It’s Thanksgiving and multiple generations may be sitting around the table casually eating dessert. What is your background music? Eighteen-year-old Max might want to hear Drake, Dad wants Queen and Grandpa wants Elvis. Since it is Thanksgiving and family tension sometimes is high, the right music will put everyone in a good mood. So..why not listen to Take 6? This a cappella group has been around 25 plus years. They set the stage for “Pitch Perfect” and Pentatonix. Recently, “Un-Block The Music” spoke with one of its founding members, Claude McKnight, about their 2018 release Iconic.
Take 6 is Claude, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley. Claude says their music stays fresh because they all listen to new music and continue to learn, but they don’t chase trends. “Anybody who thinks they know it all is short sighted, even if we have been through it for a long time.” Claude says it is important to be true to yourself “Don’t just chase the trends and do what you think you should do. Do what you love. If it resonates with you, then you will find an audience.”
How many artists can say they have performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Don Henley, James Taylor, K.D. lang, Patti Austin, Randy Travis, Queen Latifah, Sheryl Crow, Branford Marsalis as well as BeBe & CeCe Winans. Take 6 can say it. Iconic continues in that vein by lending itself to all generations.
Claude spoke about how songs were chosen for the album. “It was the first time in our career that we sat down in a room and basically wrote down all of the tunes, not only songs we love, but ones we thought would resonate with people around the world. Once we all put down songs on paper, we voted on them and came up with 10 songs that not only did it for us but we thought would travel well. We have songs on there like Christopher Cross’s ‘Sailing,’ Eric Clapton’s ‘Change The World,’ and Nora Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why.’ We have Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ as well.”
With television shows like The Sing Off and the great success of Pentatonix, there is a contemporary loop in a cappella. Claude says, “I think you have to be careful because if you are not arranging songs in a way that stretches the listener’s capacity, then you have the possibility to be lazy. On the other side, people hear things a certain way so you have to be careful, because if you take it too far it can make a song unrecognizable.” Styling and arranging a song and making something uniquely yours is important, but you still need the essence of what the original song. “You don’t want to change it so much that it is no longer a wonderful song.”
I think sometimes people are surprised by who has inspired us, Claude says. “Even though we are an a cappella group, we are very influenced by instrumentalists. For example, I grew up listening to a lot of big band music and R&B groups like Earth, Wind and Fire. Then there are other vocal groups from the 70s, 80s and 90s, everybody from Ambrosia to the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.”
Mmm…why did I create “Un-Block The Music”? If you haven’t read the “About” section on the blog, I will quote myself. “I love when artists from different generations and different music genres collaborate. After writing for probably 20 or more publications, I decided that there are so many things I want to write about, and blogging will finally let me do that. I have both new and old contacts and I listen to music all day every day. If you love music, you should at least expose yourself to all of it at least once.”
Claude says I tell young people, “listen to every kind of music. You will draw on things you are not even aware of. Listening to all music will add shading and color to what you do because you have taken it all in.”
So, when Grandma asks what album she should put on the record player (aka. Turntable), tell her Take 6 “He Is Christmas”.