David Kempton doesn't think a cappella groups are more talented than bands, but their singers definitely have to be focused.
"We don't have instrument breaks," he said. "It's all us."
David, 26, formerly of O'Fallon, is a member of Breath of Soul, a five-man a cappella group based in Nashville, Tenn.
They have produced four CDs, opened for Lady Antebellum and won awards for "audience favorite" and "best original song" at Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festivals in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The group will perform in Belleville Saturday as the last act of the 2013-14 season of Union United Methodist Church's Fine Arts Series.
"(The singers) have very good vocals and harmonies," said Carole Eckert, the church's director of music. "They have a very energetic sound."
Carole saw Breath of Soul perform about five years ago at Blessed Savior Lutheran Church in O'Fallon. That's when they called themselves 5one.
"I was impressed with the way they vocalized percussion," said Carole, who even bought a CD. "It's sounded like they had a drum set, but they didn't. It was almost like a band."
The show at Union United will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free (an offering will be taken). Afterward, people can meet the singers at a reception.
Breath of Soul will perform original songs, covers such as "Come Together" by the Beatles and "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic, and a Michael Jackson and Queen medley.
"We're all spiritual and religious people, so we still have songs that are Christian-based," David said. "But we've transitioned more into secular music."
The group consists of tenor Beck Martin, baritone Jesse Upah, bass Tony Marx, vocal percussionist Jake Black and David, a tenor. On Saturday, 5one member Brian Parrish will sub for Jake.
David is a 2005 graduate of O'Fallon Township High School. His parents, Marcia and Paul Kempton, remember him singing karaoke at an Air Force picnic at age 4 with no music.
"It blew my mind," said Marcia, 59, of O'Fallon, who works in an after-school program. "It blew everybody's mind."
David earned a bachelor's degree in commercial music at Millikin University in Decatur. That's where he formed 5one with five of his friends.
"It was just something to do in college that we all enjoyed," David said. "But it took off bigger than we expected it to."
In 2006, the group landed a summer job performing three times a week on Navy Pier in Chicago. They began playing at schools, churches and other venues around the region.
After graduation, three of the five ended up in Nashville. They advertised in Craigslist for two more members and adopted the name Breath of Soul.
In 2012, the group won an a cappella contest sponsored by Lady Antebellum.
"It was so exciting," David said. "We opened a show for them. We got to meet them and chat with them before the concert. It just gave us the feeling that we had reached a new level of professionalism."
Since the contest, Breath of Soul has added more corporate events and festivals to its schedule. They hope to get more and more attention outside the Midwest.
"(A cappella music is) growing in popularity because of the show 'The Sing-off,'" David said. "It's definitely growing. But it's still a limited genre that doesn't get too recognized in the mainstream music community."
Off-stage, David works as a business development specialist with Broadcast Music Inc., a non-profit company that protects the musical rights of songwriters.
Whether or not his a cappella group makes it big, David's parents are proud of him and his five friends.
"They have fun doing it," Marcia said. "They've always said, 'If we don't get rich and famous, that's OK. We enjoy music, and we enjoy entertaining people.'"
At a glance
What: Breath of Soul concert
Where: Union United Methodist Church, 721 E. Main St. in Belleville
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Admission: Free (offering will be taken)
Reception: Immediately following concert
Information: Call 618-233-6375 or visit unionumc.org