Exclusive Q&A with the Melodores
Group leader Augie Phillips gives us the high notes about the Melodores Ryman show, what they're working on next and how Nashville has responded to the success.
Written By: Kristin Luna
Last December, Nashville’s own boy wonders, the Vanderbilt Melodores, walked away with the trophy from season five of The Sing-Off, NBC’s a cappella singing competition. As their March 15 show at the Ryman—also featuring Nashville group and season two runners-up, Street Corner Symphony—draws near, group leader Augie Phillips took a break from the 56-city national tour to tell us a bit about the doors that have opened for the home-grown group of musicians as a result of their TV debut.
How has Nashville responded to your win?
The reception from the Vanderbilt community has been incredible and humbling. We're so thankful for the opportunities provided us by the university, and it's an honor to be able to share the school's name in addition to our passion on such a large scale.
In Nashville as a whole, we got a shout-out from Lightning 100, which was really cool. It's been odd getting recognized and asked for pictures when we're out to eat—I didn't expect that. I'm hoping that we can continue to take on Nashville as part of our identity as we grow as a group. We love this city!
What's been the single coolest thing that has resulted from you all being on The Sing-Off?
Hands down, when Hozier posted our cover of Take Me to Church—and then mentioned in a video interview that our cover was one of his favorites and that he wanted to meet us when he comes to Nashville. I geeked out a bit. Our show at the Ryman is sandwiched between his sold-out dates, so we're hoping we can link up at some point. It means a lot to hear encouraging words from the song's original artist; it validates all of the hard work and emotion that we poured into the song.
What's the Melodores' plan for after the tour?
Back to school! It's worked out beautifully that we're able to join the tour for so many dates over our spring break, but we do have a commitment to our classes at Vanderbilt that we need to uphold. However, be on the lookout for new media from the group in the form of both live videos and a new album in the first week of April.
Who are you dying to work with?
One of our dreams is to work with Nashville artists, performing covers of their songs with them singing the lead. I'd love to see the Melodores perform with Jack White, Kings of Leon, Ben Rector, and more. I think we could be part of a larger movement of popular artists performing their own songs in a new form: a cappella.
I'd also love to tackle a Christmas album, because we haven't done that yet and I feel like there's never been a better time. Keep an ear to the ground in December 2015!
Do you have any coaches, or do you do all do your own arranging?
We do not have any coaches; we are an entirely student-run group, and we do our arranging within the group. There are several Melodores and Melodores alumni that arrange, but the driving musical force behind the current group is our musical director, James. He's the brains behind most of what we do, and the group wouldn't be the same without him.
If you take off nationally, what happens to the group at Vandy?
Our vision for the Melodores' future is a legacy. We want to provide future generations of Vanderbilt students with opportunities like those that we've been blessed with. I picture 10-, 20-, 50-, and 100-year reunions down the road—I want to look back and be able to say I had a hand in creating a meaningful tradition at Vanderbilt. For those reasons, I don't see there ever being two conflicting groups of "Melodores."
That said, the opportunity to sing with this group has created some incredible opportunities for our guys. James McHugh is arranging for groups across the nation, Ted Moock's performances helped land him a spot in Pitch Perfect 2 as a Treblemaker, and the production experience I've gained working on the audio and video for this group is something I'll carry into my own endeavors when I graduate.
We're not looking to be rock stars—though it's certainly been fun since the show aired!—we're trying to create an organization that provides opportunity for students for years to come.
More about the Melodores at melodores.com.
Photos by Bosley Jarrett Photography