Austin Brown and the other members of the a capella group Home Free are thanking God, or the deity of their choice, that they're country boys.
There's no doubt that taking on a country flavor helped the Minnesota-based quintet win the fourth season of NBC's "The Sing-Off" and score a major label deal that led to the February release of the group's new album, "Crazy Life." The set debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and Brown says Home Free has been "accepted with open arms" by country radio programmers and other artists in the genre.
"We were singing a little bit of country music in the group before we auditioned for the show, and Tim (Foust, Home Free's baritone) had his own country album," says the Georgia-born Brown, 27, whose father was a touring gospel singer and who sang on cruise ships before joining Home Free in late 2012. "I remember saying to the guys, probably in January of 2013, we should consider being maybe the first full-time country a capella group.
"It just made sense. there was nothing like it yet, and everyone from the show, the judges and the audience, really took to us."
So what makes country a capella different? "A good friend of mine in the a capella community said, "One thing I really appreciate about Home free is that you guys seem so laid back, and it's so refreshing,' and I think that's really it," Brown explains. "Most people in a capella feel like they have to be so out front and spectacular and really dazzling, and we really do lay back. Our show's a really relaxed show. We just enjoy our time in a very relaxed way and break down that fourth wall and bring the audience on stage with us -- in a metaphorical way."
Brown says Home Free plans to keep touring after The Sing-Off Live trek ends on March 29 and acknowledges there are "some discussions" about supporting a big-name country act during the summer, though nothing is firm yet.
The Sing-Off Live tour with Home Free, Voice Play and the filharmonic plays on Wednesday, March 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 in advance, $35 day of show. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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