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Bold & Sugar Interviews Mitch Grassi of Pentatonix: "Don't Be Afraid to Be Different"

04/16/2013

Anyone with any knowledge of YouTube knows about Pentatonix. From their humble beginnings in Arlington, TX to winning "The Sing Off" to becoming vocal sensations on YouTube, Pentatonix is a group like no other.

Openly gay tenor Mitch Grassi, in particular, adds a unique spin on the classic "group" formation, vocally as well as being courageous enough to face the world as a gay individual. Though the music industry is more ahead of the curve as far as the acceptance of LGBT individuals, there are still several behind the tide.

Bold & Sugar recently caught up with Mitch, who was delighted to share the group's beginnings as well as his own experiences being open in the spotlight.

Tell us about your beginnings in music and how that led you to Pentatonix.

I started out doing musical theatre when I was young, so I think that introduced me into the arts. I've always been a big music lover, and even started producing my own music when I was 14. I was heavily involved in choir in high school, which is where Scott, Kirstie, and I became really close friends. We formed a trio in high school and performed a few songs around school. We even posted YouTube videos! When Scott went off to college, his friends suggested he audition for The Sing-Off with us. So we added Avi and Kevin to fill out our sound, thus Pentatonix was born!

For the non-musical buffs, what is the significance of the name Pentatonix? How was it chosen as the name of your group?

A "pentatonic" scale is a popular musical scale consisting of five notes. It's regularly used in many genres of music, such as jazz, R&B, pop, soul, and more. Just like the notes in the scale, we have five members in our group. We added the "x" for style.

What are the musical roles in the group (Lead vocalists, background) and friendship roles in the group (Who’s the mom? The jokester? The diva?), and how well do your personalities mesh together?

Scott usually takes lead. He's got a big, soulful, baritone voice. I'm the tenor, and I do lead sometimes, as does Kirstie. She's our alto/soprano. Avi sings bass because of his monstrous low range, and Kevin is our beatboxer. I would say Avi is the "dad" of the group; he's always the one who wrangles us in when we lose focus in rehearsal. We can all be pretty big divas sometimes!

Pentatonix has done several successful covers, from Beyonce’s “End of Time” to Jazmine Sullivan’s “Love You Long Time”. What is the selection process for cover songs?

Typically, for our YouTube channel, we like to take popular songs and give them our own unique spin. For album material, we like to pick a variety of songs. Usually, one of us will bring up a song in rehearsal that we've had on rotation, and we will pitch it to the rest of the group. Whether we like it or not determines whether or not we will cover it.

What was the songwriting process like for “The Baddest Girl” and “Show You How To Love”, the two original songs from your debut EP, “PTX Vol. 1”?

Long and difficult! We had never written originals before, so we didn't know exactly how to go about it. For these songs, we worked in groups of 2-3, and someone would handle the lyrics, while the other helped more with melody and music.

Can we expect a Vol. 2 in the near future or will there be a full-length album?

You can expect both! PTX Vol. 2 will hopefully be out very soon.

Who do you see yourself collaborating with in the future?

We all have our dream collaborations. I would love to work with Frank Ocean because he's an amazing songwriter. Plus, I think he could write something sick that would cater to our style very well.

With Pentatonix on tour, what can we expect to see during your live performances?

An amazing light show, set, and a group of kids having a lot of fun on stage.

What are some of the struggles you’ve had to endure as an openly gay individual in the spotlight, and how have the other members of Pentatonix responded to this?

It's not as difficult as it may seem. I think because I own who I am and I'm not afraid to be myself, it sort of intimidates "bullies" who think they can tear me down with words. There are a few cyber-bullies on YouTube, but nothing out of control. My bandmates are very supportive of me, which I am so thankful for.

What would you tell a young individual of the LGBT community who is seeking a shot at super stardom?

Don't be afraid to be different. It's the ones who are unique and different that make an impression in the industry.

And, of course, last but not least, sugahz, I had to ask...

What is your bold statement? What is your message to the world?

Everyone and everything has beauty. If we can all recognize the beauty in ourselves and in others, the world will be a much better place.