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Center Stage: The Sing-Off and YouTube sensations take the stage at the Paramount Center for the Arts

May 02, 2019

TOM NETHERLAND | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER

Home Free’s bass singer stepped out of line to place a call to Bristol, Tennessee.

“I’m about to walk in to see ‘The Avengers: Endgame,’” said Tim Foust, by phone last Friday from Deadwood, South Dakota.

End well in sight on screen for “The Avengers” and on the road with Home Free, the a cappella group’s worldwide “Timeless” tour nears its conclusion. But first there’s the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee, on Sunday.

“We’re wrapping up the ‘Timeless’ tour in May,” Foust said. “We have a couple of new songs in the show. In our VIP, we do a song that you won’t hear in the show.”

Summer heralds a new album, of which details are currently embargoed. Tunes that Foust hinted about, yet would not reveal titles of, will exude from Home Free’s show in Bristol.

“Our live show is an experience,” he said. “Our fans are a part of our live show.”

Home Free birthed nearly two decades ago in Minnesota. Steady reorganization in style rooted as time went by, particularly after they won season four of NBC-TV’s “The Sing-Off” in 2013.

“They started up in Minnesota, so they were a bunch of Yankees,” said Foust, a native Texan. “Now, the Southerners outnumber the Northerners in Home Free.”

Five self-released albums preceded Home Free’s national coming out on “The Sing-Off.” The show propelled them from DIY recording and touring to star status and a contract with Columbia Records.

“Internationally, it gave us a whole new level of eyeballs,” Foust said. “We were driving ourselves in a van, carrying our stuff, setting up, tearing down before ‘The Sing-Off.’ These days, we travel in a tour bus. We’re very blessed.”

Five Home Free albums, including 2014’s “Crazy Life,” followed their win on “The Sing-Off.” Each reflect the gifted a cappella group’s gradual evolution from barber shop-to-pop manner of music to a more country feel.

Foust, a country singer and songwriter before he joined Home Free, at least in part influenced the group’s sonic shift.

“I definitely brought a country flavor to our group,” Foust said. “They had always done some country, and it was always received well. We’re all country singers. You can hear it when we sing.”

To date, covers dominate Home Free’s albums. For instance, they feature Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” as well as Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” and The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira” on 2015’s “Country Evolution” album.

On their “Timeless” LP, Home Free steered beyond country. They dipped into blues-rocker John Mayer’s catalog for “In the Blood,” classic rocker Dave Mason’s past for “We Just Disagree,” pop superstar Ed Sheeran’s rich vein for “Castle on the Hill.”

And their forthcoming new album?

“Ten of the 12 songs are originals,” Foust said, who would not reveal song titles or details regarding the album’s name or covers. “I will tell you, Patreon is so critical to what we do. We do about one video per month.”

Patreon exists as a crowdfunding website. Driven by paid memberships for access to particular artists, as with Home Free, subscribers receive exclusive access to content that can include new songs. It’s become a vital source of income for artists.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Patreon,” Foust said.

Social media — Patreon, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, etc. — prove essential to the group’s success. Fans receive incredible baskets of goodies. For instance, Home Free recently released their clever cover of “Love Train,” which was made famous by R&B’s O’Jays in 1973.

“That’s half the fun, taking a non-country song and putting a Home Free country spin on them,” Foust said. “It is not on the new album. It’s on You Tube.”

Soul legend Diana Ross heard Home Free’s notes-bending rendition of “Love Train,” loved it, and delivered an invitation to them.

“She invited us to play her 75th birthday party,” Foust said. “You know, we’re working harder today than when we ever have. It’s paid off.”