Pentatonix singer Scott Hoying suddenly perked up over the phone.

He had just learned about the cause behind the benefit concert that his champion a cappella quintet is performing Saturday in Minneapolis. It's for PACER Center, a Twin Cities agency that helps children with disabilities and operates anti-bullying programs.

"Oh, my gosh. That's an incredibly important organization," Hoying said. "I think that anything we can do to put an end to bullying is something we want to do. Because bullying affects kids for their entire life and affects your future."

He knows. He speaks from personal experience. He was bullied as a youngster. Name-calling. Taunts like "Why do you talk like a girl?" "Why do you act like that?"

"A queer kid in Texas," the 31-year-old said. "I had a tepee in the closet and tried to hide the true me for so many years. I was a really eccentric kid. I had a lot of energy, and I was goofy and so over the top.

"There was one specific time where a kid physically hurt me that has stuck with me to this day. Stuff like that in your formative years can really, really affect your development," he said. "I feel like it's something I'm still dealing with. I'm still writing songs about it as a form of therapy. Empathy and kindness and connection and kids are essential."

For Pentatonix, the Minneapolis benefit is an isolated concert in a year that has been mostly time off. Soprano singer Kirstin Maldonado gave birth to her first child in the summer. New bass singer Matt Sallee got married. Yet, Pentatonix still managed to squeeze in the recording of another yule album, "Holidays Around the World," the group's sixth Christmas offering in eight years.

In fact, two weeks after the PACER concert, Pentatonix will hit the road for its annual holiday concert tour. Like Bing Crosby and Mannheim Steamroller, Pentatonix has become synonymous with Christmas music. Is that a blessing or a curse?

"I'd say it's a blessing," Hoying said. "Christmas is such a joyous time. It's family and memories. We get to be the soundtrack to so many people's Christmases, which is a time associated with joy, happiness and peace. Also, Christmas is a huge thing every year."

Hoying finds it comforting to know that Pentatonix will be able to gig for six weeks every holiday season. Otherwise, he finds the music industry so fickle.

"You'll have a No. 1 one day and then one day the industry won't want you anymore," he said. "That's a really scary thing."

Released last week, "Holidays Around the World" features an original, "Kid on Christmas," with pop star Meghan Trainor. The project also showcases other guests, including Chinese pianist Lang Lang, England's the King's Singers and Filipina vocalist Lea Salonga, who voiced Jasmine and Mulan in Disney animated movies.

"It's probably the album we're most proud of in Pentatonix ever," Hoying said. "We collaborated with all these iconic artists in all these special countries. It was fun to have instruments and production inspired by each country, and also we put in some strong originals."

In addition to all those holiday albums, Pentatonix — which launched its career after winning NBC's "The Sing-Off" a cappella competition in 2011 — has recorded five albums of cover songs as well as two full-length collections of original material, including 2021's "The Lucky Ones."

Solo trip to 'Mars'

Pentatonix was formed by Hoying and two high school friends from Arlington, Texas. He self-released three solo albums in the mid-'00s before turning to a cappella singing. This summer, he finally dropped his first single, "Mars," since joining Pentatonix. Its accompanying video is an ambitious trip to the desert with some additional underwater videography.

"So, the budget for the video is really, really small," Hoying said last month from his Hollywood home. "I find it so inspiring to bring five friends, go out to the desert and get an Airbnb and make art in DIY fashion. Everyone is so hands-on and inspired, and it ended up looking like a million-dollar video."

Solo recordings have been a long-held dream for Hoying, and he finally felt he had the "experience and capacity" to do both solo work and Pentatonix.

"Pentatonix still comes first," he said. "I want to keep releasing music and have a solo career going as long as I can keep up my energy."

His solo career is a higher priority than his other side project, Superfruit, with Pentatonix pal Mitch Grassi. That duo is on hiatus as Grassi works on his own solo project.

This year, Hoying has become super-passionate about songwriting, penning a song "almost every day."

Although he has enough quality material for an album, Hoying hasn't signed a contract, so he'll just release singles in the meantime.

Singing for Joni Mitchell

The PACER Center gala isn't the only benefit for Pentatonix this year. In April, the quintet joined an all-star lineup in a salute to Joni Mitchell for MusiCares, the Recording Academy's charity foundation for musicians.

"One of Joni's favorite songs is 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love,' so Brandi Carlile — she hangs out with Joni and Joni plays solitaire and listens to Pentatonix — asked us to surprise her and sing her favorite song for her as well as one of her songs. And besides that, it was one of the craziest events I've ever done. It was surreal."

To top it off, Hoying talked to Mitchell about music for about 10 minutes.

"It's one of those 'Pinch me' moments. How did my life lead to this moment? It was really cool."


What: Benefit for PACER Center.

When: 8 p.m. Sat.

Where: Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Av. S., Mpls.

Tickets: $75 and up,