Straight No Chaser has more than holiday music in its repertoire. But Christmas has been the Indiana University-formed a capella group's calling card since the release of "Holiday Spirits" in 2008, and this year's "Under the Influence: Holiday Edition" EP continues the tradition.
Seggie Isho, the Rochester Hills native who joined SNC in 2009, says the EP was an outgrowth of the group's "Under the Influence" non-holiday album that came out earlier this year. "Thanks to PBS, especially, we're not longer just a holiday group," says Isho, 29. "But when we first hit the ground running that's all people knew us for, and the only time we were touring was in the fall.
"It's becoming a year-round thing now, but as we get close to Christmas we add more holiday music into the set. That's what people like and kind of expect from us, so we'd never turn our backs on it. We still love that material, too."
The EP puts Isho and the rest of SNC in some good company, including guests such as Cee-Lo Green, Colbie Caillat, Paul McCartney on a version of "Wonderful Christmastime" and the late Otis Redding making an appearance on "Merry Christmas, Baby." "It's something we thought about when we were recording the first album; 'Why don't we reach out to some people and let's see if we can put together some holiday tracks,' " Isho recalls. "Much to our surprise, the people we reached out to all reached back and were game to do it. It just continues to blow our minds that any of this is even possible."
The biggest mind-blower, of course, was McCartney, even though due to scheduling he had to record his part remotely and send it to SNC.
"It was kind of thrown out as a joke at first, and rightfully so," Isho says. "Then our manager came back and said, 'Y'know what? We might have a shot at this. He might be interested.' He had mentioned he was a fan of the group, and it was hard not to get our hopes up after we heard that.
"And when his track came through it was like Christmas morning for all of us, like running downstairs and opening the presents under the tree. It's definitely one of our greatest highlights so far."
Straight No Chaser performs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29.50-$46.500. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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