Chris Rupp, Home Free founder and baritone is eyeball-deep in living his crazy life. His acapella country music five-some Home Free sang on the Today Show this morning while their debut Columbia recording album 'Crazy Life' was being released on ITunes today. Due to pre-sales, from the moment it was released, the album has been roosting in the top spot on the ITunes Country Album Chart. On the eve of the release, Rupp shared in a phone interview from New York last night some of the incomprehensibly grand insanity that has become his life.
"I guess I'm kinda the glue, the guy that keeps us all together," said Rupp with a mixture of pride and Midwest-'tweren't -nothin'-understatement. "It was me who started the group in college [13 years ago]. Back in high school, I'd been just blown away when I heard acapella music, by the power of what just the human voice could do. By college, I thought, 'This is what I want to do."
"We went from virtual obscurity to national recognition in just a couple months," Rupp said of their NBC The Sing-Off finale, with a bit of stunned disbelief. From his musical director / vocal arranger / writer / performer chair, Rupp had weekly opportunities to expose millions of listeners to that same 'blown away' awe he'd originally experienced.
Country meets jazz with a splash of reggae, all under the umbrella of pristine acapella in the Minnesota-based group's debut album. Rupp noted several of the numbers on Crazy Life are written by the quintet's indescribably deep bass, Tim Foust. Rupp himself sings lead vocal on a portion of the irresistibly likable Hunter Hayes medley and on the smooth-harmonied, Keith Urban cover 'Little Bit of Everything.'
A veritable bass-fest, the 'Ring of Fire' tune (originally made famous by June Carter and Johnny Cash) on the album changes up the version that wowed the crowd on The Sing Off, and is one of Rupp's favorites. If you're thinking Home Free is an outrageous, countrified Pentatonix, you'll be ecstatic that standout bass Avi Kaplan from Pentatonix is featured alongside bass king Tim Foust in the 'Ring of Fire' cut.
With Matthew 'Austin' Brown's chocolate-laced buttery solo voice on 'Wake Me Up', it's hard to believe the number gets even better with the jazz overtones in the arrangement, but it does. From the moment the music aired on SoundCloud a week or so ago, the new composition 'Any Way the Wind Blows' has received almost double the hits of any other song on the album. The breeze is palpable in the number's light airy opening breakdown, and the tune could easily become a hit single.
A well-deserved crowning moment for Rupp came during the Christmas-themed finale of the Sing Off! when famed folk singer and show judge Jewel sang a heart melting, goosebumpy, jazz arrangement of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' with Home Free. It was Rupp's arrangement.
"It got even better than her actually singing a song I'd arranged," said Rupp, noting "...it had been so cool to explore a broader harmonic palette than straight country usually uses."
"When [judges] Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman called me over to their table after we taped that number, when they praised the music and said, 'Woah! Where did that come from?!' it was an unbelievable highpoint for me, personally."
While the soaring golden 'Crazy Life' album keeps climbing, we here in Arizona continue to know and love country. For us, Home Free's fresh beat-boxing acapella is like unexpected rain that turns the dormant desert into overnight outrageous color and bloom. For now, we'll need to trailer over to Riverside or L.A. in March to hear them. But Rupp says a new tour is coming. To not have stops in Arizona would be crazy.