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December 7, 2013

Tifton native hopes to be Home Free during ‘Sing-Off’

TIFTON — Returning Monday night for a fourth season is NBC’s a cappella singing competition, “The Sing-Off,” which will feature Tifton native Austin Brown.

Performing with the group Home Free, 27-year-old Brown says he couldn’t ask for more or be more excited to have been given the opportunity to compete on the show.

“There’s no other platform like this for a group like Home Free,” he told The Tifton Gazette in a phone interview.

Brown has been singing professionally for five years. From October 2009 through July 2010, he was employed as a male vocalist by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines aboard the “Brilliance of the Seas,” which sailed in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. While performing on the ship, he said Home Free came on one day as guest entertainers. This led to him talking with the group, which he soon learned that their high tenor was retiring, and the rest is history.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Brown said, noting he’s a big a cappella nerd. He said the fit was perfect. He began singing with the group full time Jan. 1. He alternates between lead and high tenor. Home Free is an all-male American country vocal band based out of Minneapolis, Minn. Other members are Chris Rupp, Adam Rupp, Tim Foust and Rob Lundquist. The group performs 250 shows a year across the country.

Brown said after The Sing-Off was brought back following the success of last season’s winners, Pentatonix, and the movie, Pitch Perfect, they found out about the show and auditioned in May in New York. After a long audition process (100 groups from all over the country were interviewed), they were selected to be on the show. He said it was a huge blessing for them.

Brown said he was driving when he got a phone call from a fellow group member that they had been selected to be on The Sing-Off. He said he was pumped up then and still is.

Home Free will be competing against nine other groups on The Sing-Off, Brown said there is a total of about 100 singers, and they’re “all so talented.”

“There’s going to be such diversity on the show,” he said, calling everyone “amazing.”

Brown also said the three judges, Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Jewel, are so unique. He described them as “incredible musical minds.” Nick Lachey is the host of the show. Brown said it’s been a privilege and pleasure to get to work with them.

“It’s really been a wonderful experience,” he added about the show. Brown said this is the greatest thing to have happened to Home Free, and they’re looking forward to showing the world their talents. But not only that, they’re looking to connect with viewers.

“We like to call ourselves America’s premiere country a cappella group,” Brown said. He said they wanted to do something different — something the a cappella world hasn’t seen before, and that’s country. When asked what makes them stand out, he said their “likeability.”

“I’m always laughing in this group,” he said. “If we can carry that and portray that, I think we’ll have a shot.” He feels people will be able to relate to the group. He said viewers can definitely expect to see something they’ve never seen before.

Brown was born and raised in Tifton and lived here until he moved to Milledgeville in the ninth grade. He is the son of Madison Brown and Betsy Haman. He noted his grandfather, Squire Brown, was mayor of Tifton for 15 years in the 1960s and 1970s. According to his website, he attended Baldwin High School in Milledgeville. In his senior year at the suggestion of his choral teacher, he spearheaded and directed his high school’s first-ever placing competitive male quartet, achieving a 2nd place state victory in Georgia’s most competitive AAAA division. That same year, he also secured an overall state championship as a soloist coming on the heels of many staring roles in his school’s and community’s musical productions.

Brown decided to pursue music further and attended Oklahoma City University on a full-tuition scholarship majoring in music theater. The training he encountered there, as well as the friends he made, would prove invaluable to his future aspirations. He further developed his overall knowledge as a musician, a cappella enthusiast, arranger and director while growing in his vocal and acting artisanship. He also found his personal niche as a songwriter, collaborating often with a few of his closest peers.

Home Free is working on a new album, which they hope to release in January. To read more about the group or Brown, visit their Facebook page or website at www.homefreevocalband.com. Their music can also be found on YouTube. Check out The Sing-Off’s two-hour season premiere at 9 p.m. Monday on NBC.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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