Steve Morgan has been singing his whole life, and now a hobby that started in the historic halls of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, has led him to national stardom. Morgan, a founding member of IU’s all-male a cappella group Straight No Chaser, first began chasing his dreams right here in Evansville. After graduating from Harrison High School in 1996, he studied finance at IU then spent several years working as an actor in New York City, performing in Broadway productions of “The Full Monty,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Mamma Mia,” just to name a few, all while traveling and singing with Straight No Chaser.
He left the group, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, briefly in 2008 but has been back singing tenor for more than two years. The group, best known for its renditions of popular Christmas tunes, just released a new album, “The New Old Fashioned,” a collection of chart-topping covers spanning more than 50 years. Straight No Chaser currently is doing a 70-show tour with a planned stop in Evansville on Dec. 10 at the Old National Events Plaza. Now 37 years old, Morgan lives in Cincinnati with his wife Emily, a personal fitness trainer, and their two children, Lily, 6, and Will, 3. Evansville Living recently sat down with Morgan to talk about his latest tour and tunes.
What was your favorite part about growing up in Evansville?
I think it was just that Midwestern idyllic scenario. I had both my grandparents in town. I had friends and family there. I could get on my bike and go anywhere I wanted. It’s quaint. Everybody knows everybody else. And it gave me a great launching pad for what I wanted to do. I got a great education and had lots of opportunities to try different things.
What is your go-to album or song when you need a boost?
Well, it changes all the time. The best album to walk the streets of New York to is Seal’s “Human Being.” If that doesn’t get you moving, then you don’t have a pulse. And Jamie Cullum’s “Photograph.” I love the lyrics in that song, “When I look back on my ordinary, ordinary life, I see so much magic, though I missed it at the time.” Certainly, I live an enchanted life to be able to sing and call it a profession. But there are times over the course of a 70-show tour where you start to forget that. But then I sit back and realize, “Alright, it’s pretty sweet.”
Straight No Chaser owes much of its success to covers of Christmas music. Do you ever get tired of singing it?
We owe a lot to Christmas music, so we’re not running from it at all. We hear people say all the time, “Hey, you guys are our Christmas. We’ve got you in our CD player from Thanksgiving on.” And that’s a huge honor. We take it seriously. Straight No Chaser defines a season for some people. We just hope our fans give our non-Christmas music a chance. We hope they enjoy it.
What’s the story behind Straight No Chaser, the name?
It’s an old jazz standard by Thelonious Monk. That was how we first found the name. I’m told there is another reference, something else, but that never entered our minds as college-aged boys. I think it also speaks to the purity of what we do, too. It’s just voices. Straight No Chaser. No filler. No track. No rhythm guitar. Everything you hear is just us.
For more information about Straight No Chaser, visit sncmusic.com.