One morning in early August, Pentatonix—a hugely popular classically-trained vocal group—rolled into town, after being on a bus all night, for a show at the Xcel Energy Center with Kelly Clarkson. Only a few hours later, they were on the mics at RiverRock Studios in Northeast Minneapolis, recording a song that appears on their new self-titled release: an album that's currently sitting atop the Billboard album chart.
Eric Blomquist, owner of RiverRock Studios, said, "It's really just lucky that I got to be a part of the project." Pentatonix usually work out of a studio in L.A., but didn't have time to finish their album there because of the tour with Clarkson, forcing them to make a stop to record some tracks on the road.
In Minnesota, Pentatonix went to RiverRock because Blomquist had formed a relationship with their label Sony/RCA by working with other artists on the label—starting with the Script, Irish rockers who went in search of a Minneapolis studio "when Paisley Park didn't answer their phone."
Pentatonix is the group's first full-length original album, following their smash success with a Christmas album last year. Blomquist said Pentatonix were "super easy to work with, super fun." The song recorded in Minneapolis, "Take Me Home," was co-written by Pentatonix beatboxer Kevin Olusola, who also sings on the song. "Everyone was really excited about working on a song he had written," said Blomquist.
Blomquist explained that the group had a unique mic setup. Unlike most a capella groups, where multiple group members share just a couple of microphones, Pentatonix wanted each singer to be on an individual microphone, isolated from the other performers.
"It was a big challenge of having all of the singers be able to see each other, but having enough separation between them that the sound wasn't bleeding from one singer to the next," said Blomquist. "The end results were just amazing."
Blomquist said he thinks Pentatonix are breaking new ground for vocal groups, "really taking a capella into the 21st century." Needless to say, Blomquist was excited to hear about the album's success. "I had to buy a copy for myself and a copy for my mom."
Mackenzie Martin is a podcast enthusiast and senior at Macalester College, where she majors in media & cultural studies.