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January 4, 2008

Naturally 7's vocal power needs no backup


When it comes to tour-mate Michael Bublé, the guys in Naturally 7 have only good words. If pressed, however, they'll reveal that the heartthrob crooner isn't exactly the greatest athlete.

Roger Thomas, Naturally 7's founder and leader, said Bublé is a "shockingly down to earth" fellow who often visits their dressing room to chat before concerts. Sometimes they even play basketball with him. So, asked a reporter, is Mr. Bublé adept at shooting the hoops? "Ah, no," Thomas admitted, laughing. "Well, he's not too bad."

Unless you live in Europe, where the group scored two hit singles, you've likely never heard of Naturally 7. Following just-completed tours with Bublé in Europe and the U.K., the New York singers are the opening act for Bublé's Canadian tour, kicking off in Victoria next week.

Naturally 7 specializes in a cappella renditions of gospel, R&B, soul and jazz. In North America, the group is probably best known for a YouTube clip (currently has 1.2 million views) that made the rounds a year ago. In the video, the septet sing Phil Collins's In the Air Tonight in a Paris subway car. Such is their enthusiasm and talent, Naturally 7 manage to coax a few smiles from jaded Parisian urbanites.

Although the vocal harmonies are complex and accomplished, what makes Naturally 7 stand out is the band's ability to mimic different instruments. A promo DVD reveals uncanny vocal recreations of the electric guitar (complete with feedback), violin, bass, harmonica, turntable and drum kit. In fact, 34-year-old Thomas says the only instrument they've failed to replicate is the piano. "It's just a unique sound," he said in a phone interview from Atlanta. "There's nothing we've been able to do that makes people go, 'Yeah, that's a piano.' "

Naturally 7's career was truly launched in 1999 after they won an a cappella competition in New York. They subsequently entered an even more prestigious contest in San Francisco: The National Harmony Sweepstakes. Naturally 7 won that pan-American event with two songs: Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water and the hymn Bless This House.

These successes made them consider music as a full-time career, said Thomas, a former school teacher. "That was our first time realizing there was a world outside the church ... That was the beginning of the flight of Naturally 7."

All seven members -- Thomas, his brother Warren, Garfield Buckley, Rod Eldridge, Jamal Reed, Dwight Stewart and Armand Hutton -- were raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City. A cappella singing (that is, singing without instrumental accompaniment) was a big part of their religious upbringing, Thomas said.

"We all grew up listening to a cappella music, got our chops and learned to harmonize and that type of thing."

Naturally 7's biggest influence is Take 6, the Grammy-winning a cappella group. In order to stand out in the field, Naturally 7 decided to create the sounds of traditional backup instruments vocally, in addition to singing in the conventional manner.

This practice of mimicking instruments dates back to when Thomas's brother Warren was a schoolboy. When his mother told him he couldn't have a drum set, the resourceful youngster imitated the sounds of the cymbal, bass drum and snare with his mouth.

Naturally 7 performs both original material and cover songs. In deference to their Christian background, all the music contains some sort of inspirational or positive message, Thomas said. To further stand out in the competitive music world, Naturally 7 makes a point of venturing beyond gospel and soul to songs originally done by white groups such as the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel.

"They're pieces that people would not expect us to do as seven black guys. You know, you'd expect us to pull out maybe Stevie Wonder [or artists like that]. But that's not interesting enough for us."

Relying solely on their voices makes the members of Naturally 7 unusually protective of their vocal cords. They do things like drink herbal tea. And of course, none of them smokes.

"We realize this is our tool," Thomas said. "This is what our career is about, our voices. It's like you can't just put a violin on top of a heater. You've got to take care of that thing."

We have been big fans of the group ever since we saw them win the Harmony Sweepstakes in 1999 and appreciate that they credit winning the event helped launch their career. They are a great example of how winning the Harmony Sweeps can benefit a group as we right away signed them to Primarily A Cappella Records, put out their first CD and helped get some exposure for the group. When Sony offered them a contract we were happy to see them go to a major label and glad we were able to offer them a step up.

Posted by acapnews at January 4, 2008 12:41 AM


I saw Naturally7 last night at a Michael Buble concert here in Toronto. Absolutely the most incredible sound I've heard. I hope with the exposure from the Buble show these guys get the credit they deserve.

