Vocal jazz group m-pact performs at SJC

Mike Easterling
m-pact got its start during the height of the boy band era in the 1990s but evolved into a group that places much more emphasis on intricate arrangements than choreography.

FARMINGTON – It was more than nine years ago that Fletcher Sheridan, then working as a session singer in his native Los Angeles, was offered the chance to audition for membership in m-pact, an all-male vocal jazz group that had been around since 1995.

Sheridan, a longtime fan of the band and a graduate of the Hamilton Academy of Music and Cal State-Northridge, jumped at the chance. His audition yielded a gig as a substitute performer for the group, a stint that included performances in Singapore and Jakarta, before Sheridan was rewarded with an invitation to join the band full time in April 2007.

Since then, he’s toured the world with the six-member group while performing hundreds of shows. And yet, Sheridan insisted during a phone interview last week from Williamsport, Pa., where m-pact was getting ready to do another show, that he still hasn’t really settled in with the band, given the demanding nature of performing its intricate a capella arrangements.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt comfortable,” Sheridan said, laughing. “There’s always something to keep you challenged.”

That extends not just to the nature of the music, he said, but to the complexities of being part of an ensemble group and fitting in with those various personalities.

The jazz vocal group m-pact has been around since 1995, when it was born in Seattle.

“Interpersonally, it took me a couple of months to find my place,” he said. “It’s a business, but you’re also injecting yourself into a family. So it’s also a case of can you stand being stuck in a van with these guys for 10 hours at a time.

“So it’s important to feel comfortable in that sense as a performer with a group,” he said. “It always keeps you on your toes, and that’s what I like about it.”

Sheridan’s first spot in the band — which pays a visit this weekend to San Juan College — was as an alto, but he later took over the soprano role. He had no reservations about joining a group he already had seen perform several times before he got the call to audition in 2006.

“It was an opportunity to be in a really excellent vocal group,” Sheridan said, adding that the group — which originated in Seattle — essentially had taken over the L.A. vocal scene by the time he joined it. “This was an opportunity too good to pass up, so I decided to take the plunge and become a career musician. I didn’t want to wake up one day 30 or 40 years later and wonder, ‘What if?’ … So far, it’s been a lot of fun.”

While the members of the band don’t play instruments onstage, performing with m-pact is anything but easy. Its arrangements rely on human voices instead of guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion, and Sheridan said he can never allow his concentration to waver during a show.

“It’s vocally demanding, and mentally, the music’s very sophisticated,” he said, describing the precise timing and vocal tones that are required to make the music click. “You can’t check out. You have to stay focused on what you’re doing. It’s easy to drop the ball.”

m-pact has performed thousands of shows all around the world since 1995 and now calls Los Angeles home.

m-pact began its career at the height of the boy band boom, Sheridan said, and it existed squarely in that genre during the early years. But when he became a member more than a decade later, it had evolved into a vocal jazz group with more of an emphasis on classic material and less on choreography.

“By the time I joined the group, the choreographed, full-dance thing was out the door,” he said.

m-pact still employs a fair amount of choreography in its shows — “We’re not just sitting there singing at people,” Sheridan said — but the group’s members made a conscious decision to take a more mature approach to what they were doing.

“Now, the focus is on more intricate arrangements because the group wanted to do that kind of material,” he said.

m-pact performs a smattering of originals in its set list, which relies heavily on the work of such artists and acts as Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, and Harry Connick Jr .
The band has recorded five albums over the years and has made occasional trips to the studio this year to record its next disc. Sheridan said the group will aggressively work to finish that project in 2016, once its heavy fall touring schedule is complete.

Sheridan said he enjoys life in a band that has soundly beaten the odds by remaining together for more than 20 years. Marco Cassone and Trist Curless are the longest-tenured members, having been around since the beginning, but even after eight years, Sheridan is still only fourth in the group in seniority – a testament to the group’s stability.

m-pact performs a handful of originals but mostly covers songs by such artists as Stevie Wonder and Harry Connick Jr.

“I’ve been in it for this long, and I don’t see any reason to stop yet,” he said. “You never know – groups like the Rolling Stones are few and far between, but this group is standing the test of time.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.


If you go

What: m-pact concert

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13

Where: The Henderson Fine Arts Performance Center on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington

Tickets: $18 for adults, $15 for students, and $12 for seniors and children 12 and younger available online at 505-566-3430

For more information: m-pact.com