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Avi Kaplan of Pentatonix talks small vs. large venues, voice maintenance, ‘Bad Blood’

By Don Chareunsy (contact)
Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 | 5 p.m.

Pentatonix at the Chelsea
Pentatonix at the Chelsea on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
“Music is about bringing light to others,” Pentatonix member Avi Kaplan, 26, says on his Twitter.


Kaplan, whose speaking voice is as lush as his bass singing voice, and his band mates are bringing their a cappella stylings to Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night opening for Kelly Clarkson.

Kaplan, ahead of the concert, talked over the phone about Taylor Swift, their first Grammy Award win this year, Cirque du Soleil and more:

How did opening for Kelly Clarkson come about?

Through different avenues, but we have the same label. We’re big fans of hers, and she is an avid fan. It worked out organically for us.

What can fans expect at Mandalay Bay on Saturday?

The whole show is really great. There is an opener before us, as well. It will be a diverse and eclectic night.

Pentatonix has tackled Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Destiny’s Child. Which artist and/or catalog is on your wish list to make your own with that unique Pentatonix twist?

Taylor Swift! It hasn’t worked out yet, but I’d love to do “Bad Blood.”

Speaking of Daft Punk, are you still riding high from your Grammy Award win this year, and how did it immediately impact Pentatonix’s career?

It still doesn’t seem like it’s real. It gave us more street cred, if you will.

How much time does Pentatonix rehearse to nail a new song, harmonies and performance?

It depends on the song. With “Thrift Shop,” it took only two hours. With “Evolution of Music,” two months. “Evolution of Music” has more than 30 songs with different keys and different solos.

With your rich bass voice, what is your favorite song to perform?

Oh, man, that is tough question. A-ha, and I love Imogene Heap.

What was one of the toughest songs to learn and perfect?

Oh, man, recently Michael Jackson. That was really tough. “Thriller” has really weird chords. It was a good challenge; I really enjoyed it.

How do you take care of your voice?

I sleep a lot, drink a whole lot of water. Your body is an instrument, and you have to take care of it. You have to eat healthy to be healthy. Humidity and the elevation are big factors with vocal chords. You always need to stay hydrated.

Even though Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan and Mandalay Bay Events Center are both in Las Vegas, they are very different venues. What will you change as performers going from the intimate Chelsea to the Mandalay Bay arena?

Going from a smaller to larger venue, it doesn’t change the way you perform, per se. But there are challenges with different venues. There can be a lot of slapback in a cappella. There is a new challenge every single day.

In “Pitch Perfect 2,” you represented Team Canada. Which country has the best a cappella singers and why?

I would say … this is a tough question to answer … the strongest tradition is in America, but, all around the world, there are such strong programs. There is a lot of strong competition out there.

If you weren’t singing, what would you do as a career?

If I wasn’t singing? I’d love to be a chef … and a choral director working with kids.

A cappella has increased in popularity because of “Glee,” “Pitch Perfect” and Pentatonix. Where do you want to see this genre go in the future?

A cappella as just a different style of band, that the genre becomes just a band that you like.

Las Vegas is all about adult freedom. How do you embrace that attitude and mindset when you’re in town — what’s on your to-do list?

Oh, man, my to-do list in Las Vegas? I’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil show, so I’d love to do that.

Pentatonix opens for Kelly Clarkson at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night.

Don Chareunsy is the Las Vegas Sun’s entertainment and luxury senior editor and has been a journalist for nearly two decades.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous fame” has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.