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With the submission deadline for Sing Seven rapidly approaching, I spoke to Matt Emery and TeKay (two of this year's Sing producers) to learn more about the compilation series and what to expect on the 2010 album.  

Matt Emery is CASA's Membership Director and has served as the marketing director of SoJam and the music director of Duke Rhythm and Blue.  He's been instrumental in the success of the Sing series and is serving as a producer this year.

Thomas King (TeKay) is CASA's Ambassador Director has been the Sing Producer and a SoJam producer for the past few years. He's an avid RARB reviewer and currently sings in the Contemporary A cappella League (CAL) group DeltaCappella.

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There are a few different a cappella compilation albums––most popularly BOCA, Sing, and Voices Only. What makes Sing so special?  How is it different than the others?

Emery: The Sing series has a twofold focus.  First, the compilation seeks to bring unity to the different types and styles of contemporary a cappella singing that exist in the United States and around the world.  Whereas BOCA and Voices Only are comprised of songs by collegiate groups only, Sing accepts submissions from scholastic, collegiate, Contemporary A cappella League (CAL), semi-professional, and professional groups alike.  In presenting a series that combines them into one jam-packed compilation, it gives worldwide exposure to a demographically and geographically diverse set of groups and, hopefully, provides an illustration of the unifying continuity that exists between all groups.

The second goal of Sing is to incite, encourage and reward creativity, ambition, and ingenuity.  BOCA and Voices Only select tracks that, primarily, provide for accessible listening in order to expose new people to contemporary a cappella music and increase fanship of the style.  With the Sing series, you're going to hear stuff that you've never heard before: different languages, different vocal styles, original music.

Over the past several years of choosing tracks, we have made Sing unique by rewarding groups who are willing to take risks in the songs they choose and arrangements they create.  We want our listeners to be both blown away at the talent they hear and challenged and inspired to stretch themselves in their own vocal groups or respective musical outlets.

TeKay: From a historical perspective, Sing was created to provide a venue for great Southern groups to be heard beyond our college campus and local coffee shops.  The early producers wanted the world to know that a cappella existed outside of the Ivy towers of the Northeast.

Today, I think that sing focuses less on what is most popular and marketable to the non-a cappella community and strive to find tracks that are innovative and thought provoking. We choose tracks that get a rise out of the listener and evokes an emotional reaction. 

How do I get onto Sing?  What type of songs are the producers looking for?

Emery: Stylistically speaking, the best way to have your track chosen for Sing is, simply put, to do something that other groups are not.  Write an original song, arrange a unique cover of a current song, tackle a song that's never been done a cappella before, perform a track in a non-English language.  "What makes this track stand out?"  That's what groups need to be asking.  You may have good arrangements or good soloists, but remember that the producers and selectors all hear -- and over the years, have heard -- a LOT of a cappella music.  Grab our attention!

TeKay: There is no magic formula to get on Sing. Be good, be innovative, be challenging, be in tune, be fun and exciting, be original. We're looking for songs past run of the mill. Take a song that we may know and love and change it up. Put your signature stamp on it. It doesn't work to just make a massively well-produced song, we like songs that make a statement. 

Do all the producers have to love a particular track for it to make it?  What happens when the are differences of opinion?

Emery: With a panel of four producers, there is certainly going to be rigorous discussion about track selection, as well as some disagreement on what is chosen.  We spend about a month listening to all submitted tracks and gradually hone in on what we like.  There's plenty of emailing and phone conversation back and forth but only occasionally is there bloodshed and fist-fighting.

Further, as with any album, track order is an important consideration.  Is your song a good opener/closer? Despite the stylistic variances, we want the album to flow well from one track to the other. Piecing this together as we choose is actually a pretty fun process.

For our most recent installment (Sing 6: Sunny Side Up), we actually had several tracks that some or all of the producers enjoyed, but we did not have enough space for them on the album.  In this situation, we took advantage of CASA's online outreach and offered these bonus tracks for the Sing 6 digital download (free for CASA members).  It is very likely that we'll do this for Sing 7 and in future years, as well.

Do I have a better chance submitting an original song or a cover?

Emery: Generally speaking, an original song is going to grab our immediate attention from the start. We have featured, over the six years of Sing's existence, more than 35 original songs, including nine collegiate originals (four of them on Sing 6 alone)!  We're impressed by the growing trend in contemporary a cappella toward composing original music and hope that our series contributes to its continuation.

Now, that being said, a cover track that is a) incredibly ambitious (e.g. "Foreplay/Longtime" on Sing 6) or provides a unique interpretation to the original (e.g. "The Sounds of Silence" from Sing 5) will also jump out to us in a very positive way.  For covers, it's much more about what a song adds to the original and/or contributes to the contemporary a cappella music community on the whole.

TeKay: Originals will always get a preferred listen, but if they aren't any good, they still aren't going to get on the compilation.

Does it make a difference how current the track is?  Does my group have a better chance with a Gaga cover over a Queen cover?

Emery: Not really. As I mentioned before, it's more about how well the track is produced/arranged and what makes it stand out versus the other submissions.  We've featured current songs like "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga and "Yeah!" by Usher, but we'd just as quickly choose a classic Ella Fitzgerald tune ("Blues in the Night" on Sing 2) or a traditional Gaelic lullaby ("Ohuero" from Sing 4).  What each of the aforementioned songs have in common are their high levels of talent, boldness, and ingenuity.

TeKay: Hmmm, that's an interesting question. Unfortunately, the real answer is it depends. We do like snapshots of a specific time in history, so current hits have a slightly easier time because there isn't an historical context or expectation that the cover has to compete against. 

I've got an amazing track that was recorded 8 years ago?  Can I still submit it?

Emery: Eight years ago? Unfortunately not. We will, however, accept submissions from as far back as January 2008.  As long as the song or album meets this criteria and has not been submitted for Sing consideration during a previous year, you can certainly pass it along to us.

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Check out the Sing area of CASA's website for more information on how to submit.  Again, the deadline for submissions this year is Friday, September 24, 2010.  The producers and the CASA community look forward to hearing your music!

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