Lisa Condit spoke with Steve Morgan from Straight No Chaser about the history of SNC, a cappella and so much more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Thank you all for listening today. This is Lisa Condit with The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. I’m so excited to bring you Steve Morgan. He’s from the amazing group Straight No Chaser, which is going to be coming to The Hanover Theatre on Wednesday, March 30. It’s so great to have you on the program, Steve.
Steve: Thank you. It’s so nice to talk to you, Lisa.
Lisa: Well, we have been waiting a long time because it’s been quite the pandemic. We had originally booked you years ago at this point, so you have a whole crowd of fans here in Worcester, waiting with bated breath until you get here. Tell us a little bit about what you and the group have been up to, and for people who might not be familiar with you, we’d love to hear how you would describe it.
Steve: Sure. Well, we are excited to get back with you. The pandemic was not kind to anybody, but certainly not to performers. We would have been chomping at the bit to get back on stage, so we’re excited to get there. We started back in 1996 at Indiana University. We were part of a show choir when we first got started and we decided to get together as an acapella group to sing for food and girls. What higher calling could any college students ask? Those were our humble beginnings, singing dorms and sororities across the campus, then that branched out to shows in the region, then we branched out to shows across the country and in the group Straight No Chaser. It continues as a legacy group on the campus of Indiana University. That was all we ever kind of dreamed of. We got back together after the video of the 12 Days of Christmas went viral on YouTube in 2008. We’ve been touring, touring the country and now the world ever since.
Lisa: That’s so great. For people who are just tuning in. We’re talking with Steve, he’s a part of Straight No Chaser, an acapella group. What strikes me is that you are the real version of Glee.
Steve: Yeah, we’re kind of like Glee and Pitch Perfect, all mixed up together.
Lisa: Right! So, first of all, those are some of my favorites, right there. I watched the entire series of Glee. And of course, Pitch Perfect is hysterical and I think that that brought a huge awareness to people’s voices as instruments and the harmonies that people realize that they really love to hear. Tell me a little bit, from your perspective, how would we describe the Hollywood version of what you and the rest of your group does?
Steve: Well, the reality of it is that, when we’re off the road, we’re all home. We’ve all got families and kids are our own. We’re, you know, back to being the absolute low man on the totem pole and just doing whatever our wives and our children ask of us. That is our very non-Hollywood version of things, but, back in 2008, you hadn’t had Glee, you hadn’t had even The Sing Off. All of those different things that were part of the mainstream media and mainstream entertainment at that time kind of brought more attention to the form of acapella. I mean, everybody knows what it is, and knows of it from some point in their childhood, I’m sure. I think our first album, being a holiday album, was more easily digestible because up until then, the last for the last 20 years before that, you’d had a couple of acapella songs. It’s gotten big. You heard some from Boys II Men or Bobby McFerrin, but those had definitely been the anomaly. When you brought a capella to holiday music, that’s where a capella music had still been a big part of people’s lives, you know, with Caroling and things like that. I think, in that respect, it was our entry point to easily make it something that people knew could accept.
Lisa: Absolutely, and you know what else? I love that this is it’s completely affordable. I mean, tickets start at just $39.50. For under $40, you can go in and be immersed in these beautiful harmonies and voices. I know it’s hard, because it’s like asking somebody to pick their favorite child, but is there is a particular part of the show or a particular song that you all sing that you think is the absolute high point? If there’s more than one, you can tell us about that too, but I’m just I’m always curious as far as what that moment is that they’re looking forward to every time they perform.
Steve: I think we have a couple of them and they’re on very, very different ends of the spectrum. We’ve become known over the years for getting out there singing, dancing, doing something funny… We repurpose the Meghan Trainor song “All About That Bass” to be about our bass, for instance. We’ve done, you know, some songs by Adele and Taylor Swift, we’ve had a lot of fun with the choreography and that sort of thing, where we want the audience to be clapping along, dancing along, laughing it up with us. We’re all in on the joke, if you will. At the end of the show, we like to come out, after we’ve done an hour and a half of, you know, shaking our moneymakers and singing and moving all around. We put down the microphones and we sing a song completely a capella. No amplification, there’s no cueing that can be done. It’s just voices blending and harmonizing, so those two kinds of opposite ends of the spectrum. Those are those are what really make it all very fun for me.
Lisa: Oh, I’m so looking forward to hearing that live and in person, because we are back with live performances, and it feels so good. I’m just picturing that standing ovation at the end, just like we had this past weekend, you’re going to feel the love from Worcester, for sure. Before we wrap it up, for our conservatory students out there, are there any good pieces of advice you have for some of our students who might be studying voice? Any words of wisdom or inspiration?
Steve: Get out there and do it. You know, I think that’s one of the best things that we were able to do in college. I think by the time we graduated at IU, we were doing six shows a week, whether it be for Mom’s weekend, things with the Alumni Association… anybody that would have us, we were there. We were able to make our mistakes, if you will, in a very controlled and loving environment. When we did hit the big time, you know, we got to sing at Carnegie Hall during our second year together. When we hit that, we had hundreds of performances under our belt, so we knew we could rely on each other. We knew to how to have fun with what we were doing, and not be caught up in the moment and just enjoy it. I think that’s a huge part of it. Just getting out there. Don’t just practice your craft, perform your craft.
Lisa: Absolutely. Great pieces of advice right there. Tell us just a little bit about some of the high points of your journey and how you got there. What’s it like behind the scenes between when you first started and now that you guys are a really big deal? You’re touring the country and the world.
Steve: Well, that’s kind of the fun part of it. All. Like I said, we achieved the goal of having this be a legacy group that lives on at Indiana University and that was all we ever dreamed of. When Atlantic Records came to us, that was icing on the cake. A number of us had gone on to do other things. Five of us had stayed together to record down in Atlanta, a bunch of us had worked on cruise ships here in the states, in the Caribbean, Alaska, overseas, when we got the call that Atlantic Records wanted to speak with us. I was in Mama Mia at the time, I did that for two and a half years. I had an easy jaunt over to Atlantic Records, it was about three blocks away from my theatre. One of the guys, when he got the call, he was doing The Lion King show in in Hong Kong. We’ve all kind of found our own path, some in music, some not. But here we are together, still friends after 25 years, doing the same things that have always made us have a blast together.
Lisa: It sounds fantastic. Again, I’m here talking with Steve Morgan. His social media describes them as a tenor, ‘probably the sweaty one’ and dance captain, which I think is hysterical. You guys are all going to know him because he’s going to be coming to The Hanover Theatre on Wednesday, March 30th. Curtain time is at 7:30 PM. We cannot wait to have you here at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. There are some really good seats left, so if you’re interested, you’re going to want to buy tickets. Visit us online at TheHanoverTheatre.org. We would love to see you there. Steve, anything else you want to say to our listeners? How they can find you?
Steve: Yeah, you can find us. Certainly SNCmusic.com, we’re all over YouTube. Those videos might give folks a better idea of what we do and who we are. We look forward to seeing you on March 30.
Lisa: Absolutely, we can’t wait to see you. Everybody, we’ll see you there.