Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men knows what it’s like to be in a successful singing group that can perform outstanding harmonies a cappella (without the use of instruments or other musical accompaniment). In that respect, he is an ideal judge for NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” a contest for a cappella groups. The show’s grand prize consists of $200,000 cash and a record deal with Sony Music.
Stockman says that he will be performing on the Season 3 finale of “The Sing-Off,” which will be televised on November 28, 2011. In a telephone conference call with reporters, Stockman also talked about how he has changed as a judge since the first season of “The Sing-Off,” as well as what his future projects are with and without Boyz II Men.
How do you see the dynamic at play between a group like North Shore and their experience, as compared to The Collective and where they are as a group?
Very simple. I mean, North Shore has been doing this for many, many, many, many years, so naturally they’re going to have more of a cohesive blend and harmony, structure that you can only get from experience. I mean, they know each other. They probably know which parts they’re going to sing before they even start a record.
As The Collective, they’re new at with being a group, so they have to take a lot of time figuring out each other’s strengths, and weaknesses, and who can do what. You definitely see the difference because of the fact that the experience level is it’s one against the other.
And I have to mention that, like, all of the groups that are on this show, the cool thing about this show is the fact that none of the groups suck. They’re not bad at all. So it’s got a lot of them. Some are just better than others, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ones that are better than the others. The ones that aren’t as good as the other ones aren’t good, and that’s the great thing about this show.
You instantly you get pure quality from the first episode. So as we go along with the competition, you start to weed out who has the better means of diversifying with each thing we throw at them and with each challenge. And as it gets even more narrow, we start to figure out who would be the best representatives for the ultimate prize, which is the Sony contract and actually being recording artists.
You mentioned to Scott of Pentatonix about knowing when to sing. How hard is it going to be for some to find that if they haven’t found it already?
That group is amazing because not only are they innovative, they take to advice very quickly. Their learning curve is fast. Like they don’t have too many problems with understanding music and what it takes to make certain things sound a certain way … I think a lot of it is because of just how they do it.
I mean, they’re off-the-chain, as far as this their mental thinking and arranging and things of that nature, so it’s almost like feeding a baby. I mean, they just instantly consume it and they grow from it. And as far as that is concerned, yes, because this is something that we were taught, being in the business, because we came just be pure singing and knowing how to sing. A lot of times your voice can take on certain characteristics outside of just sounding pretty.
You can sound gritty. You can sound sad. You can sound angry and things of that nature. And I think that’s part of the dynamics that a lot of artists or some of the great artists and only the greater artists knows how to master. And that I think that’s where that advice is coming from, because Scott is such a good vocalist and he’s such a pure vocalist, that sometimes it doesn’t necessarily take for him to sing, because it takes away from the story of the actual song. Sometimes it takes you to sound off-key, or to sound like you’re talking, or to sound like you’re in despair, and things of that nature to bring across a certain type of feeling.
So you’ve been with the show since the beginning. And do you find that you’ve progressed in your judging abilities? How do you compare yourself as a judge from the first episode of the series to this season?
I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with being in the chair, and in the camera, and just figuring out certain ways how to express, or rather articulate, what I’m hearing. And I owe a lot of that to my co-judges. You what I mean? Especially Ben Folds … He’s an encyclopedia when it comes to music and just how to say certain things a certain way.
I still don’t like to watch myself though. Like, I’ll watch some of the episodes, and then I find myself kind of fast-forwarding me. I’m still kind of embarrassed by it to some degree. I’m not used to actually seeing myself judge, because instantly I’m my worst critic. So when I feel like I’ve said something that I should have said different, or I thought was stupid or something like that, I fast-forward it. You know what I mean?
In other words, I’m still learning. I’m still developing, as far as how to say what I want to say and say it in a very concise and in a kindly fashion, so, I’m learning a lot though. And I’m enjoying it.
You, Ben Folds and Sara Bareilles (the other “Sing-Off” judges) and “The Sing-Off” host Nick Lachey all have different music styles. So what do you think that brings to the table in terms of the show, the advice you can provide, and the judging all around?
