HOME FREE make their voices heard.
by Norman Warwick
Home Free competed in and won the fourth season of The Sing-Off on NBC in 2013. They sang an arrangement of Hunter Hayes‘ I Want Crazy as their final competitive song, earning the group $100,000 and a recording contract with Sony.
Their first album was released under a major label, Crazy Life, (left) on February 18, 2014. It was released digitally on January 14, 2014
The group Home Free was originally formed in 2000 by Chris Rupp in Mankato, Minnesota, when some of its members were still in their teens. The five founding members were brothers Chris and Adam Rupp, Matt Atwood, Darren Scruggs, and Dan Lemke; taking their name from a boat owned by Atwood’s grandfather who helped support the group financially in the early years. The group began as a hobby for the singers, but they gradually gained in experience and popularity. By 2007 they had enough of a following to pursue music full-time. During this period, the Rupp brothers and Atwood formed the core of the group, with Atwood singing lead tenor. Other members of the group came and went. Current member Rob Lundquist, another Minnesotan, joined in 2008.
For much of the group’s history they have worked with many talented bass singers, but did not have a full-time committed bass voice. In 2007 Chris Foss (currently a member of Cantus) sang with them. Elliott Robinson was added as bass in September 2008, and was replaced in June 2009 by Troy Horne. Later that year, Horne left to rejoin The House Jacks. To replace Horne they turned to Tim Foust, who first sang with them as a guest on their 2010 tour. A Texas native, Foust was then pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter of country music and had recently released a solo album, but was not ready to sign on full-time. Matthew Tuey sang with the group in the interim of 2011, until Foust joined them full-time in January 2012.
In 2012, Austin Brown was working on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship as a featured singer in their production shows. When Home Free joined the cruise as a guest performing group, they met and became close. Brown, who was born in Tifton, Georgia, let Home Free know that he would be interested in joining the group if they ever had an opening. At the end of 2012 lead singer Matt Atwood and his wife, who had married the previous year, were expecting their first child. Finding the group’s touring schedule incompatible with family life, and having an opportunity to take over his family’s real estate business in Mankato, Atwood made the decision to retire from the group. Home Free then invited Brown to join as lead tenor. He sang his first show with the group in October 2012, and became full-time in January 2013. Two years later they made a guest appearance on Kenny Rogers‘ holiday album Once Again It’s Christmas on the track “Children Go Where I Send Thee“; a music video was released in November 2015.
On March 18, 2016 it was announced that, after sixteen years performing with the group, co-founder Chris Rupp would be leaving to pursue a solo career. He would be replaced after May 8th by Adam Chance, formerly of Street Corner Symphony. Chris went on to release his own solo album, Shine, and he also formed a mixed group named 7th Ave that is not a cappella based.
An update of Home Free’s 2014 album Full of Cheer was released as Full Of (Even More) Cheer in November 2016 and debuted at number two on Top Country Albums with 13,000 sold, the band’s best performance on the chart at the time.
All five of Home Free’s singers have formal musical training. Lundquist and the Rupp brothers all have bachelor’s degrees in music. Adam Rupp’s primary instrument is trumpet, but he also plays drums, keyboard, and bass guitar. Since joining, Foust and Brown have also become very active in writing and arranging.
In terms of musical roles, Home Free (right) is structured like a traditional barbershop quartet, with a lead tenor, two harmony voices, and a bass. The lead tenor, who fronts the group and sings most of the solos, is Austin Brown. Tenor harmony is sung by Rob Lundquist, baritone harmony is sung by Adam Chance, and Tim Foust sings bass, with the latter two switching roles occasionally. In addition to the four voices, percussion sounds are provided by beatboxer Adam Rupp. Although Brown is Home Free’s primary soloist, all of the other members occasionally sing solos as well.
Home Free’s styling as a country group is relatively recent. Before Foust joined the group, Home Free was an all-purpose a cappella group, singing in a wide variety of styles, of which country was only a minor one. With the additions of Foust and Brown, the group moved more in the direction of country and found that audiences responded well to it. Home Free had auditioned three times for The Sing-Off (without Foust and Brown) and not been accepted. When auditioning for the fourth season, they made a conscious decision to style themselves as a country group. In an interview Brown said this identity is what grabbed the attention of The Sing-Off’s casting director, who said, “You guys really fit something we don’t have.”
Since then, Home Free have revealed not only their seemingly effortless vocals and impressive harmonies but have also shown good taste in their song selection. There are superb You Tubes out there of them performing End of The Road, and the classic Man Of Constant Sorrow, a song much beloved by our own banjo playing son.
Because of the inclusion of that track I remembered to ´inform him´, via our weekly skype. of everything I had learned from on-line reading and listening about the group from our old friends Harry and Catherine Coward, frequently mentioned on these pages.
¨Hey´, I said, ¨Harry and Catherine have told me about an American group called Home Free. They´re ……´
´Yeh, they´re great he said. I have all their stuff on my sound systems for a couple of years now !´
Like father in Lanzarote, like son in South Korea. The music of Home Free in America had travelled sidetracks and detours from America to the UK, to The Canary Island to Seoul in South Korea. So have a listen at
to a Home Free version of Willie Nelson´s On The Road Again and follow your own sidetracks & detours, and you´ll be home free !
The prime sources for this were provided by Harry and Catherine Coward, Andrew Warwick and on-line material.
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