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The Sing-Off Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

The Sing-Off

This is an interview with judge Guy Chiapponi and Jessica Carvo on October 18, 2011 about the show The Sing-Off. Last night we watched as our top ten groups battled it out by singing their favorite guilty pleasures. At the end of the night we said goodbye to North Shore and the Deltones. Please welcome from North Shore Guy Chiapponi and from the Deltones Jessica Carvo.

Question:
What was the best advice each of your groups got from the judges?

Guy Chiapponi:
To make the song your own. To try and put yourself into the song. Even though it was written by someone else and done by another group, try to bring it you know into your own house and then have it yours.

Jessica Carvo:
I'd have to say for the Deltones it was to not be afraid to loosen up and kind of try something that is out of our element, because we're kind of used to just standing in a semicircle and just singing pretty and I think this really pushed us to amp it up a little bit.

Question:
What was your favorite performance by your groups on the show?

Jessica Carvo:
I have to say that's a tough one. I think the most meaningful for us was Fells Like Home, our very first performance because we have a deep history with that song. As a group it really meant something to everyone. And so I would say Feels Like Home. But then I think this last one that we did, Listen to Your Heart. I think you know despite the criticism that we got about being too stiff, for us that was a huge improvement and we worked so hard that last week. And I think we all felt kind of accomplished. So for me, that was one of our favorite performances as well because we proved something to ourselves.

Guy Chiapponi:
We are the grandfathers of A Capella. Everybody out there could've either been out grandkids or our children. But we learned a lot from them nevertheless. But the thing for us was to do a new song and try to you know get out of the Dark Ages. And so we had to lean a song called The Lazy Song.

And I think just because that was a new tune and because you know, everybody that was on the show and had viewed the show basically is a certain age group, that meant more to them than the other songs we would do you know, from our generation because they all knew it. And we had fun with it, and it just came out to be a very fun performance; the choreography and just the props we used. Choreography for us is sitting in a chair than doing the Dougie, but that was my favorite, the Lazy Song by Bruno Mars.

Question:
Guy, how much did the last minute switch from Hanson to Huey Lewis contribute to your elimination do you think?

Guy Chiapponi:
Quite a bit because unlike most of the people out there, it seemed like these younger people could catch on to things a lot faster than we could. So for us to lean choreography to a new song I think I actually made mistakes in the lyrics because I really hadn't even got them memorized.

Even though we had the song, the last day I think the arrangement we changed it and the choreography we changed it. So, that was so hard for us. It was just so hard for us to digest everything and then spit it back out on stage and still be having a good time. Because the main thing with NorthShore is I mean being on stage, there is no more nervousness or we don't have to get loose. We get there and we're home on stage. X=Can we memorize this thing and learn it and still be ourselves in one day? And no, that was tough. That really contributed a lot to not doing as good as we could.

Question:
Jessica, what do you guys think you should've done differently to remain in the competition?

Jessica Carvo:
That's a tough one just because you do everything that you can with what you were given, right. So you know, that was the song that we had and we thought we were doing everything that we could to stay in the competition. And I thought that we did a great job with that song too. But perhaps Sara was right; maybe that was the wrong song. Maybe we needed a different song to really just do a 180 and really try to show a completely different side of ourselves and our capabilities to stay in the competition. Maybe that was it.

Question:
What was the most important thing you guys learned after being around Nick, Shawn, Ben, and Sara?

Guy Chiapponi:
The most important thing I learned is that they're real people just like us. You're one person. But backstage, everybody's you know a person with problems and life just like the rest of us. And all the cast and all the crew of The Sing-Off, that made the whole experience. And losing is like a small byproduct of us being out there. But meeting all these people, the cast and the crew, is just totally awesome because they're real people with real lives and they have feelings. And, we all cared for each other out there. That was my biggest thing.

Jessica Carvo:
I think the saddest part about even getting kicked off was you know, missing everyone backstage. It really was kind of like a giant family despite the competitive component the whole competition. And I think as far as the judges go, you know, Shawn Stockman actually, he gave us a speech one night after one of our performances. I think it was Episode 4. And you know, they let us know that it was so hard. They didn't want to see anyone go, but that was a job that they had to do. And they only encouraged us to keep on moving forward. And their criticism was only helpful. It never felt unnecessary and it never felt vicious.

