Making your mark on a children's game show is not how most recording artists launch their rocket to fame. (Just ask the guy who composed the music for Nickelodeon's Guts.) But Rockapella has been churning out records and touring for more than 20 years. I had the pleasure of catching up with Rockapella frontman Scott Leonard to find out "What, in the world, has Rockapella been up to?"
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
How has the recent Rockapella Tour been going?
It's been like a box of chocolates, from October in Tokyo to November in Wabash, Indiana.
Would you say that it's easier to tour as an a cappella group, having no instruments to lug around?
Definitely easier on the back. This is a very low-maintenance group of guys — no green M&M demands or anything like that.
Any awesome "TV through the hotel window" stories to accompany that or, do you guys tend to keep it pretty low-key?
Oh, it's crazy on the road with Rockapella. Sometimes I don't even make the bed.
Any special surprises for the holiday show at the Tampa Theater this month? [Thurs. December 22, 2011, 7:30 p.m.]
With the new holiday record (A Rockapella Holiday, available at ROCKAPELLA.COM), we've got some brand new stuff to share with all, and, at each concert this year, one of us will be performing without pants.
Tell me about getting "Bang" on Rock Band and if there were any particular challenges getting that to happen?
I have no idea. We just give our okay, and those wizards make it happen. I think that's kind of a cool thing, though, to have our instrument-free song on Rock Band.
What do you think about the recent resurgence of a cappella singing nationwide? Do you think it helps the brand or just over-saturates the market?
Over the years, we've been through all the "re-discoveries" of this trail we blazed — from N'Sync to Glee to The Sing-Off. On one hand, it's fun to see renewed interest. On the other, enough with the auto-tune.
Do any of you play instruments? If so, do you think it helps as a vocalist and understanding the vocal group dynamic?
Steve gigs with his guitar. He's quite good. I think Jeff played French horn in school. I started with viola, and advanced to playing piano poorly. Playing any instrument helps your musicality. Anybody can sing (or make "singing" sounds). Making the effort on an instrument is learning another language, and is a more substantial accomplishment.
Is there one person who handles the vocal arrangements or is it a collaborative effort?
I do the arranging, writing. Our last album, Bang, was fun, though, because each guy contributed a song, making that record particularly unique within our bulging catalogue.
Any side projects or guest appearances coming up?
My latest solo album, Tokyo Robots, is available at SCOTTLEONARDMUSIC.COM. One of our most enjoyable collaborations will fill our December when we tour the country with The Boston Pops. This will be our first holiday tour with them, and I think I'm going to really enjoy it. I grew up with their Christmas TV specials, and once I'm able to stand in the wings and hear them play "Sleigh Ride," I may just retire.