The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 8, 2013

Local a cappella group competes on NBC 'Sing-Off'

A cappella group formed in Mankato competing on NBC 'Sing-Off'

An all-male a cappella group with roots planted firmly in the Mankato music scene soon will be competing on a national NBC singing competition.

Home Free is one of 10 groups vying for the title of best a cappella group, a Sony Music recording contract, and $100,000 on the fourth season of “The Sing-Off,” which kicks off 8 p.m. Monday. The two-week, seven-episode season will be hosted by Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees fame, and the winning group will be determined during a two-hour finale on Dec. 23.

“We thought, 'This can't actually be happening, can it?'” said Home Free co-founder Chris Rupp. “(We were) super excited.”

In the season pre-taped in July and August, the groups performed for celebrity judges Jewel, Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. In a new twist this season, the bottom two groups determined by the judges competed in an “Ultimate Sing-Off” to determine which of the two goes home.

The journey to this point for Home Free has been a steady climb since 2000, when then-Mankato teens Matt Atwood and Chris and Adam Rupp sang together to compete in Hosanna Lutheran Church's annual talent contest.

Group members have come and gone over the years, with the Rupps remaining as the only original members. The current lineup also includes Rob Lundquist from Brooklyn Park; Tim Foust, originally from Nederland, Texas; and Austin Brown, a native of south Georgia.

Beginning as a small local group that performed at house parties and charities, Home Free now tours nationally and has sang for Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Lines. But they still do plenty of small local shows, including a holiday concert in Le Sueur Friday night.

With a foundation of barbershop style, the vocal band featured two tenors, a baritone and a bass, as well as Chris Rupp’s nationally recognized beat-boxing skills. And their repertoire included original material, doo-wop classics and contemporary hits.

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