Sugar Interviews Mitch Grassi of Pentatonix: "Don't Be Afraid
to Be Different"
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
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
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
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
An amazing light show, set, and a group of kids having a lot of fun
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.