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School, Scales, and Songs: An Interview with Pentatonix

 


February 20, 2013
By Teresa Kim


After its win on NBC’s The Sing Off, Pentatonix has rapidly sang its way onto computer screens worldwide, with infectious musical arrangements that redefine the boundaries of the human vocal chord. Scott Hoying, one of Pentatonix’s lead vocalists, took time off from the group’s first national tour to reflect on college, The Sing Off and the imminent domination of a capella.

The Sun: A lot of musical kids outlet their talents through a capella in school. But it’s rare to see them continue on that road afterwards. What gave you guys that extra push?

Scott Hoying: When I joined a cappella in school, I never knew it would lead to a profession. I had the mentality that it would be a fun, musical way to get more involved in [University of Southern California] and that it could also be a good way to develop a network of musical friends in L.A. When I joined, it was more of a hobby but quickly turned into a passion and I could not be happier or more thankful that it has become a full time job! I think the extra push was the show The Sing Off; it gave our group exposure.

Sun: Most of you have been classically trained in another instrument. What made you guys start to invest more of your individual musical talent into a capella professionally?

S.H.: We pretty much all play an instrument, and that helped so much with learning music theory and understanding harmony. Singing is our main passion though, so when joining The Sing Off, we were excited to venture into the world of no instruments.

Sun: Now it’s been a little over a year since your epic win on The Sing Off. Before then, did you think it was possible to make it big and make a capella a “thing”?

S.H.: Honestly, probably not! If you would have asked me if a cappella could be mainstream prior to The Sing Off, I would have said no. Growing up, no one in the mainstream world really respected a cappella, so I somewhat fell into that way of thinking. However, after immersing myself in it and working with Pentatonix, I have no doubt in my mind that it can be something bigger. It is a beautiful, organic, just plain happy form of music and it’s definitely on its way up.

Sun: How’s the first tour been? What have you been learning from it? And meeting your fans firsthand?

S.H.: It really has been surreal. Touring is something I have wanted to do since I was eight years old and it’s even better than I imagined. It’s such a relaxed, fun atmosphere! Wake up, soundcheck, hang out, meet fans, perform, sleep, repeat! It’s a dream honestly. The main thing I’ve learned from it, is that I have to be VERY conscious of taking care of my voice. I’ve never really put that much thought into preserving my voice, but after singing an hour and a half show night after night, I’ve realized that pacing myself, resting a lot physically and vocally, and staying healthy is pivotal to being able to perform every night.

Sun: What direction do you guys see the group going in in terms of musical production? Are you guys working on more original covers or coming up with more innovative ways to cover mainstream songs?

S.H.: We will always do covers, but we have been writing a lot, so be expecting way more originals. Production-wise, we will definitely stay a cappella, but we are really brainstorming how to push the boundaries even further to make a song sound massive, but keeping it obvious that it’s all vocal.

Sun: How do you guys spend your free time individually? And when you guys are together? Do you guys whip out into a capella mode when you’re shopping at ... I don’t know ... a hat store?

S.H.: We all have our hobbies; We love hanging out with our friends outside of the group, seeing movies and, honestly, just relaxing. We are ALWAYS singing when we are out. We can’t help it.

Sun: Have has stardom been for you guys? You’re living in LA, away from home ... how do you feel?

S.H.: It has been unbelievable. We have “heart to heart” discussions about it all the time. To think we can live our dream and inspire others with our music is everything a musician could ever ask for. Living in LA is obviously awesome because there is so much to do. It does get hard sometimes being away from our families, but they are so supportive and encouraging and we get plenty of opportunities to stop by home and see them.

Sun: What would you guys be doing if you weren’t in Pentatonix?

S.H.: I would be studying popular music at USC! Kirstie would be at Oklahoma University for Musical Theatre. Avi would be just graduating Mount SAC and getting hired by every single jingle and voiceover agency worldwide. Kevin would probably know three more languages and be the King of the world. Mitch would also be in school and working on his D.J. career!

Sun: Our school has a pretty big a capella scene, so I’m sure students are wondering — what advice do you guys have to give them? For percussionists, team motivation, arrangements, etc.

S.H.: My advice would be having lots of discussions to make sure everyone in the group is on the same page. It’s important everyone keeps an open mind and is working hard.

Pentatonix will be performing at the State Theatre on Monday, Feb 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be found at stateofithaca.com.