For the last six years, Kirstin Maldonado has sung her heart out in Pentatonix, serving as the lone female voice in the a cappella quintet. But just after Pentatonix wrapped a recent major international tour, and before they embark on another North American trek later this summer, Maldonado is using her time to forge a new path, as a solo artist.
The 25-year-old premiered her debut solo single, “Break a Little,” in May (not long after Pentatonix bandmate Avi Kaplan announced his departure from the group), which was Maldonado’s first opportunity to show who she is as an artist when not harmonizing with four other voices. And today (June 16), she unveils a second track, “All Night,” along with a video for the song, which continues the story that began with “Break a Little.”
“What I love about this project in general is that I could be super creative with it,” Maldonado — who identifies as kirstin for her solo venture — tells Billboard. “From start to finish, I wanted all the songs to become this journey into each other content-wise and musically.”
“All Night” is a smoldering banger about insomnia and obsessive love, with a psychedelic, sci-fi-esque video that feels straight out of Stranger Things — think levitation, thunderstorms, hallucinatory visions and even a white wolf. It’s a continuation of the same stormy night we encountered in the “Break a Little” video, where Maldonado’s character is left stranded in the rain after a fight with her male companion.
Along with the new song, Maldonado announced that her EP L O V E will be available June 14, which is also now available for pre-order. Ahead of the song and video release, Billboard caught up with Maldonado to get the story behind “All Night” and hear a little more about her solo project. Check out the video and our interview below.
What made you want to do this style of music for your solo route?
I’ve listened to a lot of different styles of music growing up, and they’ve all influenced me at different times in my life. I’ve always loved lyrics, so I used to listen to Sara Bareilles — more folky, singer-songwritery people. The content of their songs were really, really amazing to me, and how they express themselves in words was so beautiful. I started listening to more electronic music and I came across James Blake — his production and music was the first that moved me in the same way, but had no lyrics. I take little things from each person.
What has the response been like to “Break a Little”?
I’ve seen a lot of fans say that they connect with the lyrics and a lot of them have covers on Twitter, which I love. It just means the world when people are like “I’ve felt that same way too,” I think that’s what’s so amazing about music — it can say something that you can’t say, or just encapsulates a feeling that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, me too.”
It’s a song that I feel like I’ve always wanted to write. And I think for me, and for the emotion of the song I feel like it was a situation I maybe never completely could confront or express in real life so to have it live in the song and for the ideas — it felt so amazing to get that out. So I feel like it will forever be the most special song to me because of that.
How would you say “All Night” compares to “Break a Little” sound-wise?
It has a different intention behind it, but it’s still in the [same realm]. I wanted the songs to feel like a journey, so if you wanted to listen to it from start to finish, it becomes a story that has an arc to it.
What’s the story behind “All Night”?
It’s kind of going off of “Break a Little” in the feeling of someone being on your mind all the time or something being on your mind all the time and it won’t go away. It’s that kind of duality of “Is it actually good for you? Is it actually bad for you?” That’s kind of the question in the video and in the song — it’s like, what are you actually doing all night? Are you actually spending time with them? Are you just thinking of them? Do you just wish they were there? Is it just in your head?
It’s kind of funny, because I feel like now I can very specifically relate all of my songs to specific moments in my life. But when we started writing them I didn’t really have those specific moments in mind, I just kind of worked with the team that I had and we started forming an idea. And then when it was starting to form and take shape, then I added my own personal experience, and then was able to take it the full way. Sometimes if I start off with a personal experience that I want to write about that I almost can’t express myself — it’s so specific that I get stuck and the creativity kind of dies.
What do you want fans to know about your new chapter?
I just feel really lucky that I can express myself and that I’ve kind of found myself creatively — as an artist and as a person, this entire experience has been really amazing for me in my entire life. I feel like I’m waking up earlier, I’m more motivated just in life. I wanted to create this story so that people know that they’re not alone and they can relate to a bunch of things too — if at any time people do relate these songs and can feel that emotion as well, that’s amazing.