Pentatonix Q&A: A Cappella Is 'Coming To The Forefront'

Tim Cruz


The quintet discusses its increased touring plans, the future of a cappella and its new Billboard No. 1 'Little Drummer Boy'

As previously reported, a cappella quintet Pentatonix perches atop Billboard's Holiday 100 songs chart like a star atop a Christmas tree with its version of "Little Drummer Boy." The song blasted 23-1 on the tally last week.

The song additionally entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 13, instantly entering a tie for the fourth-highest-charting holiday hit in the chart's 55-year history. "Drummer" appears on Pentatonix's holiday EP "PTXmas," which concurrently surged into the Billboard 200 album chart's top 10 (29-7).

As the vocal group – Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola – enjoys its latest successes, it spoke with Billboard about how it came to record its new hit, the growth of a cappella and what it's like reigning as a chart-topping act. (Fun fact: "a cappella" means "in the manner of the church" in Italian, so how fitting that an a cappella song reigns at Christmastime.)

Billboard: What was the impetus for recording "Little Drummer Boy"?

Penatonix: We'd been wanting to arrange the song for a while, but could never really figure out a direction. We decided to just try it out, and we were incredibly happy with the way it turned out!

What do you think has caused the song to take off?

I think people just appreciate it because it isn't too out of left field. We took a beautiful Christmas song and put a different, but pleasant, spin on it.

How much is touring now a part of Pentatonix's plans? Having added many dates to your already packed touring schedule, what does it mean to have such an engaged audience?

We've been touring non-stop for most of the year, and we just announced our North American/European dates for 2014. It's pretty crazy that we've sold out a lot of our upcoming dates already.

Our fans are so incredibly dedicated. We're so grateful that we have such a strong fanbase.

From a performance on talk shows including "Conan" to, of course, your breakthrough on NBC's "The Sing-Off," what does it mean to earn such high-profile national recognition?

It's incredibly humbling to be on all these TV shows that big names have appeared on! We're just excited to get the word out about what we do.

Is Pentatonix breaking new ground in the world of a cappella? What might we expect to see from the genre going forward? Any other notable a cappella bands we should keep an eye out for?

The genre is coming to the forefront of the industry a bit, which I think is due to shows like "The Sing-Off" and the popularity of the "Pitch Perfect" movie. I think more and more people are starting to really understand what it is, and see past the novelty of it. Hopefully, it can work its way into the mainstream more.

There are a number of talented a cappella groups out there, and this season of "The Sing-Off" showcases some of that exceptional talent.

What's on the horizon for Pentatonix? Obviously, touring …

Lots of touring! We want to be able to perform worldwide for all kinds of audiences. We're also working on a full-length original album.

Back to "Little Drummer Boy": It's No. 1 on Billboard's Holiday 100 chart, having dethroned Mariah Carey's perennial leader "All I Want for Christmas Is You," which has topped the chart for all but two weeks since its launch. How does it feel to be No. 1?

We didn't expect that at all. Being up there on the charts with big-name artists, especially Mariah Carey, is quite an honor.


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