And I guess what I learned from them is that they are people. They live their lives day-to-day just like the rest of us, but they're also artists and they're also gentle souls. They also are very understanding, very sympathetic, and they really made us feel like they've gone through this too. Maybe they haven't stood on national TV and gotten constructive criticism in front of all of America, but they've felt like that before and they've gone through it. And I think that was incredibly encouraging for everyone.

Question:
What is the future for both of the groups?

Jessica Carvo:
The Deltones, we are a collegiate group. Our group is composed of different people each year due to just the nature of college graduation, new entries and we kind of stick to our motto, ???Friends first, singers second.??? I think the competition has only made us stronger, and I think we've learned a lot musically just from working with a ton of the staff on the show and just from having to work so hard and so diligently together. But in general, you know\ I've graduated, so I won't be performing with the group necessarily regularly; I do a solo thing, but the group will continue on each year and they'll continue with the motto, ???Friends first, singers second.???

Guy Chiapponi:
We were quite different from everyone else out there I think because since like 1965 when I was 14, this has been my job to perform. I started playing the trumpet in a soul band in the early ???60s, and I went to playing bass and singing, and I've played keyboards and sang in a group. I've done piano bar everywhere from Key Largo to Boston to Nevada. So it's our job.

t this point last year, I mean I was thinking about this has been our worst year in the business and I guess that goes for all businesses in this economy. And, I was even thinking about maybe just leaving the group and just getting a regular job so that I could be with my family because I actually live in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I have an apartment in Boston, but I live in Connecticut with my mom and my youngest son.

And in 2009, my namesake, my son Guy passed away and it was a very traumatic episode in my life. And so, family became even more important than it was before. Like I said with the tough economy and business not being so good and being difficult to travel back and forth to all the places that we go, I was just thinking about maybe just throwing in the towel and getting a regular job just so I could be with my son, and my daughter, and my grandson, and my mother, and my brother and sister.

I define myself by this. And we've just got to hopefully take this experience and this wonderful opportunity to be on ???The Sing-Off??? and take it and use it to get to another level, which we haven't done because we've been negligent with business. We've - and so I hope that we can just take this and just keep on going. And I don't want to quit singing because I don't want to be working in Stop-and-Shop or something, you know. So that's my thing.

Question:
The talent this year has been amazing on ???The Sing-Off.??? Can you guys even pinpoint one group of the remaining ones that you'd want to win or you're rooting for?

Jessica Carvo:
On behalf of the group, we're all blown away by all the groups and it's so tough because you end up making these incredible friendships with and you end up spending all this time with. I guess me personally, I really can't choose one. I know I have crushes on all the Dartmouth Aires along with every other girl in the United States of America.

And the Pentatonix really blow me away. They really do something different than the rest of us in my opinion. Their sound is really something different and I find myself trying to pick up my jaw every time they're done performing. I'm always amazed. And I mean Afro Blue too. Obviously there's too many. I can't even choose.

Guy Chiapponi:
I'm right there with Jessica. I do love the Pentatonix. Like she said, they're very innovative. And for five people, they really put out something not only very complete for five people, but also very innovative. Afro Blue, I mean they have some absolutely gorgeous chords.

The Dartmouth Aires, I love all those guys. I mean watching Michael, once I remember I was so amped from watching Michael perform, the I came out and sang My Song, and I was just so pumped up that I sang it in totally the wrong way and the producer said to me, ???Guy, what are you doing???? And so I had to remember, ???Oh yes. I just got done watching Michael, so I got to calm down.???

Being out there, you know we were in the competition, but we were all brothers and sisters out there and that was the biggest thing for me. I just couldn't believe how great all these people were. And it just totally blew me away. When you know kind of at my age, losing faith in humanity sort and then meeting these people and just like having my faith being restored, just - you just can't imagine. It was totally awesome. They're all awesome.

Question:
How did it feel overall to be part of an amazing competition/reality show?

Guy Chiapponi:
I have been performing since like 1965 and I have been on TV in Boston and I've performed with the Platters and The Drifters, and Al Jarreau and Roberta Flack, and Frankie Valli, and the list goes on and on. But, I've never been on a national TV show. I've done national commercials but you just can't imagine. You're put to the test and you just want to give your best because you know, you're on TV and you're in front of all your peers and all these artists, these musicians, these vocalists and you've just to do your best. And it just brings out the best in you. Definitely, one of the best experiences in my lifetime, and I'm 60 years old.

