'The Sing-Off' Exclusive Interview: Ethan of Soul'd Out On Holding Their Own as a High School Group
'The Sing-Off' Exclusive Interview: Ethan of Soul'd Out On Holding Their Own as a High School Group
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
As the only high school group on The Sing-Off this season, Wilsonville, Oregon's Soul'd Out came into the competition with a lot to prove, but also a lot of automatic props. Most high school a cappella groups wouldn't be able to pull off a number on this stage and at this scale. Soul'd Out not only held their own, they went full-out for their first performance, with a rendition of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from Hair.

It was a challenging number, and one that unfortunately led to their elimination against some older, more experienced groups, but the response was positive all around for these "real life Glee" kids, especially from judge Sara Bareilles, who said they were "well on [their] way" as performers and called lead Ethan Crystal "adorable." 

They may not have made it past the first round, but that's high praise for a high school group with plenty of talent and time to grow. As Ethan said when I spoke to him this afternoon about Soul'd Out's Sing-Off experience, "the only place to go is up." Read on for our interview:

Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV: How has it been for you as high schoolers, being on that national stage?

Ethan Crystal, Soul'd Out:
It was fantastic. There was really nothing like it. Of course, we've been in competition situations before and competed before The Sing-Off, but it was definitely a lot different to be up on that stage in front of the judges and in front of the audience. And also in front of the cameras. It was exhilarating, and it was awesome.

What was it like being the only high school group there? What were your interactions like with the other groups?

As far as musically, we knew we had a lot to prove coming in as the only high school group on the show. But I really think we showed that we have that musicality, and that full sound that you don't see out of most high school groups. As far as interaction, we all loved everyone. The whole show, it was a giant love-fest. We all got along, we hung out, we went to the hot tub, we had a lot of fun.

How did Soul'd Out come to audition for The Sing-Off?

Basically, Soul'd Out had been competing for the last three years in a Varsity Vocals-sponsored competition called the ICHSA's, that is, the International Championship High School A Cappella. We've been competing for a very long time, and it so happened that, having a lot of seniors and a lot of experience in the group, we took 2nd at the ICHSA finals in March, and riding on that strong finish, Sue Shriner, our choral director, and the rest of the group decided that we were ready to take it to the next level and audition for The Sing-Off because we thought we had what it takes, and it turned out they accepted us.

What's been the response at home and at school?

We've gotten so much love from our home town especially. Here at Carnegie Mellon I had a giant group of friends in the dorm watching and screaming every time our group showed up on the TV. It's been so great. But what really made it possible is the support that we got from the city of Wilsonville. Our community loved us, as well as our school and our school district. Really, we couldn't have done it without our community.

In your intro package, one of your members said you guys are like "the real life Glee." What does that mean to you?

To me, it means that we share that same passion for music that they have on that show. It equates because they're in high school, even though those actors are in their late twenties, but really, that's what it's all about. It's about the passion that they have for music and the energy that they bring to the stage.

I'm guessing that the members who are still in high school, if they were ever outsiders like the kids on Glee, they're not anymore.

Oh, they've always been cool!

You were really ambitious with your song choice. What made you decide to sing that particular song?

"Aquarius" is an arrangement by Deke Sharon that he gave to us two years ago to do at the ICHSA finals, so it was a song that we were really familiar with. And really, what made us choose it, is we just really loved the energy that it had, and we thought that with our youth ... we knew we had the musicality and the power to do it, but really it was about the meaning of the song, you know? We loved taking our energy and our youth and giving it to the audience and everyone who watched the show.

What was it like watching the episode with your friends last night?

It was great. They were trying to get me to tell them what happened, but I didn't cave. It was tough for me to not tell them that Sara Bareilles said I was adorable.

That's quite a compliment! What do you think of her as a new judge on the show?

She really brings something ... with her a cappella experience at UCLA, and her experience as a recording artist, she really brings a dimension to the show that I think was needed.

What does this whole experience mean to the group, especially the ones still at the high school, where do they go from here?

The only place to go is up! The only thing to do is get better, you know? There were ten seniors on The Sing-Off Soul'd Out, so the new Soul'd Out has six members that went to The Sing-Off. I don't know how big the group is now, but I know it's about the same size, roughly. So they're going to have a lot to draw on from that experience and also from being in past competitions. One of the coolest parts of being on the show was getting to take that experience and take note from all these really, really talented groups, and all these really talented arrangers, and all these really talented directors that helped us in rehearsal, and even the choreographers, too.

Did you take away any sort of overall lesson from the experience?

Really, it was about being true to ourselves. That's one of the reasons that we chose to do "Aquarius," is because even though it may make sense to some people for us to do one of those high school, really young teenage songs that are popular, we really felt that "Aquarius" was just more us. That embodied our spirit more than anything, and that's what important: Being true to ourselves, musically and emotionally. I have nothing but love for the show. I think it's a great idea, and a great way to get a cappella in the spotlight, because it deserves it.

We've seen a lot of people on the show this season who came from other groups in past seasons. Do you think any of you guys will join a group in college and maybe give it another go?

That would be fabulous! Of course I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe some producer somewhere is thinking about it, but I don't think that's out of the equation at all. The audience showed a really positive response to us, and even though we were kicked out in the first round, I've really gotten a lot of love from people who have never seen the show before or had no experience with a cappella. So I definitely don't think it's out of the equation at all.

(Image courtesy of NBC)