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Pentatonix brings a cappella to the masses

March 01, 2013 8:00 am • By Kevin C. Johnson kjohnson@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8191

Acappella acts have been a growing trend the last few years, and Pentatonix is among the groups leading the charge.

Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying credits TV shows such as “The Sing-Off” and “Glee” and the movie “Pitch Perfect” with pushing the a cappella movement forward.

“It’s always been around, but those things have helped,” Hoying says. “People are just in the mood for organic music without Auto-Tune and a lot of production. … I’ve always loved a cappella.”

But that love doesn’t come easy. Hoying says singing a cappella is tough to pull off.

While other singers have “an infinite amount of sounds and instruments that can produce a variety of things, with us it’s hard to keep it creative. Also, you’re always singing and your voice gets tired. You’re singing nonstop, and it’s very taxing. We’re always on vocal rest.”

But there’s not much rest for the five-member group, YouTube favorites who won the third season of the now-canceled “The Sing-Off” in 2011.

“?‘The Sing-Off’ is a show I watched in high school,” Hoying says. “We (he and Pentatonix singer Kirstie Maldonado) always loved it. I really fell in love with the whole a cappella thing and wanted to try it out on the show.”

He also tried out for “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “The X Factor.”

“I’d always made it past the first few rounds and usually got cut,” he says. “It could have been one of those things where I didn’t have a story or they didn’t like me, but I never got discouraged.”

Winning “The Sing-Off” is still a bit of a blur for the group members, who have been living a whirlwind of a life every since. “It’s just been nonstop, never a lull. But we’re so thankful.”

Last year, the group released an EP, “PTX Vol. 1,” which included the group’s takes on popular songs such as “Starships,” “Somebody That I Used to Know” and more. A couple of originals were featured as well on “PTX Vol. 1.”

“That project was really fun. We got complete creative control over it with no label breathing down our throats. We brought a bunch of covers to the table, things that inspired us, and we released it without knowing what would happen,” he says.

“PTX Vol. 1” debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200. “We outsold the winner of ‘The Voice,’ which was pretty surreal,” Hoying says. “ ‘The Voice’ has five times as many viewers as ‘The Sing-Off.’ ”

Pentatonix followed “PTX Vol. 1” with holiday release “PTXmas” and looks to record more originals for its next release. In fact, the group says originals are the group’s recording preference now.

“They’re new to us, and we’re excited about it,” Hoying says.

Some of the group’s new material is surfacing on its new tour, which comes to the Pageant next week after a sold-out show last year at the Old Rock House.

“That was a lot of fun. I have family in St. Louis, and a lot of them came out,” Hoying says. “The audience was so great and energetic.”