'The Sing-Off's' Ben Folds: 'This Is the Season of Innovation'

The judge previews Season 3's evolving roster of a capella groups.

In many ways, this is a new era for NBC’s The Sing-Off. Last year, American’s hadn’t been introduced to The Voice and The X Factor was far from being settled. And, arguably, it was the success of The Sing-Off’s second season that gave NBC the courage to push The Voice forward.

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At the same time, The Sing-Off seems to be rising to the challenge of the bar set by the increasingly crowded field of reality talent competitions: A new judge in Sara Bareilles with both a capella and artistic credibility, a longer season, and more competing groups with diverse styles.

“I think this is the season of innovation,” returning judge Ben Folds says on a recent press call. “I think that's what marks this season and my theory is because these groups watched this television show and they thought what can I do to stand out? And so we have a lot of standout groups.”

Among this season’s supersized total of sixteen groups (compared to last season’s 10 and first season’s eight), is a pretty dynamic mix of styles. The contestants include a German polka group, an industrial noise group, an all-female group (which is a challenge when it comes to the bass sounds), and a family group with its youngest member being 13-years-old.

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“It is more of a range this year than the last two years and that does make it hard [to judge],” Folds says. “I think you should take personal preferences aside, which I think we've done, and just really try to hone in on what they're attempting to do, how effective it is to the people that would like what it is that they do and, you know, could this make a record.”

The ultimate winners of the competition get $200,000, but more importantly they receive a Sony Music recording contract. It’s high stakes for many of these groups as the music industry isn’t exactly handing out record contracts to a capella groups, but that may be changing.

“If you think about it, it's very timely because we're not going to be able to afford instruments pretty soon if the economy keeps going [this] way,” Folds jokes. “And you can always afford your voice.”

The Sing-Off Season 3 premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro


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