Leaving Pentatonix to launch a solo career wasn’t easy for Avi Kaplan. The formidable task even brought a bout of depression, he acknowledges. But he sings about overcoming that in the title track of I’ll Get By, his second EP, whose video is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Feb. 28).
“I had just left a very successful career, and in general I had a lot of hurt and a lot of healing to do, so that’s where a lot of it came from,” Kaplan — whose debut EP Sage and Stone, as Avriel & the Sequoias, came out in 2017 — tells Billboard. “And just to figure out where I’m trying to go next and how that’s going to work out — it was a lot. I knew I wanted to do music, but leaving such a successful career one would think I’d kind of shot myself in the foot. I knew I made the right decision, and at the end of the day it’s up to me to get where I want to go, but it’s a lot to take on.”
“I’ll Get By,” Kaplan says, is “very, very true to where I was at,” but he went to great lengths for the song to be about getting past his situation. “It’s really important for me that the people who listen to my music get something that can hopefully help them get through whatever they’re going through,” he says. “Music is the only thing that’s able to help sooth my soul in that way, and my goal is to always put things out there that that do the same thing for other people.”
The “I’ll Get By” video, meanwhile, illustrates the struggle by having a solitary Kaplan collect a bag of rocks representing his troubles, only to be joined by others as they take them to a waterfall where a symbolic cleansing will occur. And, Kaplan adds, the rocks are real, not lightweight props.
“It was a very, very heavy bag,” says Kaplan, a California native who’s now living outside Nashville. “It needs to look legitimate when you’re struggling with it, and it was important for me to actually feel it because I know what it feels like. I wanted to go through it that day to make sure I conveyed what I wanted to say.”
While Sage and Stone was a first step that allowed Kaplan to reconnect with his folk music roots that pre-date Pentatonix, the I’ll Get By EP — out today — takes another sonic step. Kaplan recorded the seven-track set in Omaha, Neb., with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis), who gives the EP the rich, spacious sweep of a Hozier or Bon Iver recording that Kaplan feels “expanded my horizons.”
“It was really amazing to have someone hear my vision and know exactly what I wanted to do, but also be able to add to that and expand it,” Kaplan says. “I feel like I was even able to expand more vocally and show different sides of my voice people haven’t heard yet. I think this EP has all of the favorite things I love about folk music, and I’m real excited to have people hear that.”
Kaplan starts touring to promote I’ll Get By on March 1, wrapping in April. He’s booked for the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware during June and has European dates set for November. And he’s looking forward to working on his next batch of new songs sooner rather than later. I’m real excited to get back into writing,” he says. “I’ve been doing a bit of touring and music videos and all that stuff. Obviously when you write songs you’ve got to record them, but just writing the songs is one of my favorite things to do. I’m really raring to get back to that again.”
The video for “I’ll Get By” is below.