Posted by: Sandy at January 25, 2008 6:24 AM

Saw these guys at a Michael Buble concert in Shreveport. They're AWESOME and that's coming from a middle aged white woman! Hope to see a lot more of these guys! (Michael was pretty adorable too!)

Posted by: Carole at March 4, 2008 8:07 PM

We were in Memphis Sunday Night and were excited to see Michael Buble. We could not believe the awesome entertainment before the show. My husband and I really loved you.

Posted by: Linda at March 11, 2008 6:42 PM

what a group. We heard them in Louisville Friday night. Where have they been. Going to run out and get a CD of the group.

Posted by: dennis yellina at March 15, 2008 10:20 AM

Saw the group last night prior to the Michael Buble concert in Cincinnati. I was blown away by their performance and so was my 17-year-old granddaughter. She said she couldn't wait to get their music downloaded! I have so enjoyed reading today of their backgrounds.

Posted by: Sandy Timberlake at March 16, 2008 8:11 AM

I went to the Michael Buble concert this Saturday in Cincinnati and these guys opened for them. They were incredible. This is the best concert I have ever been too and they were the cherry on top.

Posted by: Trisha at March 16, 2008 11:51 AM

Saw this awesome group, opening for Michael Buble, in Nashville March 12th! No words to describe, other than WOW! Never saw anything like it! The two concerts were bar none, the best I've seen!!

Posted by: Karen King at March 19, 2008 8:12 AM

I just saw them open for michael buble 10min. ago! they were incredible!!! so glad to see fellow christian brothers are out there sharing their God given talent with the world! this is your calling! be faithful & stand firm. I became their fan tonight. their performance was hot and tight!!! wooo hoooo~

Posted by: ellie at March 22, 2008 5:08 PM

I've know about Naturally 7 from browsing myspace music. They are incredible, and I can't wait to hear them at a live concert. This is their latest video from youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5MkNOXSdkA

Posted by: Barb at March 23, 2008 9:39 AM

Saw Naturally 7 as opening act for Michael Bublé
on Jan 25/08 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Amazing performance, incredible voices, beautiful songs...
Proud owner of latest two CDs. Hopefully, there will be a Canadian tour very soon...!

Posted by: Josée at March 26, 2008 9:36 AM

I saw Naturally 7 last night at a Michael Buble concert. I was totally amazed at what I heard! They are amazing, extremely talented men. The impression they gave me was that they seem to be down to earth and approachable. I truly enjoyed their performance. They should be on the Ellen Show!!

Posted by: donna at April 9, 2008 6:38 AM

Saw them last night as an opening act for Michael Buble. I would have enjoyed listening to them all night (Even though Michael's concert was fabulous too!) I had never heard of them, but will be buying their music now!

Posted by: Julie at April 16, 2008 5:53 AM

I saw Naturally 7 in Little Rock. I had never heard of them before. I felt like I had been living under a rock. I fell in love with all of them. They need to be on Ellen, and Oprah! Jeez, why hasn't Oprah seen these fine brothers?
Good luck guys!

Posted by: bonnie at April 16, 2008 10:02 PM

I saw this amazing group in Hershey, PA, I was blown away! More people need to know about these talented men. Please come back to Hershey!!!!!!

Posted by: Emma at April 17, 2008 6:03 PM

I saw these guys last night in Cleveland .They were great.I could have watched and listned for hours.This was the only opening act I ever saw that left you wanting for more.Cleveland Rocks but they rocked Cleveland last night.

Posted by: Mickey at April 20, 2008 5:25 PM

Caught these guys in Omaha last night. Was so impressed that I wouldn't have cared if Buble came on stage after their "warm up" for him. Outstanding entertainment!

Posted by: Joel at April 28, 2008 1:28 PM

These guys are awesome! Great sound, great spirit! I thought it was Take 6, plus 1! Thank you for the background information. Would have loved to have been on that Paris subway ride. Michael, thank you for bringing them with you to Tucson! Come back soon!

