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Meet Kirstin Maldonado, Lead Vocalist Of Pentatonix

By Audrey Perkins | December 1, 2014

For Kirstin Maldonado, her wardrobe was the first thing she thought of when she looked back to the beginnings of her musical career with Pentatonix.

The a cappella group is made up of Maldonado, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin “K.O.” Olusola. They first came to fame in 2011 when they won the third season of “The Sing-Off” on NBC.

“I think we all would have thrown some of our clothing choices into the fire,” Maldonado said in an email interview.

Jokes aside, and regardless of fashion sense – though admittedly Maldonado is rocking her current sense of style, getting to where she is today did not come easy. However, she credits her and Pentatonix’s growth period towards finding their own personal sound.

“We used to try to emulate sounds and were on the track to becoming a little too gimmicky with noises, but that taught us more about our style and sound and what actually works for us,” Maldonado said. “It’s not about trying to recreate noises in tracks we hear, obviously that’s very hard and can sound very silly. It’s the vocal stylings that make what we do so special, so we’ve been sticking to that.”

As of now, their vocal style has garnered quite a bit of attention through various forms of new and social media, with YouTube at the very top. The Pentatonix YouTube channel has collected more than 670 million views and 6.7 million subscribers, according to the group’s website. (Might I add that they have more YouTube subscribers than Beyoncé? That’s taking “flawless” to an entire new level.)

Maldonado credits her rise in popularity to the Internet– more so than Pentatonix’s win on “The Sing-Off.” While the singing competition might have given Pentatonix that initial push, it was the power of social media that propelled the group to where they are today. Facebook and Twitter connected them to their fans and YouTube gave the group a platform on which they could spread viral content.

“[The] Internet is everything for upcoming musicians and is pretty much the sole reason we are where we are today,” she said. “Success coming from a reality show is so fleeting, you have to either release something right away or make sure to keep up with your audience or people lose interest.”

With the Internet, hard-working musicians can easily create and market their content to viewers worldwide, Maldonado said.

Having a massive social media presence also allows for the group to easily communicate to their fans. Specifically now that the group recently dropped a new album, “That’s Christmas To Me” which is already number 1 on Billboard’s Holiday chart. The release was the Pentatonix’s second album within a month and fourth in less than a year to debut Top 10 on the Billboard top 200 chart, according to the group’s website.

However just how much work goes into their music? Maldonado described it to be an “organic” process in which the five members sit in a circle and throw ideas around.

“We start off with a basic outline and the foundation,” she said. “It’s relatively easy since there are only five of us; Kevin and Avi take the low end and foundation and we build from there. One person sings the solo and the other two come up with background parts. After we have the basic idea, we flesh out the parts and try to add cool moments and transitions.”

For albums, the group works with a producer to write out the arrangement on Finale, which is special software for music notation, and finalize the songs.

Despite her successes, Maldonado said she is still learning about the music industry. It is complex for sure and she is still getting used to it – however she has had no negative experiences. Yet, she said that there is a stigma associated with it.

“I feel like everyone is always making it out to be a very scary, hideous thing, and while unfortunately that is the case for some, there are very hard-working, kind people in this industry as well,” she said. “I have yet to deal with anything malicious, but the industry is also more complex than I even know. It’s not black and white at all.”

Fortunately, Maldonado said that so far, it’s been inspiring to be around so many that want to see her group succeed.

Which is why aspiring musicians should not be intimidated by the idea of the music industry. Maldonado urges aspiring musicians to promote themselves to the best of their ability. She also had one more last piece of advice:

“Don’t settle for [the] mediocre, always be pushing to make yourself, your brand, and your content better,” she said.

All photos courtesy of Ken Phillips Publicity Group, Inc.

Want to see what Pentatonix’s music is like? Check out this video of their cover of Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be.”