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Pentatonix Keeps The Art Of A Cappella Hip And Alive: Interview With Kevin "K.O." Olusola and PTXmas Album Review

November/13/2012 11:32 AM

If you're a fan of NBC's The Sing-Off then you will recognize this five member a cappella band from Arlington, Texas is from Season 3. Pentatonix--Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstie Maldonado and Kevin Olusola--wowed with their extraordinary talent and won the competition.

Pentatonix has yet to sit still for a moment since. Currently on a sold-out nationwide tour that keeps the singing sensation busy nearly every single night--with more 2013 North American concert tour dates announced--the a cappella band has created their first-ever Christmas EP, "PTXmas" which was released today. [Download PTXmas on iTunes] Surrounding its' release, Pentatonix is set to perform at the Hollywood Christmas Parade, (which will air on the Hallmark Channel), at The Universal City Walk. Pentatonix will be lighting the tree and performing at 5:30PM Tuesday, the 20th of November. (This event is free to the public.) The group will also appear as special guests at radio station 94.7's The Wave's Christmas Concert on Sunday, 16th of December at the Nokia Theater.

A nationwide tour and PTXmas appearances are not all this inspirational group have going on…they are also scheduled to perform at the "Coca-Cola Red Carpet LIVE! @ The 2012 American Music Awards" pre-show this weekend, Sunday, the 18th of November. (Fans and viewers can stream this show live on ABC.com, AMAs365.com, Cokemusic.com, Livestream, Ustream, and YouTube.)

With such a fast paced schedule, we were thrilled to spend some time speaking with Kevin and getting to know a bit more about this group of professional musicians who have come so far and achieved so much.

Editor, Nicole Hanratty spoke to Kevin Olusola via phone on Friday, November 9th and his voice filled the line with a tangible energy and excitement as he spoke with a genuine appreciation for his art.

Nicole: Hi Kevin.

Kevin: Hi Nicole. How’re you doing?

Nicole: Great. How are you?

Kevin: Good. Still alive. We’re still touring, so we’re thankful.

Nicole: You’re in the van?

Kevin: Yes. Actually it’s a Sprinter. It’s really, really nice. It’s very cool… It’s very spacious. We have time for videos games and a little fun.

Nicole: Oh nice. You’re on your way to Iowa now. Yes?

Kevin: Yes. Iowa City.

Nicole: It looks you’re driving into some cold weather.

Kevin: Oh my…cold weather. That’s unfortunate but it’s fine. We’ll just have to get warm!

Nicole: You guys have a ton going on with the release of the PTXmas album this month on the 13th, your performance at the AMAs is next weekend and this tour that’s got you going every night.

Kevin: So excited! Yes. It’s so crazy to be doing this, every single night. It’s a blessing that people are coming out for the sold-out tour and just supporting us because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do this and we wouldn’t be able to serve people with music, so it’s such a blessing, a great opportunity.

Nicole: I’m hoping to catch one of your shows when you’re in L.A. It looks like you’re going to be at the Fonda Theater on the 24th of January.

Kevin: Yesss. Please do come!

Nicole: I love the selection of songs on your Christmas EP. There’s something about the song, "O, Holy Night" that just, it stops time when you’re listening to it.

Kevin: Thank you.

Nicole: How did you all decide which carols you wanted to include?

Kevin: It’s a collection of some of our favorite songs. We all got to pick one of our favorite songs; it was just so much fun. Each one got to sing the solo for that. I know for me, one of my favorite songs is "The Christmas Song." I’ve always liked it. It’s a classic, a timeless classic, so I really wanted to put my own—we wanted to put our spin on it. It was a lot of fun because I’m a huge fan of jazz and I used to listen to Charlie Parker all the time, the saxophonist. So, I tried to use some of those Charlie Parker-esque ideas to make this solo come to life.

Nicole: Oh, that was a great way to do it!

Kevin: Yes, it was fun.

Nicole: Can you tell us which song you’re going to be performing at the AMAs?

Kevin: Um…You’ll see … you’ll see very, very, very soon.

(both laughing)

Nicole: Okay… Tell me, for four guys and one girl, what’s that dynamic like?

Kevin: It’s actually really, really cool. Kirstie’s known Scott and Mitch for such a long time and so she feels very, very comfortable with them and they feel very comfortable with her. They started off doing the trio in high school, so they’ve known each other since high school and have been best friends since high school. Then I think, Avi and I were kind of like big brothers that take care of her and stuff like that, so it’s cool, it’s really, really fun. We’re all just one really big family. I mean, we have fights and stuff like that sometimes but it’s really … that’s family, that’s what we do. We try to do everything for the betterment of this band, so it’s been a lot of fun.

Nicole: You all take the saying “my voice is an instrument” to a whole new level and your a cappella talents are phenomenal. I’m wondering, can you speak a little to the importance of your art and keeping the genre alive?

Kevin: Sure. There’s such a great tradition, with choir, obviously, and then people coming up and stepping out of the choir element and making this type of music popular. You have people like Manhattan Transfer, Take 6, Naturally 7 … and they’ve taken it to a place where people … everybody can enjoy it. That’s what we want to do; we want to take that to the next step. Our goal is to bring this type of music to the mainstream in a very, very significant way. That’s why I think the sound that we’ve created lends itself towards that very pop, electronic, dubstep dance kind of music. That’s what we’re going to continue trying to do.

Nicole: I was telling my daughter that I was going to be speaking with you today and she said, “Yes, mom, my choir teacher showed us their "Payphone" [Maroon 5] video as an example of how to sing a cappella.”

Kevin: Aww!

Nicole: Right? I was wondering, what does it feel like to know that you’re influencing new generations following behind you?

Kevin: It’s seriously such a blessing. I think when we came to do this, we didn’t realize that could happen, that we could start a movement, in a sense of people being interested in the type of music. At first, we really just did it because we thought it was fun and then just to see the swarms of people who have come to love this and who have never even have been singers before or go to choir but now they’re starting to feel reenergized to do this type of music… it’s such a blessing that we can lead that movement and be in the forefront of it.

Watch Pentatonix Cover of "Payphone" by Maroon 5 on YouTube Music Videos