For weeks I was excited to see this wonderful band of 7 singers aka musicians at this beautiful venue at sunset. So when the time came instead of sunshine it was pouring rain. But as soon as they took the stage the sun came out and it was magical.
We know what to expect but it is always interesting to see how people who don’t know Naturally 7 react to them when they hear them for the first time. After just one song they had the whole audience cheering. Everyone loved them! This happens every time we see them and it was brilliant to see that even in a posh venue with expensive ticket prices people react the same way.
I was basically dancing on my seat and already the 2nd song was my favourite “Jericho”. What makes a Naturally 7 performance so great is not only the mesmerising vocal play but also their performance. They are not just standing there like a normal a cappella group. They have proper dance routines and what makes it incredible is that they are imitating the instruments. So you see and hear what normal musicians do but there are no instruments!! Every sound is created by their voices. Unbelievable.
“Wall of Sound” and “Feel it (in the air tonight” followed and by now they gained a few new fans of their incomparable sound. Then they talk to you and explain why they sing songs and you feel like you get to know them just a little bit. So three of them are born in England which makes the next song perfect: “Englishmen in New York”. They mix a little “New York” by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys into the song and the two Jamaicans bring some reggae “One Love” by Bob Marley to the table.
Two weeks ago I was able to witness “Fix you” by Coldplay and yesterday by Naturally 7 and both versions are brilliant. Unfortunately after an hour they had to finish their set to make way to Mary J. Blige. Little did I know that the best part of the evening was over.
I tried my best to describe this bands performance but only if you see them live you really understand what they are about. Lucky for us they are on tour this fall to promote their newest record “Both Sides Now” which will be released October, 13th. I will be reviewing the album on this blog in the new music category. After a few US shows they tour the Netherlands and France and yes! also Zurich, Switzerland again. Check out their website for US, France and the Netherlands dates: Naturallyseven.com . Tickets for their show in Zurich on Nov, 7th at Kaufleuten are still available. Follow this link: kaufleuten.ch
Naturally 7 have agreed to give me my first interview for this blog. I am so grateful to them and I was really excited to meet Roger Thomas, musical director, and his brother Warren, drums.
Yesterday’s venue was quite special. What was your most special venue you’ve ever played in?
Roger: This is a hard question. Things are special for different reasons. About six years ago we played Montreux for Quincy Jones’ 75th Birthday. What made this one special was that we were scheduled to sing only one song. All the people on the show were his friends, Legends Herbie Hancock, Patti Austin. He didn’t know who we were. We were there because of Claude Nobs. During the performance of Wall of Sound Quincy got up and you could see he was so excited “Who are these guys?” and right after we finished he came on stage wanted to know who we were and where we came from and how do we do what we do and we became friends from that point on. So I think that was a nice day.
Warren: Yeah, that was really special. Places that we performed that were special are of course Madison Square Garden because that’s home. It is always special to play there because it’s a legendary place. In London the Royal Albert Hall and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. When people ask us around the world where are some of the better places you performed we always say Zurich and I’m not just saying that because that’s where we are now. But anytime we played like Kaufleuten or Club x-tra there is always a good energy – as you know. We get that in other places too but it’s always consistent in Zurich. It’s one of those places when you see it on the tour calendar that you look forward to.
Really? Usually Swiss people are quite reserved.
Roger: That’s what they tell us. But for us – we’ve never seen that.
Yes, your show is special for example yesterday it’s quite a posh place and you rocked it. So people we’re like hold on who are they?
Roger: Yes, because they don’t know us. For us it’s always fun to play a show like yesterday where the majority of the people are probably not that familiar with us. It cost a lot of money so maybe they don’t respond the way Zurich usually does but that’s never the case.
So you do realise on stage when people are mesmerised by you when they see you for the first time?
Roger: That’s our goal when they hear us for the first time. That’s why we played with Michael Bublé. We knew that people did not come because of us and didn’t know what to expect – some guys who sing prior to Michael. Our job is not just to warm up the crowd but take you away as fans. So you say I like those guys and I want to see them after the show.
