Q&A with Naturally 7: R&B a cappella

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Claiming to have changed the face of a cappella from geeky to cool, Naturally 7 incorporates what the members call "vocal play," using elements of R&B as well as beat boxing. Warren Thomas, the group's percussionist who uses his vocals to imitate drums, said when his parents refused to give him a drum set as a child, he sat down and learned how to play the instrument using his mouth. Currently on their third world tour with Michael Bublé, Thomas spoke about life on the road, working with his brother, and the dream that has become a reality.

The Daily Iowan: The musical style of Naturally 7 is "vocal play" and a fusion of a cappella and R&B. How would you describe this musical approach?

Thomas: A cappella is, of course, when you sing without instruments, but what we do is mimic the instruments. People who come to our shows are going to see an a cappella group, but we want them to be able to close their eyes and hear a full band. It makes us different. The majority of the music we play is our own stuff, but we throw in songs that people are familiar with, too. Sometimes, we sample a song and take the hook to write our own verses and bridge. It's nice to have familiarity like that with the music.

DI: You're the "drummer" in the band; what does this mean if you're not using instruments?

Thomas: It means that I am doing everything vocally. Beat boxing is something that people are used to seeing, but when I beat box, I sit there and envision a full drum kit. I am mimicking what an actual drummer would play. In my mind, I have a snare drum and a full drum, and that's how I try to play it, see it, and have the audience envision it.

DI: You're constantly working with seven people, including your brother. What's that like?

Thomas: It's always a pleasure to work with family members. For me, it's always been a good thing. We come from the same place, we're like-minded people, and we think similarly, so it's always a cool thing. Working in a group of seven, there are always different opinions, but we break it down as a group. It's very interesting; it's almost fit for reality TV.

DI:What is life on the road like?

Thomas: You go to a lot of countries and a lot of cities. You don't see very much, but you see a lot of venues, hotels, and airports. It's the people who make it special. You might not remember a city, but you can remember the people of the city. That's what it is for me, is understanding the people and trying to soak in as much of their culture as possible and as much as the city has to offer.

DI: What has it been like being able to tour with Michael Bublé?

Thomas: It's been a blast. We've been on the road with Michael since '07, so this is our third world tour, which is rare, but it's because it works so well. Michael is like our brother. We have so much fun with him. He's in front of so many people, and it's been a great way for us to introduce ourselves to people around the world. It's a blast performing with him and being introduced to his fans.

DI: What is it like hearing thousands of fans cheering for you and then being able to meet them?

Thomas: It's definitely a rush. It's not an easy job to do as far as shows and traveling, it's not easy or glamorous, so it takes that respect from the audience and wanting to please the fans that keeps you motivated. A lot of people need to interact with their fans more than what happens in mainstream music. You get the feeling of who people are when you're performing, seeing their wide eyes and smiles, but talking to them is when you get something else. We get their emotions from our music, which gives us a little more of an understanding about what we're doing up there.

— by Jennifer Hoch

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