UK’s acoUstiKats on ‘The Sing-Off’ — Week 1 wrap-up

The acoUstiKats and host Nick Lachey on 'The Sing-Off' Thursday night. © NBC photos by Greg Gayne.

Mike Owens, bass in the acoUstiKats, proposing to his girlfriend Maggie Blair, as the group and host Nick Lachey watch on ‘The Sing-Off,’ Thursday night. © NBC photos by Greg Gayne.

The University of Kentucky’s acoUstiKats took their Wednesday night trip to the bottom two of The Sing-Off as a wake-up call and charged back with a Thursday night performance that helped keep them safe in a showdown with three of the best groups in the field — Ten, Street Corner Renaissance and The Filharmonic.

“This episode was definitely the most emotionally attached all of us had ever been to music before,” acoUstiKat Jeremy Michael Lewis said. “In episode two, we were incredibly unprepared. It wasn’t in a cocky sense … I guess we just didn’t take it seriously enough.

“So we were fighting to not be in the bottom two … and Shawn really instilled in us the this idea of you’ve got to sing to to somebody,” he added, referring to judge and mentor Shawn Stockman.

One ‘Kat had someone very important to sing to in the performance of Lonestar’s Amazed.

AcoUstiKat bass Mike Owens gets on his knee to propose to Maggie Blair.

AcoUstiKat bass Mike Owens gets on his knee to propose to Maggie Blair.

After the acoUstiKats’ performance, bass Mike Owens took a moment to propose to his girlfriend Maggie Blair, who he met at UK while singing in the acoUstiKats. Blair looked completely shocked as Stockman mentioned she was in the crowd and the group called her to join them. Then Owens took her hand, took a knee and popped the question.

She said “Yes.”

“We definitely didn’t want to get sent home on the same night he proposed,” Lewis said.

The moment and acoUstiKats performance ended the week on an high-note for the ‘Kats, who were hailed for finding their niche in the very choral rendition of Amazed. Lewis said going forward on the show, the acoUstiKats focused on melding high energy and that niche.

The bottom two in a stiff competition were The Filharmonic and Street Corner Renaissance, who dueled in the Ultimate Sing-Off. The Los Angeles doo-wop group, thus far darlings of the show, were sent home. The next episode, Monday night, will pit the other four groups left in the show against each other: Home Free, Element, Vocal Rush and VoicePlay.

Thursday afternoon, ‘Kat Evan Jennings Pulliam answered a few questions by email about the first week of shows for the acoUstiKats.

Q: After pretty much being the top cats on the first episode, how surprised were you to wind up in the Ultimate Sing-Off the second episode.

A: We were very surprised. We knew that we had some rhythmic issues in Hey Ya and that it was not our best performance, but we did not believe we deserved to be in that position that evening. With that being said, it definitely made us “stronger” (pun definitely intended), gave us the experience of being in the Ultimate Sing-Off, and brought us closer together as a group.

Q: Tell us about having Diana  out there. (Evan’s mother, Diana Evans Pulliam, owner of Diana Evans School of Dance, choreographed the ‘Kats’ Wednesday night performance.) How spontaneous was that, and can we expect to see Mama Kat again?

A: Having my “Mama Kat” out there was really great. After the intensive choreography in Blurred Lines, we knew we had to bring that same intensity to Hey Ya, so we had to call in the reinforcements. She was already out there to watch us in the competition, so it was icing on the cake for her to come in and help us out.

Q: Evan, you seemed a bit annoyed by Nick Lachey’s “acousticougar” comment about your mom. How irritated were you, really?

A: I was not annoyed at all! Just playing along, I thought it was quite funny actually, especially considering it was a total ad-lib on his part. He is a nice guy and meant no harm. In fact, he went up to my mom later and personally apologized in case she was offended. A class act!

Q: Take us back to night one. What was it like to come out of the gate and get a shower of praise like that?

A: It was an amazing feeling. We went out there and our goal was to have as much fun as possible, so getting a standing ovation from Shawn Stockman and receiving such praise from the other judges was a dream come true. It probably was slightly detrimental at the time though because I think we got a little too confident heading into Episode 2. The Ultimate Sing-Off definitely brought us back to reality.

Q: A lot of commentary from the judges has been about your technique and training. Talk about that, and how UK has honed that. I have had a number of people send me notes saying Jefferson Johnson (UK choirs director) deserves a lot of credit for that.

A: We are quite proud of the training we have received at the University of Kentucky from Dr. Jefferson Johnson and our respective voice teachers. Some people are saying that it could be a detriment to us in this pop music competition, but really it is a testament to our training. It shows that we have honed a diverse a skill set and are able to sing a multitude of genres with healthy vocal technique.

Q: Of course, you are aware there was some controversy of the choice of Blurred Lines for that performance. (The Robin Thicke song has stirred controversy for lyrics that some see as sexist and condoning date rape, though Thicke has said that was not his intent.) Was the song your choice or the show producers, and at the time, were there any qualms about performing it?

A: We are aware of the controversy surrounding Blurred Lines and sincerely apologize for any who were offended by our performance. Groups have very, very little liberty in their song choices and at the time of our performance, the heaviest time of controversy for the song had not yet occurred. We also can assure you that the rest of our songs during our tenure on The Sing Off are in no way indicative of this same sentiment. We believe the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and even the state as a whole will be very proud of our performance of Thursday evening’s episode.

Ten, a Dallas-based group that includes three sisters from Louisville, performs on Wednesday's episode of "The Sing-Off." © NBC photo by Tyler Golden.

Ten, a Dallas-based group that includes three sisters from Louisville, performs on Wednesday’s episode of “The Sing-Off.” © NBC photo by Tyler Golden.

More Kentuckians: It turns out the acoUstiKats are not the only Kentuckians in the competition. While Ten is billed as a Dallas group, it includes three sisters from Louisville: Sydnii Jazz Raymore, Lenisa Raymore and Teaira Dunn. The group was formed to compete in The Sing-Off and members said that Monday’s season opener was its first time performing together. Thus far they have done very well, receiving only scant criticism and staying out of the bottom two, including tonight’s powerhouse showdown.

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