That’s what happened to me. I knew you but I didn’t know how good you are live and every time you come here now I go see you.
Roger: And we appreciate that. So from stage we do realise that people turn their heads sideways and go what exactly is going on and by the end of the 2nd/3rd song they go like “I like them”. We try to make sure that we give the best performance we can possibly give.
One guy next to us was exactly like that!
Warren: For someone like you who’s seen us you say to people like that wait till you see them. So the same thing that you do is what we do. We know that people do that as well.
You changed your formation quite a bit over time. How did you manage to stay a unity on stage?
Roger: Well five of us are still the same so really it was the two positions that changed twice. So three people have sung the bass and the guitar. So the fact that the base is still the same keeps that same sound. But it’s hard to find a bass or any position and do what we do. So we feel blessed that we found the right people all the time.
So to me it’s quite special because the bass does sound more or less the same every time I see you guys even though the people changed.
Roger: We knew Kelz from before. We all come from a church back ground where we know different singers. But everybody can’t do it. To be honest if we loose a member we first are afraid because you will always loose something. It’s not like you are having a bass or guitar player and when the new guy comes he just plays the same thing. Even then it’s not exactly the same but with singing even more so. Nobody sings exactly the same. And of course his personality is important. We all live together and I spend as much time with the group as I do with my real family – if not more. So we feel truly blessed that the 7 guys you see on stage really get along. We are like a family so we have our ups and downs and fight about this or that but most of the time everything is very good.
Us fans we do realise this on stage.
Roger: Yes, you can see it. It’s hard to hide. People try to hide those things on stage but you can see it. We really like each other.
Warren: Also the outgoing members. They didn’t leave in a fight. They left because of family reasons. We still talk to them, they are still our friends, we still see them from time to time. They live in the same community as we do. So we understand if they leave because they want to spend more time with their family. If we are in town we tell them to come to our show or we call on them – which has happened before – that our old members filled in for the new ones. We still have a good relationship.
That is great! So I’ve read a few things how you founded the group but how did you come up with this special idea to play instruments with your voices?
Roger: We started in church and sang harmonies together. How do you make yourself different from the next group. Warren and I are brothers and our father was very instrumental. When we were watching Marvin Gaye he taught us what made him different or Michael Jackson – this is what makes him different. So as a group we were looking to do something different. You know because we are from the Bronx, New York, Queens all these different sections. We like hip hop. Let’s combine the things we like beat boxing that type of thing with R&B, Gospel and Pop. All the things we know and then Jazz too. It’s the Bobby McFerrin’s of the world and Jazz that imitates instruments. What if we bring all those things together. It’s no different than a chef. A chef brings all those things together and you taste something for the first time. Really is it something new? No it’s not. New as in they made something up and in bringing things together that you haven’t tasted together before.
Warren: They add a little mint to the steak. Never had mint to a steak and then you go: Oh that actually works.
Very good comparison.
Roger: So this is what we did. We brought these things together over the years and once we found out Warren can do the drums we can build a foundation – we realised we need a bass. Don’t just sing words we need instruments. Little by little we evolved. We can all be part of this band and imitate instruments. So that became the goal to this point where can we walk on stage and somebody has never ever seen us before goes: “Ohhh” *Surprising sound*. We sound like a band and that’s the goal. Like you saw last night I don’t know how many hundreds of people have never seen us before but how long does it take for them to go like this.
Warren: Towards the end of the show you want them to actually forget that we are doing it all with our voices. We want to enjoy themselves because we are almost competing with a real band that’s there. They figured out what we are doing, sounds great, now can they just enjoy the music.
Roger: When we sing Englishmen in New York we want them to just enjoy the song. We’ve already established that we’re a band and now enjoy the song. We feel like we’ve accomplished this and it’s taken time and we are going out of our way to make it look easy because that looks good.
Warren: It takes time and hard work and talented people and voices. If you compete with the sounds of a band you need to make sure that the person who’s mixing it can make that come across.
Thank you for doing this interview. I am so very grateful.