by Gina Scarpa
Starting Monday, December 14, Nick Lachey will host NBC’s The Sing Off, an a capella singing contest where the best group will walk away with a $100,000 prize and a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony. Helping decide who will win that prize are judges Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman (of Boyz II Men), and a slew of celebrity guests. Today, Nick and executive producer Joel Gallen spoke to reporters in a conference call about The Sing Off and what viewers can expect!
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What do Ben and Shawn bring to the table as judges?
A. Nick: Clearly, both are incredibly respected and talented musicians who have been in the business for a long time. They’re both familiar with what it means to be an a cepella performer. I can’t think of two better people suited for this.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: It seems that just about every college has an a capella group. What sets a group apart from the pack as being outstanding?
A. Nick: A capella can cover so many different styles and I think we’re going to see lots of different styles represented. Aside from the stylistic differences, what really sets a group apart is their preparation. How much you put into and how much you prepare and practice will be one of the most telling things.
Q. How did you come up with the schedule for the show?
A. Joel: It was a network decision, based on their scheduling needs. They thought this was a great way to launch a new series like this, where they could really slam the promotion and get people keyed up over four days within a week’s time. We originally presented it as eight 1 hour shows but we ended up condensing the show into four 2 hour shows.
Q. How did you select the groups for The Sing Off?
A. Joel: We went through an intensive casting process. We searched across the country, by going on location, looking at clips on YouTube, and asking people to submit videos. We definitely got 2500-3000 groups that we looked at. We went through a very meticulous process to weed it down and find the 8 that we have. You have to go through background checks and scheduling. There were groups that couldn’t work it. If you’re a college group, you might have final exams. If you have jobs and families… that’s the thing about this show that’s interesting. None of these groups do this for a living. This is just a labor or love, a passion. No one really makes a living singing a capella, at least on our show. I think that’s what makes our show even more compelling.
Q. What will your duties be as host?
A. Nick: Obviously, it’s all about a capella music, which is exciting to me because it hasn’t really been explored on tv before. It’s a passion for me and 98 Degrees always took a lot of pride in being able to sing a capella. My responsibility is to move the show along and secondly, to be kind of a support system to these groups. I’m excited to be a part of it and hear what these guys have to offer.
Q. Would you have been a judge?
A. Nick: I wouldn’t have been opposed to being a judge. That being said, I enjoy the opportunity to not have to play that role and be a friend to the group. Having been in the music business for about 13 years, you learn what’s good and what sounds good so that puts you in the position to be an effective judge.
Q. Are you a fan of American Idol?
A. Nick: To be honest, I’ve not been the most avid watcher of American Idol. I’ve always been a fan of a capella music and that’s what so intriguing about this show. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s all about the performance.
Q. Who is your favorite group right now?
A. Nick: Now? Kings of Leon.
Q. Who are you hoping tunes in for The Sing Off? What kind of audience are you trying to reach?
A. Joel: That’s a very good question. We’re trying to reach as many people as possible. We’re not zeroing in on a specific age group or demographic. We’re trying to get as wide a range as possible. Based on the type of music we’re going to showcase, I think we have a very wide range of representation which I hope will translate into a wide representation of the audience. To answer that question, we want to reach as many people as possible.
Q. How did you first get involved with a capella singing? Did you sing around the house, perhaps with your family around the holidays?
A. Nick: I wish I had a great family holiday a capella story for you but I actually went to performing arts school. I was in a 6 part male group that I used to meet with before school. It was really intricate and challenging stuff. I was also in a barbershop quartet. That was my summer gig in high school. I sang my share of “Lida Rose” back in the day and had a lot of fun.
Q. What advice do you have for singers in order to keep their stamina in the competition?
A. Nick: The best remedy is to practice and keep your voice in shape. Tea, honey, all that stuff… warming up and really preparing are all good ways to go about performing.
Q. Do you have a favorite a capella performance that you’ve done?
A. Nick: When I was with 98 Degrees, and we got to do Christmas At The White House when Clinton was president. We got to sing Ave Maria and that stands out as one of the most exciting.
Q. Which aspect of the entertainment industry has been your favorite: acting, singing, or hosting?
A. Nick: Singing is always been my passion and the way I broke into this business. It’s why I’m excited about this show.
Q. Do you have any other aspects of the industry you’d like to pursue?
A. Nick: One day, I’d like to host a sports/talk radio show! That’s my other passion. I could talk about that for hours on end.
The Sing Off premieres Monday, December 14, at 8pm ET on NBC.