Allentown’s Jerome Collins returns with Straight No Chaser
A decade after the release of Straight No Chaser’s hit debut album, “Holiday Spirits,” Allentown native Jerome Collins says he still has to pinch himself sometimes.
“We are just all American boys still doing what we did in college,” he says. “We never thought something we started for fun would be our livelihood.”
The male acapella group sensations bring “An Evening with Straight No Chaser” to the State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton, for two shows, 4 and 8 p.m. Dec 8. The tour is in support of the group’s sixth album, the retrospective “One Shot.”
“They say you only have one shot,” Collins says. “We got that call and we never looked back.”
He says the concept album takes listeners through the story of Straight No Chaser. The group’s members met in show choir at Indiana University during the 1980s.
“One day, we were bored and one of our buddies suggested we join the all-male acapella group for free food and to meet girls,” Collins says. “It was college and we were living like crazy.”
The new album includes several songs from those early days.
Collins says a cover of the Def Jam hit, “This is How We Do It,” was “our go-to song” and a cover of Toto’s hit, “Africa,” was “one of the most popular songs on campus.” But it was a goofy version of “12 Days of Christmas” that would become the group’s breakthrough song.
After college, the members “went our own ways,” Collins says.
Collins, who had always been involved in music and had toured with the Singing Boys of Pennsylvania as a youth, pursued a music career.
In 1998, the Indiana University choir members reunited for a 10-year reunion. As part of the festivities, they made a video of themselves singing “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
“It was an inside joke,” Collins says. “We never thought anything would come from it.”
Eight years later, one of the members posted the video on Youtube and to everyone’s shock, it went viral.
“When I found out it was the number one viewed video in 2007, it was a big surprise,” Collins says. “It was pretty amazing.”
Atlantic Records called and before long 10 choir members were in the studio recording the group’s debut album, “Holiday Spirits,” which went gold and became the number one-selling album on iTunes and Amazon.com charts.
Straight No Chaser went on to sell out concert venues across the United States and release five more top-selling albums and four EPs.
Collins says the whole experience has been “humbling.
“I get a joy out of standing on stage and singing for people,” Collins says. “It’s exhilarating to see people laughing and smiling at our concerts.”
He is especially excited to perform again in the Lehigh Valley.
“There is nothing like coming home,” he says. “We’ve played the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks, but this is always more nerve-wracking because I want to put my best foot forward in front of the home audience.”
Collins is not the only local member of the group.
Walter Chase is originally from Forks Township, and also is a freelance music producer and arranger. He is best-known as the “Jewish guy” in “12 Days of Christmas.”
Collins says the State Theatre concert will include the group’s hits, as well as songs that acknowledge their journey such as “Changes” and “Homeward Bound.” There also will be some Motown songs to “give homage to the music we grew up with.”
“We like to break the fourth wall and invite the audience into our lives,” he says.
Also on tap will be a number of contemporary pop hits and rock classics, including “Sweet Dreams-Hand Clap,” the group’s mash-up of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” and Fitz and the Tantrums’ “Hand Clap,” as well their show-stopping “Beyoncé Medley.”
Since the concert is all cappella, there is no band and no instruments. All the sounds are produced by the guys on stage.
“We always have something up our sleeves,” Collins says. “We make sure we give the audience everything.”
Collins says members of the group meet and take photos with their fans after every show.
“We like to get personal since our success was so grassroots,” he says.
Collins admits he is living his dream and he wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.
“These guys are a bunch of goofballs and I love them very much,” he says. “This is something we dreamed of but never thought would happen.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132