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The Sing-Off Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

The Sing-Off

This is an interview with Ruby Amanfu and Daniel Ellsworth from The Collective on October 25, 2011 about the show The Sing-Off.

Question:
What do you think gave you the most trouble with Pitbull's Give Me Everything?

Daniel Ellsworth:
I think probably the hardest part about that song was that it was pretty outside of the box for us. We were a group of singer, songwriters, independent artists and none of those being hip hop artists. So it's a genre that we're familiar with but not familiar with performing. So that was a big challenge.

Question:
Ruby, what was going through your head when you guys knew that you had to do The Sing-Off battle against the YellowJackets?

Ruby Amanfu:
That part is tough because it really becomes real that it's a competition. And for us the whole thing with every one of the other groups is about camaraderie and not competition. We felt the only competition we had was against ourselves and just making sure we did a great job every week. So it's always so hard I mean every week to stand up there and know you got to do that. But for us, we just wanted it to be as fun as possible and you never want to have to go against your friends. So that's how it was. It was just kind of just like egad here we go.

Question:
What's next for The Collective?

Daniel Ellsworth:
We're trying to figure that out but you'll be sure to hear a lot from us. We all have independent bands or we're all independent artists and everybody's touring and recording and doing all sorts of different things. And then The Collective will hopefully be doing some touring this winter and hopefully going into next year.

Question:
Were you happy with your performance when you watched it back or do you think there's anything you could have done differently to make a difference in what the judges thought?

Ruby Amanfu:
We were extremely happy with our performance. If you had been a fly on the wall that week, you would have seen some people really pulling out all the stops drawing on every possible inspiration to do what we felt was best for that song. And we had a couple of different other songs that we were going back and forth on but this one really we felt like it was the most energetic and what we could do. We could do it hip hop or we could pull in some of our own thing, make it a little Arcade Fire in the beginning and just have some fun.

And actually, David Jennings who did the rap on that song we were really happy that we could actually represent rap during hip-hop week. We thought that was a really neat element for us to kind of stay true to that style. And he actually does quite enjoy to rap and we enjoyed listening to his freestyle, as well. We were out there so to get that opportunity for him with so much fun. So we were just really excited and thought we did the best we absolutely could do.

Question:
Did you go into the performance Monday night thinking that there was a chance you would be going home or were you very confident that you'd be able to pull it off? And just how did that being out of your comfort zone affect your nerves in that performance?

Daniel Ellsworth:
Despite the fact that the hip hop genre was sort of out of our comfort zone, I think we went in really confident. It was one of the songs that probably more so than any of the songs we did that we really arranged together as a group. We were excited to sing it and it was different than some of the other stuff we had been doing. And so it was a little more fun, a little more playful, so we thought like we were just going to go out and have a blast. And that's what we did. We just left it all out there.

Question:
You've done so many amazing performances in The Sing-Off. It's been so great watching you. Have you got one that sticks out in your mind as being your personal favorite from the whole competition?

Ruby Amanfu:
My personal favorite would be Sam and Dave's Hold On I'm Coming. That was for us an opportunity to do different instrument sounds with our voices as opposed to just notes. You know, to get to be trumpets and get to be rhythm and blues guitars all of that was really fun. And I felt like the energy on stage is the energy that we displayed behind closed doors and I felt like it was finally an opportunity for the viewers and the judges to see us in that light that we truly are; you know, a fun group of people and fun collective of musicians.

Question:
You guys have done an amazing performances from the beginning and I really enjoyed watching you guys every week, but was there a performance that you enjoyed more than others?

Daniel Ellsworth:
For me I guess, probably my favorite performance was I Will Survive. That week we had just come off of a really tough week, the week prior, just with everyone in our group being sick and all that stuff was no fun to deal with. So that week that we did I Will Survive, that song sort of spoke to what we had gone through and that we really came together and really stepped it up and everyone was feeling pretty bad about the week prior. And so it was good. I liked how the response we got to that song was so great and I was glad that the judges thought that and everyone thought that about that song.

Question:
When it came to your guys' songs, week after week, did you guys, do you decide on your song as a group or would the judges just tell you what like songs like you were going to sing?

Ruby Amanfu:
Actually, the judges had no say on our song choices. We worked with the show hand-in-hand. There's a really brilliant team of music directors and music supervisors who spend tireless hours finding a list of comparable songs, and we, as well, even before we got to the show we sent in a really long list of songs that we loved, also. Obviously when we sent that list in, the styles for each episode for each week had not all been decided. So there was definitely a lot of scratched stuff that went on, but the musical directors and the music supervisors and in the show, they definitely allowed us to be involved in those decisions. Obviously father knows best at the end of the day, so not every time did we get to do a song that was our choice, but we gave it our all every single time no matter what.

Question:
How did you find your feet as a group and what was most difficult about learning to sing together?

Daniel Ellsworth:
I think as far as finding our feet it was a matter of just diving into the music and sort of even though a cappella music for us was something new and different, it was just a matter of completely going out there and just completely enveloping ourselves in a cappella music in that world and learning as much as we could about it in a short amount of time.

