Q&A: Kevin Olusola ’06 – Winner of NBC’s “The Sing-Off”

Q: When did you start beatboxing?

A: I kind of [beatboxed] when I was young, but not seriously. I started getting serious [after] I lived in China for the ’09-’10 academic school year on a Yale Fellowship to study Chinese.

Q: What inspired you to make the YouTube video “cello-boxing”?

A: Well, I was nominated for a senior prize at Yale for the arts. I decided that performing “Julie-O” in my own cello- boxing style would be a perfect way to showcase who I was. I didn’t initially do it for Youtube. My friend Jake Bruene who helped me make the video is the one [who] told me to put the video up on Youtube.

Q: How did Pentatonix get in touch with you and how did the group come together?

A: Scott [Hoying], Mitch [Grassi] and Kirstie [Maldonado] all grew up together in Arlington, Texas. When Scott went to college at USC, he joined the SoCal VoCals, an a cappella group. It was there that he learned about “The Sing-Off” and asked Mitch and Kirstie to join him. They needed to round out the sound with a bass and a beatboxer, so they found me through my Julie-O video and Avi Kaplan through a friend in the SoCal VoCals. [Avi’s] just very well known in the a cappella world for his bass singing.

Q: What was it like being on “The Sing-Off”?

A: [It was an] incredible experience. I learned so much about myself, especially about how resilient I could be. I didn’t know that I had so much willpower within me until that competition.

Q: How did you make it so far in the competition?

A: I wanted it badly. We started out the underdogs in the competition. We weren’t the best, although I think we had a unique blend and voice. After we did “Video Killed the Radio Star,” that’s when I realized we could win the competition, and I worked day and night to make this dream come true.

Q: How does being on stage at Andover performances compare with being on “The Sing-Off”?

A: It’s different. For “The Sing-Off,” it’s a lot more professional, and everything you do must be done to perfection or you go home. At Andover, I think everyone is at varying levels, and I think Andover focuses more on the experience of performing rather than trying to be a performer. I like that because it gives everyone at Andover a chance to try performing.

Q: How did Andover influence your musical career?

A: I think the most important thing I learned from Andover was to dream to be the best. I came in as a new Upper, and started off at the bottom of the totem pole academically. I learned to pick myself up and to aspire to be the best, even though I may never be the best. That will help me work on my deficiencies and at least be a better person than I was before. Also, [at Andover] the world is your oyster. I don’t think I would have been open to learning about China unless I went to Andover, and because of that I had a lot of musical experiences in China that helped shape who I am.

Q: What do you see next in your future?

A: Pentatonix is going to making a record, so we are moving to LA. Also, I plan on working on my cello-boxing skills and producing for people.

Compiled by Andrew Yang

Responses from Olusola in an email to The Phillipian