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Fred Hammond on United Tenors’ Inspiration

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Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister, Eric Roberson, and Brian Courtney Wilson have joined forces to create United Tenors. The musical power houses have debuted their 14-track eponymous gospel album to much success thus far. Here, Fred Hammond, the man who master-mined the project speaks on the group’s inspiration and how they keep their egos in check (interview from UT publicity).

All of the tenors are established in their own fields. How did you all keep egos at bay?

When assembling the group, I didn’t just listen to voices, but I also looked at character.  I wanted to work with men who would work well together and complement each other.  Personally, I have to put Fred Hammond’s solo career and solo personae on hold for the sake of making this group successful.  This is a bigger cause, so I have to step back now and sing background…and I’m happy to do it. And these guys feel the same way…they play their parts. There are no egos.  I try to distribute the time people have on the mic equally, and it has worked.  It has been a total joy. The bottom line is, none of us need this to survive.  Usually with groups, when everyone depends on the group and there’s no outside affiliations or activities to keep them sustained, it’s too much dependence on the group and everyone is vying for and voting for what they need out of the group.  We are all united in this, but we are not dependent upon it, and I think that makes the biggest difference.

Since all of you are tenors, how did you decide who would sing what parts of the songs?

This was very easy. I understand everyone’s range.  Even though he is great with the middle, Dave is most comfortable singing the lower notes so those are the parts I gave him.  I hold down the middle range, even though I can also sing at the top that is not my forte. Eric sings middle and top with ease, and Brian has an absolute extended high range.  I made sure everyone played to their truest strength, and it all worked out.  When I was writing the songs I sang all the parts on each track, then they would come in and listen to the parts and do it, but add their own flavor to put their own stamp on each part.  It was cool, it was fun, and it was easy.

What do you say to people who will make comparisons to Commissioned?

This is NOT a new Commissioned. This is new wine. It is not a remake or replication of Commissioned. There may be some familiarities to it, but that is only because I was one of the driving forces behind Commissioned during their most poignant years. Commissioned did what they were supposed to do, there’s nothing anyone can take away from it; that legacy stands for itself.  UT will have its own legacy and its own identity. It’s a current sound for this age and this time.

What was the most fun part of doing this album?

It was total peace while recording this record. They were all very supportive. No one had a problem singing any parts, no infighting over anything. We just loved being in the room together, the peace was appreciated.  Everybody supported everybody. It was great. Even the photo shoot was the best photo shoot I’ve been involved with since Commissioned’s first photo shoot!

In anyway does the brotherhood remind you of your days with Commissioned?

Dave and Eric grew up on Commissioned, that’s what started them singing. So, we shared a lot of stories…a lot of the good history of Commissioned, a lot of stories about the songs and how they came together.  There was a lot of reminiscing and nostalgia.  They were just glad to be working together and – it was hard for me to take – that I was in the room.  The camaraderie was amazing.