Thursday, October 19, 2017
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The songs on The Texas Tenors’ new album “Rise” are all over the map.
There is the uplifting pop of the title song, an orchestral take on “Country Boy,” the down-home, toe-tappin’ “Bootdaddy” and a couple of classic rock numbers.
What ties them all together is the rich voices of the trio – Marcus Collins, John Hagen and JC Fisher – and the all-American lineup of composers who wrote the songs.
“We decided we wanted to go Americana on this album,” said Collins, calling from an airport somewhere. “We wanted American songwriters and songs that are uplifting and inspirational.”
But all three Tenors are classically trained and couldn’t resist adding an aria from the Puccini’s opera “Tosca.”
So, does such a wide-ranging mix of genres make it harder for potential fans to draw a bead on the classical-crossover act? Collins isn’t concerned.
“It might limit us in a way, but it does please the folks who come to our concerts, and that’s how we grow our fan base,” he said.
The Texas Tenors have been on a steady rise ever since the act’s top 5 finish on “America’s Got Talent” in 2009. A pair of PBS specials, including one released last month, have been huge. But the real growth engine is constant touring. The Tenors easily top 100 shows per year.
The trio will be at Stambaugh Auditorium this Sunday, backed by a four- to six-piece band. The orchestral arrangements that are present on many of the act’s songs are added with a recorded track.
The story of how the act got together also smacks of American lore.
Collins and Fisher were singers on the same cruise ship in 2000, and Fisher would meet Hagen later when both were working construction, trying to make ends meet.
“JC heard someone singing ‘Nessun Dorma’ (from Puccini’s opera ‘Turandot’] and came over and saw John putting up drywall,” said Collins. “They struck up a conversation about classical music, and they discovered that both of them were trained vocalists. John started talking about how hard it is to make a living at it.”
The three put their act together, sent audition tapes to “America’s Got Talent,” and never looked back.
“We were all in the entertainment business, but it wasn’t paying the bills,” recalled Collins of the early days. “We were blessed and fortunate [to find success on ‘AGT’], and we took it and ran with it.”
The Texas Tenors put on a family-friendly show. The act is also more like a family business.
“We remain self-produced and self-managed,” said Collins. “Also, what’s rare about us is when people send us a message or an email through social media or our website, we answer them. And John’s wife, Lori, fulfills all of our merchandise orders – T-shirts, coffee cups, CDs, whatever’s on our website – and she writes a handwitten note for each order.”
This level of personal service might be untenable if the new album pushes the act to the next level, but for now that’s the way it is.
Getting a foothold on radio has proved elusive, but the upcoming release of the single “Bootdaddy” on Nov. 7 might do the trick. The song is radio-ready, especially for country stations, and insanely catchy.
“We’re going to give it our best shot,” said Collins. “We’re going to try to get it into the right hands.”
As their name implies, all three Tenors are from Texas, or at least lived there at one time or another, and still have family there. They took it upon themselves to help the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, which slammed the Houston area in August.
“We’re giving all proceeds, every cent, from the song ‘Rise’ to the recovery effort,” said Collins.
The song can be purchased at thetexastenors.com and other online retailers.