Posted by: Linda in Tucson at May 2, 2008 10:20 PM

Saw them last night (5/4/08) in Sacramento, CA. I was in absolute awe! This is a group that should do a guest performance on American Idol!!

Posted by: Jan at May 5, 2008 10:51 AM

I saw Naturally 7 last night in Santa Barabara,Ca
I had never heard of them before. They are truly amazing I wanted to hear more.

Posted by: Anita at May 9, 2008 10:28 AM

My music background is long, my dad was the original canadian crooner, I saw the concert in Grand Rapids, MI,I've lisened to Michael since his first album, therefore think Bouble is amazing, Naturally 7 is off the chart, I was a George Benson fan since I was 15 , there is nothing like Naturally 7, Amazing Grace, was simply amazing. I'm trying to get to Toronto in June, if not when are you coming to Detroit, perfect market for you...I work for Comcast cable selling advertising on cable, let me promote you...

Posted by: Guy at May 13, 2008 8:02 PM

Saw them for the first time on the computer video that my 17 yr. old daughter showed me and I AM HOOKED! Everything about the video for In the Air Tonight, is amazing from styling, to locations for shots, editing, and OF COURSE the instruments called voices. Thanks soooo much for sharing what so very obvioulsy comes from the soul. Love the vid in Paris, but the guy with his back to you, just wanted to toss him off the train and take his place.

Posted by: Kimberly & Zyna at June 5, 2008 12:27 PM

We saw naturally 7 at Buble concert in Brisbane
Australia. They were fantastic I could have listened to them all night. NO offence to Buble as we know that he IS the best, but to hear the new naturally 7 for the first time WOW>

Posted by: Gloria at June 5, 2008 11:36 PM

I saw this awesome group perform at Michael Buble concert Saturday 7th June at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena. They were fantastic - what talent!!!
The only complaint I had was that they should have been on stage longer!!!

Posted by: Dina at June 7, 2008 7:02 AM

Just back from North Sea Jazz, Rotterdam where we had the priviledge of seeing Naturally 7. Completely blown away with these guys - never heard anything so tight. Unbelievable sounds. It was the highlight of the festival for me. So glad I have found you. Please tour the UK soon!!

Posted by: Karen at July 16, 2008 5:24 AM

Saw Naturally 7 as support to Michael Buble at Newcastle Arena, UK, on Friday and they were absolutely brilliant!

Please tour the UK

Posted by: Sandra at July 21, 2008 4:08 AM

I went to see Michael Buble in Melbourne Australia. My delight with Naturally 7 as performers and sound manipulators was without limit. I could have watched them all night as a main act. Extraordinary accomplishments, but most importantly they eminate a wonderful energy to the world. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Yvonne at July 23, 2008 7:02 PM

These guys are the NUTS. Saw them for the 2nd time last night at the O2 London, absolutley awesome. FOR THOSE NOT AWARE THEY ARE AT INDIGO2 on Tuesday night 29th July 2008. Get there if you can....... YOU WILL BE IN AWE

Posted by: Gareth at July 25, 2008 5:40 AM

Hey. Check out http://www.naturallyseven.4fans.org, the first fanpage about Naturally 7 and get news, biographies, tourdates, videos, graphics and more. The Page is available also in English! Feel free and leave a message in the guestbook,
Have fun and enjoy their music

Posted by: Marie at August 28, 2008 12:54 PM

Awsome group that needs a big break. I saw them for the first time on the net and I'm hooked. How could a group be together the time they have and not be national. Things that make you go hmmmmm!!! God bless you guys and
blessed luck. You are the real deal.

Posted by: randy dixon at October 4, 2008 3:30 PM

U saw Naturally 7 last night in Greenville, SC. They opened for Michael Buble and they were unbelievable! Could have listened to them all night! Thank you, guys, for using your God-given talents to make beautiful music.

Posted by: elizabeth at October 5, 2008 2:03 PM

BRAVO!!!! I decided to take a "me weekend" and caught you in Greenville, SC at the Michael Buble concert. Absolutely amazing! I teach middle school chorus and can't wait to tell my Boys Ensemble about you on Monday morning! "If music be the food of life - sing on!"

