Behold, Avriel & the Sequoias, a name which includes Kaplan's birth name and a tribute to where he grew up, about 30 minutes from Sequoia National Park in California. Kaplan released his first EP, Sage and Stone, Friday (June 9), with five songs he can't wait for fans to hear.
One of those tracks is a lighthearted love song titled "Sweet Adeline," which Billboard is premiering in light of the EP release. Billboard caught up with Kaplan before the EP dropped, finding out more about the song and video, as well as excitement for his new venture. Check out the video and our interview with Kaplan below.
What's the story behind "Sweet Adeline"?
It is just a super, super happy love song. You know, everyone is always searching for love and this is about the love that you know it’s a risk with this person, but it doesn’t even matter because you are just so in love with them that you just really can’t help yourself and that’s why that song is full of joy and it just is a love song.
I put whistling in there because when I was younger, my mom always said that when I was super, super happy, I would just whistle a bunch. I kind of wanted to capture that.
Who are the other people in the video?
That’s my touring band. I decided when I started the solo project that I really did want to have a band behind me. I didn’t really want to be playing any tracks or do anything like that. I just feel like folk music is so organic that even if you can’t recreate the entire track live at that time, if you can strip it down and make a really beautiful raw arrangement of it, it’s more true to its form than playing a bunch of tracks.
Was your eagerness to play folk music why you felt it was right to step back from Pentatonix?
I still want to do music with my whole heart, so now that I’m stepping back, I don’t want to hold them back. So I’m stepping back, and I’m doing the music that really means a lot to me. It’s just a new chapter of my life, and it’s a new chapter for them as well. And I think that we’re both really excited for each other. We’re definitely a family.
Does it feel a little odd to not be singing super low since you were the bass vocalist in the group?
It’s funny, because it’s like, it’s always been there. It’s always been an undertone, I don’t know if you could feel it a little bit from some of the solos that I do in Pentatonix, but this is definitely the truest version of me. And that’s why I named my solo project Avriel and the Sequoias, because Avriel is my full name. I go by “Avi” because it’s easier, but Avriel is my full name, and the Sequoias, that represents my home. So it’s the truest version of me, it’s where I came from.
It’s really fun for me because people didn’t really get to hear me sing in my upper register very much, because I sang bass, and it’s really fun to be able to show people another side of myself that they really haven’t seen yet. It’s really been amazing to see people’s responses. It seems like it’s really resonating with people and that really means a lot to me.
Some of the songs on the EP include instrument sounds that are actually your voice. Are you going to continue incorporating that kind of a cappella technique in your own stuff?
That’s always going to be a huge part of my music. I love vocals and what they can do, and the different layers they can create, and I really want to bring that into folk music in terms of arrangements and stuff. I think it really actually fits very well. Folk music is very honest, it’s very humble, it’s very organic, and the voice is exactly that. And so I’m very excited to put the two together.
And it sounds like people are digging it.
You know, it’s been really amazing, it feels like people have just really understood my music. One thing that I’ve seen all over the comments on YouTube is that “this feels really like him.” And that means more than anything to me, because I always try to present myself in a very real way, and really try to hope that people will understand who I truly am in my core.
It’s music really that I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so now this is the first time that I’ve really been able to put my full heart and soul and really see my ideas and my imagination come to life. It’s really such an amazing feeling, it’s really such a beautiful experience.