And I think just being in that environment and being with the same - you know, the same nine people all day every day working on these songs, it just happens. You have to learn how to come together and be one voice. And that was our biggest struggle on the show was learning how to do that, but at the end of the day, I was really proud of how we did do that.

Question:
How do you think that this will influence you guys as solo artists; this experience?

Daniel Ellsworth:
For us as independent artists, I think one of the biggest things, at least for me personally that I try to do is stretch myself musically. It's easy when you're doing the same thing every day. You're playing your same songs over and over, you get sort of locked into what it is that you do.

And so to sort of go way outside of that box and try a whole new style of music I mean there's so much that we learned that we can bring back to our careers. Everything from arranging to how to approach a song performance-wise and how you feel and interpret even your own song makes you want to go back and think about what you're saying in your songs. And have to really make that come across to people that are listening to our music.

Question:
What was the best part of being part of The Sing-Off? What did you both learn and what was I guess the best part of being part of this great competition?

Ruby Amanfu:
I think for me just to see that the world especially the little musical world we live in, they're bigger than our noses. And I think as independent artists especially you just get so caught up in what you do and what you write. And getting in a situation where it becomes not only is it not about you, it's about putting something out there where you need every single member of your group and you need every single member of the contestant to really get something across that millions people are going to either identify with or not.

We will always do art no matter what, but this has definitely brought up a lot of things like well is it just for us or is it really about connecting with other people and inspiring other people and what they get out of it. So I think I've learned to think outside of myself a lot on the show and just that there is definitely strength in numbers.

Daniel Ellsworth:
I think the best part of the whole thing for me was experiencing all the other groups. It sounds maybe funny to say because it's a competition show, but you need to know all these other people and knowing so little about the a cappella world really to some of these groups were new like us, some have been doing it for 30 years plus, a group like North Shore to college groups that are like these experienced a cappella singers and just sort of immersing ourselves in this new world and seeing - I mean being blown away.

We're doing music stuff every day and we're in Nashville and being an artist it's real easy to have sort of a chip on your shoulder about every new artist that you see and it takes sort of a lot to impress. And I mean our jaws were on the floor at the talent. You know, competition aside, it was the talent was unbelievable. I think if the competition part wasn't there, any one of the 16 groups on that show could have gone to the end as far as I'm concerned.

Question:
What would you say to upcoming artists and a cappella groups that would like to be part of a singing competition?

Ruby Amanfu:
The first thing that sticks out in my head was the one thing that The Collective said even before we got on the airplane which is this has got to be about camaraderie, not competition with everyone we come across. And I think that on these shows when you get out there and when there is a grand prize at the end and your eyes are on that prize it's easy to want to push people out of the way. But we told ourselves from the beginning no, this is about camaraderie.

And another tip of advice is not for - you know, I hear a lot of people who do competitions like these who say if this - if we don't win this, we have nothing. I mean if we don't win this, like there's nothing. We have to win. We have to win. I think winning is being able to get to do your passion every single day. You absolutely are winning from the start and you'll continue winning.

If you have that attitude that every day you are achieving, so to any a cappella groups or singers who want to enter a type of competitive atmosphere, just know that if you get on a show like that, you already have won. And every single day that you give your gift and share that gift, you are absolutely doing what you're supposed to be doing; winning.

Daniel Ellsworth:
Everything Ruby said. I would say I mean as a tip of advice or something like that if the opportunity comes along to challenge yourself, do it. Don't get too comfortable in what you're doing because I think that will cause your music to suffer, whether it's a cappella music or whether it's your own original music, if you're writing songs or if you're trying to be in a band. I mean every day you should be trying to stretch yourself musically because that's going to come across in everything you do.

Question:
In the competition right now it's getting more and more intense. Who do you both think might go far with the seven groups remaining? Who are your personal, let's say, favorite that you feel could probably go all the way or go far in the competition?

Daniel Ellsworth:
I think I was saying to somebody earlier, any one of the 16 groups I feel like from the beginning could have won this thing. That's sort of how we feel about everybody. The show started with two different groupings of eight and so naturally we got a lot closer, a lot quicker to the people that we before the episodes combined.

I mean Pentatonix to me are just what they do for that genre is so boundary pushing and it's new and it's not typical a cappella. And so for me I guess I would say that they're exciting, but the guys in the Aires are just some of the coolest guys that we'd ever met. So they're fantastic, as well.

Ruby Amanfu:
I think we got really close to our initial bracket of eight and the Airs and Pentatonix were a part of that. And admittedly we didn't get to know very well the other bracket which I think that's all that's left is the majority of the other bracket and the two from our is what, Pentatonix and Aires. And and unfortunately obviously when something is separated like that, it just makes it harder to be close from the beginning. When you're all just scared little puppies stepping onto that stage for the first time, but I agree with what Dan said about Pentatonix able to push that boundary.

And if I were looking at this from a business standpoint of how can we get this a cappella genre into more people's ears and more people's hearts, I think Pentatonix definitely does that because they bring something completely new to it. And I think it's going to register with a lot more people.

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