SPRING HILL — Whether touring in Europe, talking with reporters backstage at the Grammy Awards or performing at a local church, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound say they are a high-energy gospel quartet that wants people to feel "renewed and reloaded."
In fact, that is the name of their new tour, which will make a stop at First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill on March 14.
"(We) feel called to be ambassadors of joy, kindness, love and Christian duty," Haase said in a recent interview. "We bring our unique brand of hope and good cheer with our Renewed and Reloaded tour. We hope people leave feeling energized and refreshed in their walk with the Lord."
The singers do that, according to their Web site, by "combining 21st century ideas with the timeless quality of great quartets from the 1950s" and by breaking "the traditional mold of gospel quartets."
Besides Haase, who sings tenor, the group includes lead singer Devin McGlamery, baritone Doug Anderson and bass Tim Duncan.
Haase said that at the Spring Hill concert the foursome will perform songs from its new album, Influenced: Spirituals and Southern Classics, which pays tribute to artists, songwriters and sounds of the early 20th century, with Signature Sound flair.
"We will also sing fan favorites from our other albums," he said.
Steve McManaway, special events chairman for the church, said when he was deciding what act to bring to the church this year, he knew it would be difficult to find a group on the same level as multiple Dove Award winner Sandi Patty, who performed last year.
Then he thought of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, a group he had e-mailed two years ago, but with no response.
Haase's group has also won Dove awards, two in 2008 and one in 2009, and was recently nominated for two more Doves — for Christmas Album of the Year and for Country Recorded Song of the Year. The quartet's first DVD release in 2005 soared to the top of Billboard magazine's music video chart and simultaneously topped the contemporary Christian music video chart. The project's accompanying audio release topped both the contemporary Christian music and Southern gospel audio charts simultaneously at No. 1. Last year, the quartet's Dream On CD was nominated for a 2010 Grammy.
McManaway knew that the group, which he and his wife, Gail, had seen perform a few times with the Gaither Homecoming Tour, had recently gone out on its own. He e-mailed them again, hoping for a return call from their publicist.
"I was shocked when my phone rang and I looked at the caller ID to see Ernie Haase," said McManaway, who chatted with Haase for about 20 minutes. "What a great guy. He told me they would be doing some concerts abroad and very much wanted to make a Florida tour in late winter. We were the first church to book them for this Florida swing."
McManaway was impressed with Haase's demeanor.
"My impression was of a very humble man, not someone who has let success go to his head," he said. "He knows who he owes his success to and wears his beliefs on his sleeve."
Haase, who began his gospel singing career as part of the Cathedral Quartet, headed by the late George Younce, confirmed that Jesus Christ is at the heart of his group's ministry.
"We want each concert to be a time for everyone to cast aside their hardships and come have fun in the Lord," he said. "We want them to find a place where they feel welcomed and needed. We do not lift up a denomination or political view. We do our best to present the Lord Jesus Christ through our personalities and musical talents."
Being able to tour on their own has been very satisfying for his group, Haase said.
"We loved our time with Bill and Gloria Gaither. We are still on their label. We will do a few dates this year together, but this solo thing is so rewarding," he said. "It is the first chance we have had in five years to tour on our own and love on the people who have supported us. We are having a blast."
Whether Ernie Haase and Signature Sound win the two Dove Awards this year will be determined in April. They didn't win a Grammy at the awards show in January, but Haase said it was a great experience anyway.
"It was wonderful," he said. "God has blessed us in so many ways, and to receive a Grammy nomination and be able to attend and walk the red carpet was the culmination of a lot of hard work and dreams come true."