Jessica Carvo:
Let me just say I'll be pretty damn lucky if I have half the career that Guy has had. It's pretty insane. For me, I was one of the alumni of the Deltones. I graduated in '09 and that's when I started kind of pursuing a solo thing. And I did like a PBS thing, but being on national television, it's kind of like a different ballgame. I think when we found out that I was going to be on prime time with a ton of some of my closest friends that was kind of surreal.

Because you know, it's not just national television; it's also national television doing something that you absolutely love with people that you absolutely love. And, you know that you know despite the struggle that you know you're going to go through you know on the show with the competition, it's not supposed to be easy, you know it's going to be a blast and it really was.

It was such a learning experience, even you know from the rehearsal room, from the arranging, to the actual singing, to the dancing, to even learning how the film crew worked and how production worked. And really, I was really just trying to soak it all in. I was really just trying to memorize every moment of it because it's really incredible when you bring together a team - and I'm saying a team as far as the show. They bring together some of the best of the best in the a capella world and the best of the best in the TV world. And when all those forces are combined, it's really a hell of an experience to be a part of.

Question:
Now that you've both gone through this kind of experience, how do you think you can implement some of these things that you've learned for maybe future endeavors for the both of you?

Guy Chiapponi:
It was an awesome experience and if you do things correctly, it can be a springboard to something else. Whether it be your solo career or the group's career. But you know, Benny and I started NorthShore in 1980 and we've always handled all the business ourself. We've always done everything ourselves.

But at this point we need to get ourselves a manager or something or someone who is in another level because we should be on a higher level performing in different types of places, and concerts, and whatever. And to do that we need some help, and we need to use the experience on The Sing-Off was just a total awesome thing and we need to use it as a springboard to get to this new level. And we've been contacted by some people and we'll see what happens. It's just such an opportunity to be on NBC TV in ???The Sing-Off??? prime time.

Jessica Carvo:
I guess speaking for the group that's still working in Delaware, for them I think it's giving them more recognition in the area. I think they just sang for the Governor, Jack Markell. And I know we've actually been reached out to from some fans and I've gotten also some personal emails, and I think we've been actually helping people with their music.

We've gotten some letters saying that a gentleman named Todd was in some serious chronic back pain. But for two minutes he was listening to us and the pain, he didn't notice it for those two minutes. And I think all that feedback that has been really motivating and it shows us that we've been doing our job. And, we're getting lots of great recognition. More gigs being booked and more people responding to what we're doing. And hopefully younger people will also kind of look into forming a capella groups in their high schools or looking forward to joining in college, being that we're a college group. I think that would be really cool. I'm a singer/songwriter, so it's really helped me kind of open up and promote and kind of get my music out there now that I've kind of grown used to stating my opinion and kind of opening up to the camera. It was kind of a big deal for me. I'm a little more introverted than it might look like on stage and on camera. So it's really helped me to open up, and you know hopefully, it will you know help spread the music.

Question:
What would you say to groups that are interested in participating in like next season's ???The Sing-Off????

Guy Chiapponi:
I would say really go for it. At one point Shawn Stockman was backstage and he gave us sort of you could say a pep talk and there must have been a hundred of us or so back there. And after the talk, he went around and he you know like shook our hands. One of the things he said was, ???Do not leave anything left inside of you. Give everything you have on that stage.??? And that's what these kids have to do.

It's such a totally awesome experience, number one, just meeting all these artists and realizing that wow, we've got some great people in the world. It's an awesome thing. And number two,it can help you further your career because you're on national prime time TV. So you know, get your act together. Do your auditioning. Give it your all. And you know, don't take no for an answer. Keep on trying. That's my answer.

Jessica Carvo:
Along the lines of what Guy was saying, I would say stick to your guns. Find your niche. If you think you have a particular sound, find those songs that really show your sound and really show your personality. If you have a reason why that song is your song, tell everyone about it. People are just as much interested in how you sing and what you sing. You know, they're also interested in why you're singing it. Why is it important to you? This show is so humanistic. And, I think it's why it's such a great show. It's unlike a lot of the reality TV shows because it really illuminates like the humanistic elements of music. Tell us what you're so good and at and why, and why you love it. And be yourself and give it everything single bit that you have.

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