Kirstin Maldonado

Kirstin Maldonado is taking a step away from her a cappella roots — and she’s shedding part of her name in the process.

“It’s so hard to say,” she says of her last name, which she’s dropped for her solo debut, “Love,” out today. “I’m also getting married this year, so I figure I might as well just brand it as my name and then keep it easy for everyone.”

Despite singing with popular a cappella group Pentatonix for several years, Maldonado, 25, is rather shy — a characteristic that proved problematic during the recording process of her new EP. Without the familiar vocal support of fellow Pentatonix members, Maldonado had to learn how to be confident on her own, a “journey” she says involved “accepting who you are and loving yourself.”

Here, Maldonado opens up about recording “Love,” being too shy to share it with the rest of Pentatonix, the group’s mind-set following Avi Kaplan’s departure and more.

WWD: Was a solo project something you’d always wanted to pursue?
Kirstin Maldonado: 
Not particularly. I always wanted to do musical theater. That was where I saw my life going since I was a musical theater major in college before I went to Pentatonix. When Pentatonix started, my whole vision of what I thought my life was gonna be completely changed — in a great way, obviously. I never thought that I would have the confidence to do this.

WWD: The single “Break a Little” is different sonically from Pentatonix because it’s electronic and not a cappella. What was the recording process like?
I worked with really incredible people and we didn’t put a label on what the song needed to be or what the vibe needed to be. We just started writing. At Pentatonix [writing sessions], I was always so nervous because I was like, “We can’t put too much instrumental backing in it or production in it because then we’re gonna have to strip it down and make it a cappella.” There were a lot of rules on what it needed to be and with this, it was just totally free.

WWD: Has the rest of Pentatonix heard the EP?
They heard little bits of it. They haven’t heard it all. I really value their opinion and am just always nervous. I’ve worked with Kevin [Olusola]. Kevin’s awesome to work with and he’s so pumped and so excited and brings me up. Scott [Hoying] and Mitch [Grassi] love the music and Avi [Kaplan] does, too, and we’re all doing our own music and we’ve supported each other. I get shy, but they’re like family, you know? I’ll barely send it to my mom. I don’t know why, I’m just like that.

WWD: Avi Kaplan announced a couple of months ago that he would be leaving the group. What’s the group’s mind-set right now?
K.M.: I mean, we’re good. We just want everyone to be happy and we had an incredible six years. Avi is gonna have an incredible solo career and the group is gonna continue to do well.

WWD: Congratulations on your engagement. Have you started wedding plans?
I have, yes, I have. That’s also another thing that I can’t believe is happening pretty quickly. Last year, I was like, “It’s gonna happen next year,” but yeah, I’m superexcited.

WWD: Have you found a dress?
K.M.: Yes, I have. I love it.

WWD: Details?
I’m gonna keep it a secret ’cause everyone somehow finds out secrets anyway, but I am gonna try to keep this one secret as long as possible.

WWD: You’re pretty experimental when it comes to fashion and beauty. We always see you trying new hairstyles, hair colors and makeup. What’s your philosophy?
I love playing around and I have a lot of great stylists and friends that are superfashionable that point me in the right direction. I shaved a quarter of my hair one time and my poor nana was crying when I FaceTimed her, but I was like, “It’s just hair! It’s fun.” I always feel good after I change my hair. You get a haircut and feel positive and ready to take on the day.

WWD: What’s the best beauty advice you’ve received?
If you feel good in it, then that’s all that matters. There were times where I was like, “Is this too bold, what I’m wearing?” If you are owning your outfit, whatever it is, people are gonna look at you and be like, “She looks great.”

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