Opera in Cowboy Boots
In 2009, an unlikely trio of singers from Texas wooed America with a surprising musical genre—classical crossover. Comprised of country singer JC Fisher, pop singer Marcus Collins and opera singer John Hagen, The Texas Tenors stunned the America’s Got Talent (AGT) judges and audience with their operatic rendition of Sinatra’s classic “My Way” to make Season 4’s Top 10. Despite their success, the band had to settle for fourth place but that didn’t seem to deter them.
“We definitely feel like we tapped into something. We had no idea what to expect when we got together for [America’s Got Talent] in 2009 but I think we have something that has really resonated with people,” says Collins.
Perhaps best described as opera in cowboy boots sung by romance novel cover models, The Texas Tenors may not be the only classical crossover group out there—but they’re one of the most successful. Following their stint on AGT, the trio starred in their own television special for PBS which garnered them three Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards. In 2017, they were also listed by Billboard Magazine as the #10 Classical Crossover act in the world.
“You know, I think people nowadays really need to hear positive messages in their lives. When fans come to a show, they get to escape their troubles for two hours and hopefully leave feeling inspired to do something good for the world,” Collins explains emphatically.
The trio’s humble approach to their music also carries over to the way they interact with their fans.
“We do all of our marketing ourselves, so when a fan reaches out on Twitter or Instagram, it’s always one of us who responds. I think it helps us connect with our fans,” Collins says.
While Collins, Hagen and Fisher are thrilled to have reached a high-level of success, they see their role in music as much more than just selling records.
“You know, we pride ourselves on people who might not necessarily be opera fans coming to our show because they were interested in our sound. Then maybe after hearing us they go out and see their first full opera. Then on the other hand we have fans that love classical music and then they come to our show and maybe hear Bruno Mars or Ed Sheeran. Then they think ‘oh, I kind of like country or Ed Sheeran, I think I’ll go buy their music,’” Collins explains.
Beyond introducing fans to musical genres they may not have heard before, The Texas Tenors are passionate about including symphony orchestras in their performances as often as possible. By partnering with local symphonies, the trio hopes that they can encourage their fans to fall in love with the symphony.
“We really want to do our part to help keep live classical music going,” says Collins.
The Texas Tenors may have a penchant for classical music, but they are also deeply rooted in country and pop music—and that’s what Collins believes distinguishes their music from other classical crossover acts like Il Divo.
“We didn’t invent the concept of a classical crossover tenor group, but we definitely do it in a different way than anyone else. I don’t think you’re going to see another group out there that is fusing classical music and country. You’re not going to hear Il Divo singing John Denver,” Collins says with a laugh.