by Pamela Price
There is something wonderful about seeing good things happen to good people. Especially those who have an enormous talent and a sense of positivity that they want to share with the world. In 2011, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Avi Kaplan and Kevin “K.O.” Olusola, also known as PENTATONIX, introduced their powerhouse vocals and beat-box talents on the third season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” It was then that their lives changed forever. Although the TV series “Glee” put a capella singing on the mainstream radar, PENTATONIX is a group that is revolutionizing song arrangements and keeping a capella on the map in the music industry. With fans, from age 7 to 70, they have sold more than two million albums in the U.S. alone and amassed nearly one billion views on their YouTube channel with more than 8.1 million subscribers. If a platinum album wasn’t enough, they also won their first GRAMMY® Award for Best Arrangement, Instrumental and A Cappella for their “Daft Punk” medley in February of 2015. And the success keeps on coming, from a film debut in the hit “Pitch Perfect 2” and an upcoming tour with Kelly Clarkson this summer.
In a music industry that’s saturated with EDM beats and digitally mastered music, how does it feel to be so well received as a group who creates an organic sound?
SCOTT: It feels amazing. It’s so awesome because we were, and still are, such underdogs coming into this music industry. We went through so much, especially in the beginning with people saying: ‘No, I don’t belive in you - This will never work - This will never be on the radio -This can never win a Grammy.’ So now we’re starting to prove people wrong. Our fans are so passionate and they support us so much. They’re constantly engaged in everything that we do, and that’s been really encouraging throughout this whole journey.
In watching your warm-ups, you’re very in sync. Tell me about your collaborative proccess in arranging songs.
SCOTT: It’s really super organic. We sit in a circle and just kind of jam. He [KEVIN “K.O.”] will beat-box – and we’ll get some chord progressions going and figure out what we want to do with the song and what direction we want to go.
MITCH: Usually our musical efforts are very collaborative amongst each other. We all have different strengths that we bring to the group. We kind of give and take.
You each have such unique voices. Who are your vocal influences?
KEVIN: Growing up, I listened more to instrumentalists. Jacqueline du Pré really influenced my style. She’s a cellist and I absolutely love her.
MITCH: Imogene Heap is my number one. I was also inspired by a lot of dance/trance female vocalists.
SCOTT: I think my voice is really influenced by Jazmine Sullivan. Gavin DeGraw had a huge impact on the way I sing too, in terms of vowels and what I do with my voice. And as an artist, I really respect what Beyonce does.
KIRSTIN: I really liked a lot of powerhouse pop-belting female vocalists. I love Idina Menzel and I really admire her career trajectory because she’s basically done everything. And Hayley Williams from Paramore, Kelly Clarkson – I listened to Evanescence when I was a kid. Amy [Lee] just front-and-center, powerhouse belting really inspired me.
AVI: I would say Simon and Garfunkel and Bill Withers.
Tell me about the journey of filming your documentary “On My Way Home,” having cameras constantly follow you around.
MITCH: Having cameras around wasn’t that weird because we were on the “Sing-Off,” so we kind of got used to being on a reality show setting. It was fun, we became really close with the film crew as well.
KIRSTIN: After a certain point you just get really comfortable and the crew became our friends so it was fun to hang out with them as well. Our manager had the idea for the documentary.
Your fans are always by your side on social media. What did you want your fans to see in this documentary and take from it?
AVI: I really think that we just wanted them to see exactly how we go about doing what we do. And also an inside look of who we are and how we interact with our fans.
SCOTT: It’s funny because, what we do has become so numb to us because we do it all of the time. And we forget that it’s very different and interesting. So when Jonathan came to us, he was like, “How you all rehearse, arrange and multi-task while you tour – people need to see that.” We were down to do the documentary and thought it was a great idea.
You’re about to go on tour with Kelly Clarkson. Will you be singing any songs together?
ALL: We’re so excited!
SCOTT: We can’t even explain it. We talked to her at the Billboard Music Awards.
MITCH: She’s the sweetest person ever. We’re really hoping to perform with her. She said she was down and we’re obviously down!
Winning a Grammy is the top of the top, what’ next in terms of releasing new arrangements?
KEVIN: We do have new stuff coming pretty soon.
SCOTT: If you watch the documentary there are about three or four originals that are contenders for the album. You can only see it in the documentary, so that’s exciting!
Your voices are truly your instruments. How do you stay healthy on the road?
MITCH: Lots and lots of sleep and a lot of water. That’s pretty much it! – and just being responsible.
SCOTT: Yeah, and actually warming up to because sometimes I’ll warm up for two seconds, get distracted and stop. But if I take a solid fifteen minutes to warm up, my show is on a whole other level.
KIRSTEN: We also religiously use the humidifiers on the tour bus, like every second possible!
Don’t miss PENTATONIX documentary exclusively on VIMEO On Demand.
To see them on tour this summer, visit: http://ptxofficial.com/