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Pentatonix bring its harmonized covers to Salt Lake City

By Sheena McFarland Special to The Tribune
First Published Aug 06 2015 11:27AM • Last Updated Aug 07 2015 11:06 am


The surprise-hit band of 2014 is bringing its five-part harmony to Utah.

Pentatonix, which performs solely a cappella, will open for Kelly Clarkson on Saturday at the Usana Amphitheater in West Valley City.

The group, comprising vocalists Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying and Kirstin Maldonado, vocal bass Avi Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin "K.O." Olusola, released the Christmas album "That's Christmas to Me," which sold 1.1 million albums in a year when only four artists hit the 1 million mark.

The Tribune caught up with Hoying ahead of Pentatonix's performance and chatted about staying true to your style and the meaning music can hold for fans.

Pentatonix had the fourth best-selling album in 2014, but you definitely aren't a typical pop act. What draws people to your sound?

I think it's just something different. We found our niche. There are not a lot of performers doing a cappella in the mainstream, but we stuck with it. There were lots of people who said we had to change, but we said, "No, if we are true to ourselves and work hard, we can make a cappella something." And doing all that helped us sell albums.

Tell me a little about how you take pop hits from artists such as Beyoncé and turn them into five-part a cappella renditions.

So it's a really organic, improvisational thing. We sit in a circle and start looping a beat. People start adding, and if we like it, we keep it. It's like a little puzzle that gets put together by the time we arrange the piece. To start, we usually know who's going to have the solo. So, if we say it's a baritone solo, they'll say, "Scott what key do you want?" and I'll say, "F sharp is good for my range," and we'll go from there.

What do you hope your audience gets from your music?

Honestly, the most rewarding thing for us is getting an email or tweet from a listener who says, "Your music helped me out of depression" or "I'm sad and your music makes me happy" or "You helped me be myself." Or one that says, "You gave me confidence, joy and light to my life." Every time I read one of those, honestly, I tear up. I'm always so exited to read something like that, and I hope that's what people get from my music.

You're touring with Kelly Clarkson right now and will open her show in Utah. What has that experience been like?

It has been so much fun. We're opening for her, so first of all, it's a lot chiller. We only have a 45-minute set instead of our usual 90 minutes when we headline. So, we're a little more relaxed. It's fun to have been seeing her. She comes by and gives us a big hug, and we play with her daughter, River. She's a really nice person. It feels like we're at some camp and get to perform every night.

Do you have any impressions of Utah?

I seriously love Utah. It's amazing. In our documentary, there's a moment where we go there and there are snowy mountaintops and it's so peaceful.