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    Pentatonix’s Kevin Olusola Previews Harmonious ‘Christmas Under the Stars’ Special

    BYUtv’s Christmas Under the Stars has featured A-list musicians like John Legend, Train, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, and Patti LaBelle over the years. In 2021, they’re adding the harmonious Pentatonix as their latest seasonal headliner.

    The three-time Grammy-winning and multi-platinum selling a capella group have put their vocal stylings on staples like “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.” They’ll also perform songs from their latest album, Evergreen.

    After a challenging year, Pentatonix’s singer-songwriter/beatboxer Kevin Olusola is especially grateful to come together with his longtime bandmates — Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, and Matt Sallee — for the occasion. Below, Olusola previews the festive show and PTX’s busy months ahead.

    There have been so many major music stars who have headlined Christmas Under the Stars. How does it feel to be on that list now?

    Kevin Olusola: We feel unbelievably honored. The production value is so beautiful. I think it’s going to be mesmerizing, captivating, and memorable for those who listen and watch.

    What can you tell us about the production?

    We went to Utah [in September] in front of a live audience of amazing people. Some were influencers. Some were people who just loved our music. The love was definitely resonant in the room. That was special. We hadn’t performed together in a long time. This was one of our first performances back since the pandemic hit.

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    Aaron Cornia/BYU Broadcasting

    Tell me about the day you reunited with the group in person after spending so much time away due to the pandemic.

    We worked together over Zoom a lot. We did the last album, We Need a Little Christmas, in separate places. We never got together to perform it. So to perform for the first time for our Evergreen album was so unbelievably emotional. And that emotion carried into this BYUtv performance. We were just so happy to be together again.

    Is there a particular Christmas song that means a lot to you?

    I’d say “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by NSYNC. Every single time I heard that song [over the years] I knew it was Christmas time. I would be dancing, spinning around the room singing, playing my cello. It really gets me in the Christmas mood.

    What is it like for the group to be so associated with Christmas?

    The soundtrack of Christmas. I feel it’s almost palpable, and that I can touch it on my fingertips whenever I think about those songs that mean so much to me. To be able to do that for someone else is truly a joy. As a kid, I was able to serve at a shelter in my local community. I would remember hearing those Christmas songs while I’m doing that. All of those feelings, it’s so cool to be able to give that to another child and family. That they can create their memories and hopefully they’ll be playing our Christmas albums to their kids.

    I love the name of your latest, Evergreen. I feel it has that double meaning of Christmas, but also songs that can be timeless. What went into the making of this project, which includes some great collaborations with Lindsay Stirling and Alessia Cara?

    We started this album in late June, early July because that is when the Christmas season starts for us. We got into the vibe. Scott had this playlist of these folksy, ‘70s songs he was listening to because of the Folklore album by Taylor Swift. He felt it would be cool if we took a leftfield turn for Christmas and tried the same vibe. We were all inspired. Then we went into the studio together to sing. We sang around five different mics rather than going in and multi-tracking like we normally do. That was special because it gave us the organic vibe we were looking for.

    Watch an exclusive clip from the special below:

    What are your favorite songs from it?

    You’ll hear certain songs on the special. “My Heart with You” takes us back to when we first recorded it around those five mics. I felt that awe-inspiring sound moving through our bodies. “Evergreen” came as I was writing with a friend of mine in Sam DeRosa, who helped write this song that meant so much to my mom. I shared it with the band and we all felt we had to make it part of our album. “The Prayer” is so unbelievably powerful. We put it off for years because we never knew if we were going to do it justice. We felt it was the year to do it. We are proud of how it came out.

    You also are on tour right now. What is it like to be back on the road?

    That was one of the biggest reasons we were excited about this special. Feeling the nerves again of performing, so we know what that feels like again going on stage. I’m excited for not only the Christmas tour, but the Europe one, because we will be performing songs for the first time live with songs from The Lucky Ones. It was a five-year journey since the last original album.

    Pentatonix-Christmas-BYUtv-Special-2021

    Aaron Cornia/BYU Broadcasting
    © 2021 BYU Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

    After winning The Sing-Off 10 years ago, Pentatonix could have easily fizzled out with others from reality competitions. What do you attribute your longevity to?

    I would say, one, not taking no for an answer. So many people told us there is no way for a five-person a cappella group to make it in the mainstream. We really wanted to show people it was possible. Granted in this day and age is so fortuitous because we had tools like social media to speak directly to our fans and put up songs on YouTube. YouTube is so important to us because of the audio-visual aspect you need for a capella. There were certain things in place that allowed us to have the trajectory we have. The fact we love performing is one of the cornerstones of what we do. People are surprised we can make this sound with all of our voices. They want to see it time and time again. We like to think outside the box and have a shared passion for what we love to do.

    Christmas Under the Stars featuring Pentatonix premieres, December 5, 7/6c, BYUtv. It will also be available to stream for free on the BYUtv app.

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