It brings respect in a sense, where the diversity that we have is it attracts viewers of different kinds. So everybody who might not be a Nick Lachey fan but might be a Ben Folds fan will listen to him and say, “I like that show.” Or somebody that might not be a Shawn Stockman fan but is a Nick Lachey fan will say, “You know what? I like that show.” So it’s just of the things where it’s all good, because everyone knows us for being musicians. And even with Sara, that adds the authenticity that honestly no other vocal competition has.
This question is for a website about dating. What’s the most memorable date that you’ve ever been on in your life?
Wow. Well the worst is one of my group members, who as a joke put me on a blind date with someone that I did not find attractive at all. But, me being the person that I am, we still went out. And I still took her to the movies and things of that nature. But needless to say, I cussed out my group member for doing that. He thought it was funny.
As far as the best date, honestly, I don’t want to say I’m high-strung, but I know how to put dates. I know how to do that, because I put timing and planning to it, and things of that nature. I could tell you a lot of things that I’ve done with my wife that just were just cool dates. We took a helicopter ride to Catalina Island, where we had, like, a certain section of the island all by ourselves. And we had a picnic, and we had music, and things of that nature.
There was another time where all she had to do was just go out with me, because I picked out her dress, shoes, accessories, the restaurant — everything. Like, she didn’t have to do anything but just put on the clothes I bought her and go out with me. So there’s a couple things that, because I like doing that.
I’m a giver, so I like to impress. So when I go out on a date, I like to impress my wife, even down to just spur-of-the-moment “Let’s go to the movies.” Even now, if we have a couple of hours between picking up kids and other stuff like that, it’s like, “Lets just go catch a movie.” You what I mean? “Let’s just go watch a movie and eat some popcorn, and then get something from Johnny Rockets.” Like I’m from crazy elaborate to practical, right. I try to cover all of it.
If you’re not a musical person, but you’re dating somebody who’s a singer or trying to get into music business, what tips do you have for being a supportive partner for that person?
I don’t know, because to be very honest, me not being with someone famous was my design, because … I’m a Libra, so I have to have kind of like the best of both worlds, so to speak. In other words, me being the entertainer, I want to go home to someone who’s able to talk something a little different. You what I mean? And I don’t want to be with somebody who’s complaining about the same record-company president that I’m complaining about.
It’s just one of those things when I’m home, I want to be able to talk about what she did today, and then I can tell her what I did today. So it’s kind of like adding something to each other, as far as taking each other away from our respective worlds and enjoying that. But I guess if I had to give any advice for an entertainer going out with another entertainer, try to find a way to not make it about entertainment.
Try to find a normalcy somewhere, where you guys really shut down and there’s no egos or anything like that, because that’s another thing too. If I was married to J. Lo, and I’m an entertainer, she has just as big a ego as I do. And sometimes those things are going to clash. You what I’m saying?
Like, sometimes I might just want my wife to just be my wife and to not be the entertainer. And sometimes that’s hard to cut off. And it’s just natural. But I think that’s the biggest thing: Just knowing when to shut down that entertainer side and just be a regular old John and Jane.
You were in the Season 2 finale of “The Sing-Off” with the other guys from Boyz II Men. Do you have any plans for Boyz II Men to be in the Season 3 finale?
Yeah, we’re talking about it. We’re talking about finale options and ideas, and apparently, we want it to be big and we wanted to do something memorable, and things of that nature. And we haven’t come to an agreement just yet, as far as how we approach it, because honestly, me and the guys are a lot busier than what we were even last year, so we’re trying to figure it all out. But rest assured, it’s going to be something special and it’s going to be something cool. And I’m definitely going on stage.
A lot of judges and hosts from other shows kind of use or a show like this as kind of a platform for either a relaunching of a career or other side projects. Do you have anything that you are going to be doing other than this?
The Boyz II Men album [“Twenty”] that’s coming out October 24 on our own label and exclusively at Walmart. This is a very special deal. A lot of people kind of giggle and laugh when I say that, but it’s a really big deal and we’re excited about it. As well as just doing “The Sing Off,” I have a production company called Tru Society that I’m in the process of shopping other TV deals and things of that nature.
I’ve been bitten by the TV bug. I’ve always had ideas for television shows, this has really kind of pushed me into this direction a lot quicker. And hopefully you’ll see some actual productions created under Tru Society in the near future.
For more info: “The Sing-Off’ website
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