You may be able to tell which contestant on The Sing Off graduated from UMD just by looking at the girth of the facial hair. That’s right, it’s the bearded one, Rob Lundquist. “I will always remember that first episode where we performed ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line. At one point during the song I made eye contact with one of my musical idols, Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men, and he was bobbing his head along with the music and smiling. I’m surprised I was even able to keep singing through that. And then he made the comment that I can ‘never lose that beard,’ which has changed my life forever, making me the ‘bearded one’ in Home Free. There is even a twitter profile out there called Rob’s Beard @BeardFree. If they only knew that the reason I started growing a beard in the first place was to survive Duluth’s ridiculously cold winters.”
Rob and his a capella group Home Free certainly turned up the heat on The Sing Off, a competition series on NBC. T”Performing on The Sing Off has been for sure one of the most amazing experiences in my life,” says Rob. It’s an experience he isn’t about to forget any time soon as the Minnesota-based country vocal group Home Free claimed the victory of the a capella-based reality show.
Home Free took home the prize of a recording contract and $100,000 on a two-hour finale December 23rd.
Watch their final winning performance on The Sing-Off with Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy”.
Amazing, and challenging. Rob says that performing on The Sing Off required a marathoner’s endurance, but he was ready for the task because of the training he received at UMD, “Before coming to college, I had really only started singing for a little over a year. I had almost no technique and my vocal instructor, Rachel Inselman, pretty much taught me to sing. Her instruction has been invaluable to me and the techniques she taught me definitely helped while filming ‘The Sing Off.’ We sang anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day, everyday, and there’s just no way I would have been able to get through it without that knowledge”.
Rachel remembers Rob as a natural with quite a varied repertoire, “He was equally talented in singing opera, musical theatre, and jazz, and that is quite rare.”
Another voice professor, Tina Thielen Gaffey, also challenged Rob as a vocalist, “She had us learning some wicked hard charts in the vocal jazz ensemble, Lake Effect, and was constantly giving us new music to learn. Having to learn difficult arrangements quickly for sure helped me on ‘The Sing Off’. She also is just a great professor and friend that encouraged me to make music my career and stick with it.”
Rob joined Home Free after graduating from UMD in 2007 with a B.A. in music. He moved to Minneapolis where he works at the Guthrie Theater as a bartender, although those bartending gigs look to be few and far between. Home Free’s tour schedule is jam-packed, with many of the performances sold out.
Check out Rob’s vocals as he takes the lead in Home Free’s rendition of “Colder Weather”.
Other members of Home Free include brothers Chris and Adam Rupp from Mankato (Chris attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and Mankato State University. Adam graduated from Gustvus Adolphus College), Austin Brown, known for his lead vocals on the show, is from a small town in south Georgia, and Tim Foust, who quickly gained attention on the show for his deep vocals, is a native of Texas.
The group topped 10 competing on the show for the title and wa one of the top three that also included Ten, a group of background singers who mostly hail from Dallas, and Vocal Rush, a group of high school students out of California.
The show was hosted by Nick Lachey, known for being a part of 98 Degrees. The judges were Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and singer-songwriter Jewel.
Before performing on The Sing-Off, Home Free toured the country performing at coporate events as well as countless state and county fairs.
The guys of Home Free had to keep their win a secret from most people for three months.
See Rob’s infamous Gopher Dance while dueling with group Filharmonic with the song “I’m Alright”.
Chris Rupp, baritone and musical director for the group, said NBC hadn’t even announced the group was even in the lineup until November.
They were still performing on their regular tour schedule at the time.
“We were thinking, ‘This is going to be really cool in about six months,'” Rupp said.
And they and their managers had to find replacements to perform the shows they already had booked for August and September. They gathered a group of singers who had served as backups in the past, essentially forming a Home Free 2.0 that performed the Home Free show when the original Home Free guys couldn’t make it.
The group of five men is known for its country act. St. Cloud’s G.L. Berg Entertainment, Performing Artists and Speakers is their booking agency.