A cappella performances were mostly relegated to college campuses when Naturally 7 formed in 1999. The group, performing at Arbogast Performing Arts Center in Troy on Saturday, Oct. 22, is among the progenitors that helped take the unique strain of modern vocal music into the mainstream.
Many a cappella acts have a vocal percussionist. Naturally 7 does too but differs from other groups because each singer also focuses on recreating the sound of a particular instrument. Leader Roger Thomas is first baritone and contributes rap vocals and keyboard sounds. The group also features Ricky Cort (lead tenor, lead guitar sounds), Dwight Stewart (lead baritone, trombone sounds), Sean Simmonds (first tenor, harmonica sounds), Rod Eldridge (second tenor, DJ scratch and rhythm guitar sounds), Warren Thomas (third tenor, drum sounds) and N’namdi Bryant (bass vocals and sounds).
Thomas recently answered some questions about Naturally 7, which won “Best Group” but failed to take the top prize on the CBS competition series, “World’s Best,” in 2019.
Question: What do you make of the growing mainstream acceptance of a cappella?
Answer: When we first started touring, we were doing college campuses. That’s where a cappella music was thriving but I always believed it could be more popular. Anytime somebody just starts singing a cappella, people love it. They’re attracted to people singing without instruments and they’ll stop what they’re doing. There has always been attraction but it never got the mainstream commercial attention it so well deserves and that has been a mission of ours through the years. With the rise of different acts like Bobby McFerin, Take Six, Pentatonix, Straight No Chaser and ourselves, a cappella has been exposed to the masses more and more. There are people we have inspired that are going to take it even further and further.
Q: What did appearing on “World’s Best” mean for Naturally 7?
A: We really had a good time even though we’re the type of group that didn’t want to compete. The last time we were in a competition was when we first started the group way back in 1999. After winning that first competition, we weren’t going to compete again. The show approached us and said it was going to be professionals from different backgrounds performing and we were representing the best in the field of a cappella. In the end, we had to go up against a little kid in the final competition. He was 10 or 11 years old. Guess what? (laughs) Kids and little pets are tough to beat but it was a fun experience. It was really cool to see how those types of programs work.
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Q: How did the lockdowns impact the group?
A: We went on a cruise in January 2020. We came back and that was it, the world shut down the next month. I thought it would be 60 days, maybe 90, and we’d be back in the swing of things. After six months, you realize it might be another six months. Then, you’re like, ‘This might be a change of life.’ We didn’t get back out on the road until the middle of 2021. We really missed the people, being on stage and everything else during the pandemic but the band actually learned how to do a lot of things. If we were going to do some new music, we’d normally book some studio time but during that time we all created studios in our homes. We all even had green screen setups so we could do videos. We became independent in that way. It also allowed us to crank out a lot of music.
Q: Does that mean you’re working on a new album?
A: Yes, we should be done with it before the end of the year. It’s ‘N7 at the Movies.’ In 2021, during the pandemic, we were contracted by SAG to do some songs for the awards ceremony. They wanted us to do ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the Bee Gees and ‘It Might Be You’ from the movie, ‘Tootsie.’ So, we recorded those and they came out so nice. After the awards show, we were talking about what else we were going to do with the songs and we decided to do an album of all movie songs. It’s those soundtrack songs that people really remember, things that changed the industry or had an impact on us. We’re talking about James Bond, ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Grease’ and ‘Eight Mile.’ We’ve got ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and things you wouldn’t even think we’d do but if they had an impact on us in some form, we decided to record it.
Q: What can the audience expect from the concert at Arbogast Performing Arts Center?
A: When we perform, we take people on a journey. The whole idea is for people to be uplifted so we want to make sure the audience knows to expect the unexpected. No matter what experience they’ve had watching us on TV, on YouTube videos or wherever they’ve seen us, there’s nothing like a live show. After going through the 2020 we’ve all gone through, we’re excited to perform for a living, breathing audience and we want everybody that comes out to have a great time.
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
Who: Naturally 7
Where: Arbogast Performing Arts Center, 500 S. Dorset Road, Troy
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22
More info: 937-418-8392 or www.arbogastpac.com
Artist info: www.naturallyseven.com