Few things are as versatile as the human voice, as countless artists have demonstrated with an endless variety of styles and timbres. Huntsville Alabama's Committed takes this idea to the next level, stripping away the complexities of instrumentation and recreating the aural landscape of popular tunes with nothing but their vocal chords. You may know them as the winners of the second season of popular NBC series The Sing-Off, where they garnered recognition for their meticulous covers. However, the group is at their most affecting when they are performing an original song of their own, built as a vehicle for their tight harmonies and kinetic a cappella arrangements. Get a taste of both with a beautiful day in Washington Square Park as the backdrop.
There's no more compelling instrument than the human voice, and nowhere is that more evident than the debut album by Committed, the six man group that won Season 2 of NBC's hit a capella singing competition series "The Sing-Off."
Beyond the stellar lead vocals, soaring harmonies and innovative arrangements, Committed impressed more than nine million TV viewers with their engaging stage presence, easy going camaraderie and dedication to sharing their faith. "One of the things that made us want to be on 'The Sing-Off' is that it would be a great opportunity for people to know who we are and what we are about," says Maurice Staple.
The popular competition series, which earned Committed a contract with Epic Records and a $100,000 cash prize, exposed the Alabama-based group to a national audience. "The Sing-Off" ranked No. 1 in its timeslot and Committed received a record number of votes, sold more than 110,000 tracks, garnered 25,000 Facebook friends and 7,000 followers on Twitter---all components that have provided a strong launch pad for one of music's most talked about new group.
The group launched in 2003 at Forest Lake Academy outside Orlando, Fla. "Committed actually started as a quartet and the group expanded into a sextet in 2005," says Geston Pierre. "I was a senior in high school when Tommy [Gervais] and I joined. After we graduated high school, we went to Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama and Maurice and Therry [Thomas] joined in 2005, then DJ and Robbie [Pressley] joined three years ago."
Collectively the group shares a wide range of influences that includes BeBe & CeCe Winans, Stevie Wonder, Bobby McFerrin, Fred Hammond, Earth, Wind & Fire, Al Jarreau and of course, Take 6, who are also Oakwood alumni. "As we arrange, we try to incorporate some of the stuff that we've learned over the years," says Gervais. "A lot of our sound comes from a jazz background and we try to fuse that with our gospel roots. Our sound is different. It's edgier. You have to add the feeling, the soul, the gospel influence. We've listened to a lot of different people, so it's an eclectic kind of thing---jazz, gospel, blues and R&B just all wrapped into one sound. There's a little bit of something for everybody."
All the different facets of Committed's musical personality shine on their self-titled Epic Records debut. "The entire album is a capella," says Thomas. "We do the different sounds that you would hear, guitar sounds, synthesizer sounds. If you listen to it, you almost can't even tell. It's really, really cool."
The project is indeed entertaining as Committed serves up a celestial version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," which was also among the audience favorites performed on "The Sing-Off". Committed creatively reinvents Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" and the guys pay tribute to Oakwood's home state by putting their unique stamp on the Lynyrd Skynyrd anthem "Sweet Home Alabama."
"'Sweet Home Alabama' is one of my favorites because we represent Alabama and they've been so supportive," says Staple. "We thought it would be great to put that one on the album just to show people that we appreciate them. We took it away from the country style and we grooved it up a little bit."
The group's faith shines through in their spirited renditions of the timeless "Down by the Riverside" and the powerful "Soon I Will be Done." The collection also includes "Break Free," an original penned by Therry Thomas. "I wrote the song last year with two of my friends from Oakwood," says Thomas. "I sent it to one of the producers and they liked it. It's a big honor to have it on the album. The song is about breaking free from the life that we're living. There are a lot of things that just tie us down it talks about letting God handle our business for us and being free from the cares of the world."
The group also includes a shimmering version of Michael Jackson's "Hold My Hand." "My favorite would be 'Hold My Hand' simply because it has a powerful message," Gervais says. "When we performed it on 'The Sing-Off', [judge] Nicole [Scherzinger] cried on that one. I cried. Therry did too. Maurice did. It was really emotional. It was great to be able to go out there and show people what this group is about."
The men of Committed have seen the power of the human voice to entertain and, more importantly, its power to change lives. They respect their calling and are focused on what matters most. "We are committed to God first and foremost and we are committed to each other," says Baptiste. "And we're committed to our music."
"It's a blessing to be able to do this," adds Pierre. "We're just enjoying the journey."