HomeAn Exclusive Interview With Pentatonix's Scott Hoying

Amy Malkoff's picture

CASA: What's your musical background? Were you always a singer (as opposed to instrumentalist, athlete, actor, etc)? Have you been in other a cappella bands?

Scott Hoying: I started singing when I was 5 years old around town with a group called God's Country Kids, from there I started performing country music at a local revue called Johnny High's Country music review. There is where I really fell in love with performing. After that, I tried out for Star Search in 2004 and placed 12th. I've always sung and performed since, and now I'm enrolled at USC for music and performing. I've played piano for years, and played basketball growing up, and was in theatre most my life, but nothing thrilled me as much as just singing. When I moved to USC, I joined an a cappella group called SoCal VoCals and from there, I became obsessed with a cappella music and decided to audition for sing off.
CASA: Did you set out to create a specific sound, or are you just doing the music you love? What/who are you collective musical influences?
SH: I have always been into soulful artists such as Marc Broussard, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, etc., so I believe constantly listening to those artists sort of made me who I am as a singer today. As for the group, our sound just happened organically. Our three part harmony mixed with Avi's incredibly low and powerful bass mixed with Kevin's unique and dubstep-esque beatboxing, the sound just sort of happened and we weren't expecting it. It was pretty remarkable and exciting for us.

CASA: Three of you went to high school together. Which 3, and did you sing together then?

SH: Mitch, Kirstie, and I all went to high school together and we sang in choirs, show choirs, and musicals together.  We put together a trio to enter a contest when we were seniors in high school and as a trio we uploaded some stuff to YouTube and got a positive response so we decided to take it a step further.

The debate flares up once in a while amongst the a cappella geekdom on the 'net: what's the ideal size for a pro vocal band?

SH: Well, it honestly depends on what sound you're going for. I think we have a lot of advantages being small group, and I think it helps make our sound so unique, but being small, we are unable to create complex chords like Afro-Blue or have a powerful choir-y belting sound like The Backbeats. It really is a matter of preference. Some people love the harmonies and power of a 16-person group, and some like a more beatbox/bass anchored sound like ours.

Nick Lachey even referred to it in your intro in week 7, when he said that you're "stretching" yourselves with only five voices. That said: Since five voices implies bass, VP and three upper voices, and knowing your strengths, what's your approach for arranging for ATTBP?

SH: We usually start with bass and percussion, figuring out different grooves and possible chord progression changes, then we figure out two background vocal parts that fit well behind whoever is soloing. During the chorus, we generally do a three part parallel-moving harmony. After solidifying a simple skeleton arrangement, we start adding fun stuff, cool moments, breakdowns, and slowly but surely it comes together. It's a tedious process, but works much better for us than having one person arrange on paper.

CASA: Sometimes group size is about chemistry too. Had you considered going to six for voicing reasons, or did you already believe you'd hit that "just right" spot for both musicality and group chemistry?

We considered doing 6 in the beginning, but then we decided the trio, VP, bass sounded full enough and gave us a unique edge. Now that we've made our name Pentatonix, I suppose we're stuck with 5, which is definitely okay with us. It has worked out thus far and hasn't limited us too much.

How has being on the show been different than what you expected? What has been your overall experience?

The show was way different than I expected. It was a lot more strenuous and difficult than I expected. It was unbelievably hard work and tiring on us mentally, physically, and most of all vocally. With that being said, I would say it has been the most unbelievable, life-changing, and inspiring thing I have ever been through, and I wasn't expecting it to have SUCH an impact on my life and who I am as a person.

CASA: How much of your own arranging do you do?

SH: We do all of our own arranging for the most part, but we definitely receive help from the music staff when we're stuck.

CASA: What's your ultimate goal for Pentatonix?

SH: As cheesy as it sounds, my goal for Pentatonix is to become something special in the a cappella world and to inspire people. I feel we have created something unique and I would love to perform everywhere, have songs on the radio, and do everything I feel we are capable of. Also, we are all so young and I feel like we can relate to our generation and inspire people to work hard and chase their dreams.

[additional questions by Warren Bloom]


Great Interview

Pentatonix were worthy champions of this year's Sing Off. What a great group. Thanks for the look inside.

For me the biggest un-asked question was about original songs. Maybe it's not as important as it used to be but I wonder where original songs might be on the Pentatonix radar.

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