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The Sing-Off Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

The Sing-Off

This is an interview with Aaron Sperber and Nick Wiggins from The Yellow Jackets on November 2, 2011 about the show The Sing-Off.

Question:
Can you talk about how your experiences and how Kenya changed your experience on the Sing-Off?

Aaron Sperber:
Absolutely. I don't think that there is anything that a group of guys can go through like going to Kenya and experiencing such a different culture and getting to know such a different sort of people through the collaborative process of music. And so I feel like really it made us a lot stronger and a lot closer unit while we were out there in LA. We're just a bunch of guys from Rochester, good friends who like to sing. And to be brought out to the Hollywood area with so much fast-paced, so many fast-paced things going on it's a lot to take in. But I think in the stress and the competition it really helped us stay together, keep grounded and keep remembering why we're there.

Question:
Do you plan to go back to Kenya at all?

Aaron Sperber:
We do actually. A few of us are going back because something that's important to note one thing I think we want everyone to know is that the YellowJackets were honored to be part of this but this is not the end of the YellowJackets or of what you'll be seeing of us. And a good point to that is that our documentary from Kenya which is called United We Sing is going to be coming out hopefully in the summer. And we will be going back to Kenya within the coming months to be working with the kids and to be getting more footage to make this documentary all that it can be.

Question:
What do you think you could have done better to stay in the competition?

Nick Wiggins:
We went up there and we said hey, we're going to give the best performance we possibly can. And I think we really did that. Remembering back to when we were in the studio the night was full of amazing, amazing performances. So unfortunately someone had to go home and last night it was us.

Question:
What was the most important thing you learned from the judges after being on the Sing-Off?

Aaron Sperber:
I think that for me it would probably be that this whole thing of being a musician and a professional musician and a successful professional musician is not as hard as you might think it is when you're an aspiring young artist studying in school and having dreams of being people like Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, and Sean Stockman. So to get to meet them to know them and to hear them commenting on our own voices was a surreal and very honoring experience. But to be able to have that experience I think really made us realize that it's possible and that as long as we work hard for it is really in the cards.

Nick Wiggins:
I absolutely agree with that, work hard but also every single week Sean, Sara, and Ben they said if you go out there and you give a heartfelt performance then what they're really looking for. So you're going to run into a lot of talent we did on the show. And we're excited to work with the people that we've met in the future. But as long as we continue to keep our hearts in the right place and deliver performances that are heartfelt with passion and have purpose behind them like our entire run on the Sing-Off being Kenya a lot of groups were there to win but we were there to kind of share that message and I think we got that across.

Question:
In being on the Sing-Off what was the most gratifying or the most rewarding part of your experience?

Aaron Sperber:
I think that the idea that I was mentioning before of getting to meet all these amazing people was really exciting and definitely gratifying. But the most gratifying for us was the opportunity for us as 15 best friends to share a message that we feel about how music brought us together and it can bring more people together across the country and across the world.

And so whereas we were excited to be going to Kenya and working with these kids and then we were going to have a documentary that we hoped would really be able to share the message to as many people as possible, suddenly we had 10 million listeners right there to hear our message and to sign on board. And I think that that's what happened. We're really honored that America had such a positive reception to us and we won't let them down in the future.

Question:
What kind of advice would you give to other acapella groups out there who aspire to be on the Sing-Off?

Aaron Sperber:
I remember that when we went to the audition in New York City we actually had sort of a cool experience with that. We got a call from the Sing-Off from some producers who had said hey we've heard about you guys and we'd love to have you come audition. And we said while it's in like three days and this is during our finals period so we can't make it. And we would love to because of course it's like a dream for us to be on the Sing-Off.

But we said we really can't make it and then they said you really should try to come down. So we finished our finals and then drove over night on a Friday night and arrived early Saturday morning just in time for our audition. And when we arrived we were sort of excited because we had been called and we thought oh wow this is very exciting, maybe we have a shot. And then we saw hundreds of groups lining the streets and we were very nervous and overwhelmed.

And I remember that Jamal he like sort of pulled us all in a huddle and just said guys don't worry about them, just be us. And that sort of became a motto for us about not trying to be too flashy or too anything, just being us and who we are, the guys in the University of Rochester who love to sing and dance and have a good time. And so I would suggest to A, make sure you put a lot of heart into your performance and B, just be yourselves.

Question:
Besides Kenya and the documentary that's about to release, what should we expect from the YellowJackets?

Aaron Sperber:
What's special about a college group and also in certain ways said is that we're a collegiate group and everyone eventually graduates and goes their own separate ways. But in our minds what we always say in the Yellow Jackets once a YJ always a YJ. So we always have our hearts here and we'll always be investing in the college group. But several of us do intend to be touring. We will hit the road and we're hopefully, we're working on potentially planning a tour with some of our best friends from the Sing-Off touring together around the country. And we intend to be doing that hopefully in the spring.

You'll have to stay tuned and keep watching to see if that ends up happening. But a lot of us are aspiring musicians. And what's so cool about the YellowJackets is that also a lot of the guys are not. We're just brought together because we like to sing. So there are several guys that want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and writers but then several of us who do want to be professional musicians, I know Nick and I are some of them.

And we're actually we're at the sad point in the road where we're going to be graduating in December and off we go into the music world and the Sing-Off has been just the inspiration that we needed to make sure that this is really what we want to do and we know it for sure now. So we're going to be going on. We're having so much fun singing acapella that we don't want to say goodbye to it. With some of our best friends from other groups on the Sing-Off including production of the Sing-Off we're forming together a new group, a smaller group that's a little bit professional and is ready to take on more challenges. So you'll have to keep a lookout for us as well.

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