Posted by: Robbin at October 5, 2008 6:28 PM

SIMPLY AMAZING! I saw and HEARD Naturally 7 open for Michael Buble last night in Knoxville. What a fantastically talented group! THANK YOU!

Posted by: Tony Wilder at October 6, 2008 10:04 AM

I saw these 7 awesome men tonight before Buble in Moline, IL. WOW, WOW, WOW AWESOME and truly AMAZING!!!!! Where have these guys been?

Posted by: Lisa at October 8, 2008 9:39 PM

My two daughters, one of their friends, and myself saw your opening act in Greenville last Saturday. PHENOMENAL!!! Your performance knocked us off of our feet!! We bought your CD & we love it. The most amazing thing???......the 7 of you took the time to sing my daughter and her friend Happy Birthday. Thank you for being so gracious. That is something they will always remember! May every success & happiness be yours!! You deserve it!! WHEN are you coming back?? WE WILL BE THERE WHEN YOU DO!!

Posted by: Nicky Templar at October 9, 2008 9:04 AM

I was honored and blessed to have N7 stay at my hotel, and I heard their inspirational talent they have in their voices and it is the most uplifting, optimistic sound I have ever heard. I was honored to get to know one of them a little more (Jamal Reed) as we had more time to talk during some downtime, and let me tell you that if all of them are this down to earth and God fearing Christians like him then they will go far. May God richly bless them in their future endeavors.

Posted by: Patrick at November 16, 2008 6:37 PM

I saw these cats last night at Mohegan Sun. Absolutely on top of their game and the sounds are phenomenal. I was sorry to see them leave the stage and it was a treat to hear the song on Buble's upcoming album. I hope to see them again and enjoy the grooves and energy they bring to the stage. Thanks guys for an inspirational performance. "SAY YOU LOVE ME" is the BOMB!!!!!!

Posted by: ML at December 4, 2008 12:04 PM

no words can describe! jus saw a clip of them on cnn and had 2 check them out on youtube. truly gifted and amazing. feel-good music

Posted by: mandy at April 7, 2009 5:40 AM

They're spetacular. When I hear them, I can't imagine that all the instrumental sound is made by their voices and vocal percussion. Here in Brazil we don't have good groups like them... Naturally 7 Rule...

Posted by: Fagner at April 24, 2009 7:58 AM

I saw them when they came to Moncton with Michael Buble. I was stunned. I had seen them on TV performing on CTV Live at 5 before the concert, but it's nothing like when it's live. Their voices just go right through you. I went there to see Michael Buble, but I went out enjoying Naturally 7 more than Buble, something I didn't expect. I now listen to some of their songs.

Posted by: Travis at May 6, 2009 4:11 PM

I just saw them last night at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, on the same bill as the great artists Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Simone, Angélique Kidjo and Wyclef Jean.

Their performance was absolutely spectacular! Their ability to mimic instruments is astounding - it was a real treat to listen to and Naturally 7 got the house rockin'! Come back anytime!

Posted by: cox at July 12, 2009 7:34 AM

i know this is late, but i saw michael buble in greenville sc on october 4 or 5 i think and well we stood outside after the show and it was cold but it was worth. he is grogeous up close and naturally 7 guy,hops liked my sister and they went out to breakfast at ihop the next morning. it was so cool!

Posted by: Alyssa at July 28, 2009 12:14 PM

i know this is late, but i saw michael buble in greenville sc on october 4 or 5 i think and well we stood outside after the show and it was cold but it was worth. he is grogeous up close and naturally 7 guy,hops liked my sister and they went out to breakfast at ihop the next morning. it was so cool!

Posted by: Alyssa at July 28, 2009 12:14 PM

i saw the naturally 7 concert yesterday and i couldnt stop sayin I LOVE YOU BASS MAN (hops) i think he is soooooo gorgeous.
I LOVE YOU BASS MAN oh yeah and btw i was the 1 in pink and black who shouted out i love you from the crowd ;) i love you man... XD

Posted by: Carolina R. at November 17, 2009 4:25 AM

Saw Naturally 7 in July 2008 with Michael Buble in Liverpool - brilliant.
Looking forward to seeing them again Oct 6 2010 in Manchester UK

Posted by: Anne Wales UK at September 27, 2010 6:08 AM

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