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Q&A with Mitch Grassi of A Cappella Group, PENTATONIX Talks: New Album, Starring in The Movie, PITCH PERFECT 2, Getting A Shout Out from Beyonce and More!
Posted On 10 Oct 2014By : Nicole DeRosa

Vocal sensations Pentatonix released their 3rd EP – PTX Vol. 3 – on September 23rd via RCA Records . This third installment of the group’s wildly successful EP series continues to mix global pop and indie hits with original tracks, showcasing the quintet’s eclectic taste and otherworldly talent.

MadAboutYou_hPentatonix consists of lead vocalists Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado and Mitch Grassi, vocal bass Avi Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola . Since their debut in 2011, the quintet has released 3 EP’s (PTX Volume 1, PTXmas and PTX Volume 2). Pentatonix will release a new holiday album, That’s Christmas To Me on October 21st.

Having recently eclipsed 6 million subscribers and 520 million cumulative views, the PTXOfficial is currently the 13th most subscribed-to music channel on YouTube, having surpassed the subscriber totals of both Avicii and Beyoncé.

In 2015, Pentatonix will appear in Universal Pictures’ Pitch Perfect 2, where they will play a Canadian a cappella group and rivals to the Barden Bellas.

All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa got a chance to catch up with one of the lead vocalists, Mitch Grassi while on their current publicity tour. Check out their Q&A below!

Hi Mitch! Where does this interview find you and what else besides doing this interview is on the agenda for today?

Hey! Hi! Well, I’m currently at the airport watching my band mates eat grilled cheeses while I chug a big iced coffee. All we have on the agenda for today is traveling!

Photo by: Jiro Schneider
You guys met while attending Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. Did you have class together? How soon after meeting did you realize you wanted to start a band and perform together?

Scott, Kirstie, and I went to high school together, but I was a grade below them. We started an a cappella trio when I was a junior and they were seniors so we could enter a radio competition to win a chance to meet the cast of Glee. We didn’t win, but we really loved singing together. Then, when Scott went to college, he decided he wanted to audition for NBC’s The Sing-Off with us!

Why did you and your mates decide to forego instruments and go a cappella? Why not just form as a “traditional” vocal group?

It was originally to be on The Sing-Off! But it just worked so well for us, we stuck with it. It’s something different and totally special that not a lot of people are doing right now. Plus, it would feel inauthentic to us. Our fans love what we do so much, and it would feel wrong to rely on instruments or heavy production.

Your third EP, PTX, Vol. III will be released on September 23rd and includes covers of Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” and a take on the Disclosure / Sam Smith, song, “Latch,” called, “La La Latch.” How do you guys come up with the songs you want to cover?

We like to take songs that a.) are captivating musically and b.) that people are obsessed with. Or if someone is super inspired by a particular song, they’ll bring it to the group and see if we can do anything with it.

Speaking of covers, Pentatonix won the third season of The Sing-Off on NBC back in 2011, singing an “Eye of the Tiger,” a cappella as your victory song. Did you know that the singer of Survivor and “Eye of the Tiger,” Jimi Jamison recently passed away? Why does that song resonate with you?

I actually didn’t. I’m sad to hear of his passing. That song is not only important because we sang it after our fateful victory on The Sing-Off, but it’s also just a classic, uplifting rock anthem. You can feel the power in the vocalist’s voice.

Photo by: Esther Kaplan
Who are some of your current favorite a cappella acts?

I’m obsessed with Erato! They’re not necessarily a cappella, but they’re known for their a cappella cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” It’s really quite sublime and beautiful. Their voices are so lovely.

Pentatonix has covered a lot of great songs, including, “E.T.,” by Katy Perry, “Love Lockdown,” by Kanye West, “Somebody I Used To Know,” by Gotye featuring, Kimbra, “Gangnam Style,” by PSY and “We Are Young,” by Fun, “Dog Days Are Over,” by Florence and the Machine and so many others. Have you heard from or met any of the artists that you cover? Do you have any memorable stories to share?

We’ve heard from quite a few! Gotye created a video montage of all the covers of “Somebody That I Used To Know” and our clip made the cut! Pharrell did the same with his “Happy” montage.

The one that really stuck out to me (only because I’m a HUGE fan) was when Beyoncé posted our “Beyoncé Medley” on her Facebook! I couldn’t believe it. I think I may have shed a tear or five.

Violinist and Pentatonix collaborator, Lindsey Stirling.
Along with your own albums, Pentatonix has collaborated with artists such as violinist, Lindsey Stirling, where you both released a cover of the Imagine Dragons song, “Radioactive,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in the classical digital songs category. Is there a new collaboration on the way that you can tell us about?

As a matter of fact, we’re collaborating with Lindsey again on Vol. III for the song “Papaoutai”! We were stoked to have her on the track and she totally kills it.

Pentatonix is a very philanthropic group as well. I understand during The Sing-Off, the band visited The Trevor Project, the leading national non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and even recorded a Public service announcement for them. Would you mind sharing with our readers why this is important to you?

It’s important to let youth, especially LGBTQ youth know that there IS a bright side and that things WILL eventually improve. I think the most important thing is that they have someone to talk to about what they’re struggling with.Feeling alone is one of the worst feelings in general, let alone when you’re struggling with inner turmoil.

I love The Trevor Project and the various Suicide Hotline organizations because it gives troubled youth an alternative to a very dark fate; they’re saving lives.

What was the first song you fell in love with growing up?

I don’t quite remember the song, but I remember listening to Paula Abdul tapes on my little Walkman on repeat when I was about 2 or 3. Apparently, I was a huge fan!

pitch perfect

Did you ever see the movie “Pitch Perfect”? Which character resonates with you?

Yes! I love that movie and in fact, Pentatonix will be making a cameo in the sequel as a rival group. We’re incredibly excited.

I think Anna Kendrick’s character resonates with me the most because she wants to do something creative and different with music, like I do. She also loves electronic / dance music. As do I!

What’s on tap next for Pentatonix? What are you excited about for this year?

Lots of shows and appearances, fresh material including music AND videos, and a jam-packed schedule! I’m really excited to play bigger venues in the states and overseas. I’m nervous but incredibly excited!

I’m also stoked to work on our full-length album. It’s going to be challenging but definitely worth the effort.