The Sing Off’s AfroBlue: “We really love to be cerebral about music”

This week on NBC’s The Sing-Off, judges Sara Bareilles, Shawn Stockman, and Ben Folds made a tough decision and eliminated one of the last remaining collegiate groups, AfroBlue. After a dueling sing-off between the crew from Howard University and the Dartmouth Aires, the show lived up to it’s name with a decision coming down to one final battle. After delivering memorable performances week after week, such as “American Girl” and “Need You Now,” AfroBlue knew they had to follow through with critiques and focus on their arrangements. Unfortunately, found themselves eliminated and exited the Top 4. Earlier today, YakkityYaks had the pleasure to participate in an exclusive call with Danielle Withers from AfroBlue to get some insight on the group’s inspiration, challenges and what they think about the top 3 groups in the competition. Read on to find out these and much more!

For details on how to vote for the Top 3, click HERE. The Sing-Off bows with its finale next Monday, November 28 at 8/7c on NBC!


The Yak: Hey there, how are you today?

Danielle, AfroBlue: I’m good, thanks!

The Yak: So, what made you guys do The Sing-Off?

Danielle: A few of us kept up with the show from season 1 and we were definitely into the show. We thought it would be cool to be on, but never really thought to audition or send in a tape. In the past, we were afforded the privilege to perform with legendary jazz singers, such as Take 6. Our director reconnected with Cedric from Take 6 and he remembered who we were and put in our name with casting at The Sing-Off. They saw our videos and asked us to audition. The rest is history.

The Yak: You guys had the privilege of knowing each other for some time before doing the show. How do you think that helped you week after week?

Danielle: Well, actually the group on the show was formed from members of the current class and some former members of AfroBlue. So, this was the first time we performed as a group together. Myself, Charity and Elijah have sang together in the past, but our director put us all together and we realized how well we sang as a group and brought it to the stage week after week.

The Yak: You’ve mentioned your director a couple of times. Were you able to work with her during the competition or were you not able to?

Danielle: No, we didn’t really work with her during the show. It was just us out there. As you saw on the show, there was no jazz night, so we had to arrange things freshly week after week. We were bravin’ it on our own. Our repertoire didn’t have any songs that coincided with the themes.

The Yak: Speaking of the themed nights, was one week particularly challenging for you as a group?

Danielle: Hmm, definitely rock/country week. We were familiar with “Need You Now” as a group. Even though we’re a jazz group, we listen to all kinds of music, but we don’t sing all kinds together as AfroBlue. The challenge was to be authentic and find yourselves in each piece we performed, no matter what. I was also not familiar with “American Girl,” so that was a challenge in and of itself. We took the advice of the judges from previous weeks and thought delicately about the arrangements.

The Yak: Well, I loved both of those arrangements, so well done. Have you guys heard from any of the artists you’ve covered this season?

Danielle: Oh, ya actually. We saw a tweet from Estelle the following morning praising our performance of “American Boy,” so that was really cool. We hope others saw our covers and think that we did them justice. I’d love to hear from more of them.

The Yak: You guys were one of the few groups who changed soloists almost weekly. Other than finding the right voice for the song, was there anything else that led you guys to choose a particular vocalist to perform that week?

Danielle: Basically you hit the nail on the head. It all depends on whose voice does the song most justice. We want the personality of the song shine through the voice and sometimes one person’s tone does that better than another.

The Yak: Did you have a favorite performance from the season? If so, why?

Danielle: My favorite was “Killing Me Softly.” I felt as though it were pleasing to the ear. I loved our arrangement. It really was an indicator of who we are as a group. It showed that we can be crazy and have a good time. We really love to be cerebral about music and that song did it for me. I love intricate arrangements like that.

The Yak: Sorry to have seen you guys eliminated last night, but was there any particular feedback from the judges after the show that gave you a little bit more insight into their decision?

Danielle: Nothing extra. What you saw was what they essentially said. They based their decision off the consistency of the season. We were in the bottom 2 more than Dartmouth Aires, so that made sense to us. They are an amazing and dynamic group. Michael’s vocals are amazing.

The Yak: Ya, that note during their sing-off performance blew me away.

Danielle: Haha, exactly my point! We root for each other, that’s the tricky part of this competition.

The Yak: Going into the finale next week, anyone in particular you guys are rooting for?

Danielle: Oh man, all the groups are good for different reasons. Like I said, the Aires are amazing and dynamic. I’m a huge theatre fan and I have told them that everytime I see them perform I feel like I’m watching a Broadway show. As for Urban Method, they have really cool arrangements. I can see things they do on a record. The intricacies you can hear in the background are so unique. And then Pentatonix. You know how some of the best musicians/singers are ahead of their time? That’s who they represent for me. They have the longevity in an artist that will keep them around for a while. Their attitudes are great – tongue in cheek in a really cool way. All the groups have been great.

The Yak: So you can’t commit, huh?

Danielle: Haha, nope, sorry!

The Yak: That’s OK – Before I let you go, are you allowed to give us a sneak peek into next week’s finale?

Danielle: Nope, sorry, you’ll have to tune in and see!

The Yak: Well thanks for your time. It was great talking to you. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Danielle: Thanks, same to you!

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