousand, but definitely the smaller things are the more intimate. We just gave a show in Switzerland, it was called the sea rose, it was like a rose on the water. And it was a very, very small audience, but that was one of my favorite performances. Maybe it was only about 150 people or something like that. It was beautiful, beautiful.

Juliana: I really fell for your encore song at the concert on Sunday: “Caught in the moment“. You encouraged the audience to live the moment, to be aware of each moment being unique. With such a busy schedule of yours, how much can you really enjoy the moment?

Rod: It is a challenge, it is very difficult, that’s why you always have to be mindful, to be deliberate about trying to recognize the moment that you are in and recognize it for what it is as best as you can while you’re in. Time is always gonna change the perspective, even in that moment you are actually in. As time goes on but you cannot compare that to new moments. And moments gonna change and also the significance sometimes…But trying always to be conscious of where you are, what you’re in or how things are effecting you and how you feel. It’s something that’s not easy but you have to make a point of time in trying to do that.

Juliana: You seem to have endless power and energy on and off stage, also during the workshops and despite heavy jetlag. How do you do that? How do you keep fit?

Naturally 7  (laugh, pointing to Ricky)

Ricky: Well, we have a program that we are on, we try – most of the guys are involved… When we are on the road, before breakfast, get up, do 45 minutes or half hour work out, then go for breakfast and then we are done for the day. I am trying to do that program… All the guys look really cross-eyed now, cause they are sore (laugh)

Juliana: On a flyer here in Shanghai promoting your concert, I saw only 5 of you „Naturally 5“ – they cut the picture. Did you ever have to go on stage missing a member as „Naturally 6“?

Rod: Yes. We’ve done it. And of course it was „Unnaturally 6“ at that time. This are a handful of occasions, but we have done it. But it was really under extreme circumstances, because it’s so important to have the full unit, because so many things hinge upon – you know, one man is hinging on the next man and so on… But we’ve had that.

Roger: So, if we have performed 3000 times, we might have done that 30 times at most.

Juliana: It’s not long ago that you, Kelz and Ricky joined N7. Both of you in 2015 and Ricky just in April. How easy was it to become a member and what talents do you have to bring to become a Naturally 7 member?

Ricky: „easy“ isn’t something I would use to describe it (laugh). There is a lot. Each person has a lot of responsibility as far as their role, the things that they carry in and the things that they have to do in order for the next guy to be able to do his part. So, because we travel so much,  you have to come in and hit the ground running. There is no ramp-up period where you can say „OK, I’ll get those last five songs, guys“ – you have to give more! You have to be able to just really hit the ground running. It took a lot of preparation beforehand, before joining, a lot of personal practice …

Juliana: Did you join the tour to practice with them? (Naturally 7 came back in March from the Michael Bublé tour and Ricky had his first concert in April!)

Ricky: Once I knew I was going to be in the group, I’ve been practicing back in Los Angeles where I live, and then I went on a tour with the guys, but I didn’t perform. I just kind of shadowed the person I would replace. So, they would go on stage and I would sing the entire show just backstage. So that whole tour, I didn’t perform, but I sang the whole time.

Roger: And then the first time he did perform, he had to do about 18 songs. Because we would go straight into our German tour which was a full show. In Kelz’s case, because we were on tour with Michael Bublé at that time, so we were doing about 35 minutes, so about 5 to 6 songs, and then get to the point where we were doing a full show. It’s pretty heavy for the other five of us too to replace. We’ve never done two members in the same year …

Juliana: What would you say how did your sound change with almost 30 percent of new members?

Roger: (laugh) 30 percent. That’s the beautiful thing about voices. It’s different from a guy taking over the bass guitar or taking over for a guitarist and learns how to play the way that the other guitarist did. A voice literally changes the sound, even one of us, just ever so slightly. And then the bass being one of these and many times Ricky is singing the top part. So, it is something new. And we as the other five, we realized „Ok, it’s still Naturally 7, it’s still that sound, but it changed just a little bit.“ And interesting enough, the voices become more and more what we are and still maintain who they are. And that’s the beautiful thing in a cappella music.

Juliana: What is your most exotic instrument in your portfolio? Have you ever tried a Jamaican „benta“ or a Chinese violin?

Roger: I would say didgeridoo, the Australian didgeridoo. Actually we just put out a song called „You are the voice“ you can check it out on Youtube (see the link below). It starts off with Kelz doing the didgeridoo. Just because we are going soon on tour in Australia and this was a special type of anthem song for them. But it’s something like everybody can do.

Juliana: Your music covers such a variety of genres: R&B, Pop, Rock, even classical and medieval sounds… – and of course gospel. While listening to you live, I was deeply touched by some songs which were extremely emotionally powerful and with deep soul. How much do your Christian roots and your religious background accompany your musical journey?

Warren: I think that the essence of really what we do is the spiritual aspect, that’s really the glue that keeps us together. The spiritual aspect is infused in a lot of our songs – you’ll hear it and feel it. That’s definitely one of the keys to everything.



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