When Tyler Trepp visited Cedar Rapids for the first time, the Straight No Chaser vocalist was a high school freshman who was in town to sing.
That hasn’t changed 23 years after Trepp made his area debut as part of a show choir. Trepp, who made the trek across I-80 from Urbandale back in the day, returns to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday (10/30) as part of Straight No Chaser, performing at the Paramount Theatre.
“Every time I come back to Cedar Rapids, I think of what it was like performing there when I was a teenager,” Trepp said by phone from his home in Tulsa, Okla. “I sang all over Iowa when I was with my a cappella group for all four years of high school. It was the greatest experience.”
Not long after enrolling at Indiana University in 1996, Trepp befriended eight other like-minded individuals. Trepp and his pals formed Straight No Chaser while on campus. The group performed and made some recordings, but after graduating in 2000, the friends thought Straight No Chaser was finished.
“We went into the world and started working,” he said. “We never thought we would sing together again.”
However, in 2008, an Atlantic Records executive discovered the group’s version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” on YouTube. The popular clip, which has received more than 20 million views, prompted Atlantic to ask the members to reunite. Trepp left his job singing on a cruise ship to record an album with his college mates.
“It was completely out of left field,” Trepp said. “We jumped at the opportunity. I loved singing with those guys when we were at school. I didn’t know if the project would amount to anything, but it was worth a try. I thought, ‘What if this works out?’”
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The project turned out better than Trepp or anyone in the act could imagine. Straight No Chaser signed a five-album deal with Atlantic. “Holiday Spirits,” the band’s debut album, became the top selling album on iTunes and the Amazon.com charts.
Straight No Chaser has built a loyal fan base, which supports the act’s mix of covers of traditional, pop and holiday tunes. Their set list typically runs the gamut. Straight No Chaser has no problem veering from Oasis (“Wonderwall”) to Sam Cooke (“You Send Me”) to traditional Christmas (“Joy to the World.”).
Four of the ensemble’s albums are Christmas projects. Even though Straight No Chaser will appear at the Paramount Theatre the night before Halloween, will the vocal group deliver holiday tunes?
“We’ll do a few Christmas songs,” Trepp said. “Some people might think it’s a little early for that kind of material, but our fans really enjoy our Christmas songs. I think we can get by, since I just walked into Lowes and they have holiday stuff up. So I think we’ll be all right singing a few of those songs. But there will be a variety of songs when we perform. We have a lot to draw from. The audience in Cedar Rapids will get a little bit of everything.”
Straight No Chaser will preview a few tunes from its forthcoming album, “One Shot,” which will drop Nov. 2. Trepp is relatively hush-hush regarding details, even though the album will see the light of day shortly.
“All I can say is that this is an album which tells the Straight No Chaser story,” Trepp said. “I can say that we do a version of (Montell Jordan’s) ‘This Is How We Do It’ and (Boyz 2 Men’s) ‘Motownphilly.’”
When pressed about “One Shot” details, Trepp revealed that the album includes interludes between tracks of the act chatting.
“You’ll hear us sitting down at dinner talking about different moments in our career and cracking jokes,” he said. “This album is different. Fans will get a look inside of what Straight No Chaser is all about. We’ll be connecting with fans on this tour and via the album.”
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It’s been a decade for Straight No Chaser, which also includes vocalists Walter Chase, Randy Stine, Michael Luginbill, David Roberts, Charlie Mechling, Jerome Collins, Sargon Isho and Steve Morgan.
“It’s been a great 10 years and there is no sign of us stopping doing what we’re doing,” Trepp said. “I’m doing exactly what I want to do. How many people can say that?”
WHAT: Straight No Chaser: One Shot Tour WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (10/30)
TICKETS: $39.50 to $59.50, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
GROUP’S WEBSITE: Sncmusic.com