Pentatonix discusses making album ‘PTX 2’, touring & more

Originally Published on November 8, 2013 – 9:38 PM MST for

Since appearing on NBC’s hit reality singing competition, The Sing Off, acapella group Pentatonix have catapulted their music onto an international stage. For the last two years, they have commanded the spotlight with the release of two albums, an EP and multiple YouTube videos that net views by the hundreds of millions. Their latest release, “PTX Volume 2” was released the first week of November. The seven-track album features hit covers ‘Daft Punk’, ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Save The World/Don’t You Worry Child’ as well as three new original songs.

Before Pentatonix jets off for a sold out European tour which piggybacks on a robust domestic tour early in 2014, I caught up with Mitch Grassi. As one of the three lead vocalists of the group. He revealed secrets like what they can’t do without while on the road, their experience taping on set for Sesame Street and the formula behind their vocal harmony and arrangements.

Marian: Give me some perspective, besides the blatantly obvious, what are some of quiet yet significant changes for Pentatonix as a group and/or personally since appearing on the The Sing Off?

 Pentatonix: We’ve all just developed an excellent work ethic. I think after winning the show, we realized that we were truly something special, and we work constantly to make sure we don’t fade out, which includes heavy activity on social media sites. As far as personally, I’ve done a lot of growing up over the past few years. I was sort of thrust into this full-time job without ever having an actual job, or even attending college. It’s been terrifying but incredibly rewarding, and I’m so thankful that this is my career.

M: How did the success of your first album, as well as your YouTube channel impact the making of “PTX Volume 2”?

 Pentatonix: Staying connected with our fans has been integral to our success, in my opinion. Our fanbase is incredibly supportive, and because of this, they promote our material like crazy. I’d say we owe it to them for spreading our videos around the internet. We also don’t post very often on YouTube, but when we do, we make sure the product is perfect (in our eyes) before releasing it to the public. That way, we leave them wanting more. I think it’s the same with our first EP, too. With only 6 tracks, it served as a teaser to grab consumers’ attention.

M: How do you select the songs you cover and what is your creative process like when arranging them?

 Pentatonix: Usually, a member of the band brings a song to the group that has been inspiring them lately, or that they think we would perform well. As far as arranging, we start with the foundation of the piece (Avi and Kevin, our rhythm section) to give us direction. Then we add the melody and create background parts we find complementary to the melody.

M: Let’s talk about the 3 original tracks on this album. Do you work together as a group to create the songs or do the lyrics come from someone followed by the arrangement, etc.?

 Pentatonix: The lyrics are created alone or in smaller groups. The arrangement is usually done collaboratively.

M: How much time and effort does it take on average to compose a polished arrangement for your songs?

 Pentatonix: It really depends. For a live YouTube video, it can take from one to three days. For the album, however, we like it to be a bit more polished and complex. Album arrangements can take up to a couple of weeks.

M: You have a lot going on through the end of this year and into early 2014. What do you have in store for your European tour this month?

 Pentatonix: We are so excited to go to Europe! Our European fans can expect a full production with lights and booming sound, as well as songs off our new album and fresh YouTube material.

M: What’s something you can’t do without one the road? Or perhaps a guilty pleasure?

 Pentatonix: I can’t live without my headphones. I always need music, one way or another. It calms my nerves, and serves as creative fuel.

M: I read you will be appearing on Sesame Street in Feb. 2014. What was the experience like to tape that episode? Can you reveal which Sesame Street characters you worked with?

 Pentatonix: I don’t think I can reveal that just yet, but we had an AMAZING time on set. It was the most fun we’ve ever had.

M: Over the course of the last few years and Pentatonix’s rise to acclaim and success, what has been a defining moment or perhaps just a favorite memory or experience?

 Pentatonix: I would say watching our album peak at number two on the iTunes charts and stay there for three days. We were competing with some major acts. It was quite a defining moment, and made us all incredibly proud. The road to the completion of PTX Vol. 2 was long and difficult. Seeing it received so well made us all so happy.

M: What goals and plans are still up ahead for Pentatonix?

 Pentatonix: We plan on touring around the globe one day. We also are working on releasing a full-length original.

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