Fans of Pentatonix were saddened by Avi Kaplan’s announcement in May that he was leaving the group, but there’s cause for celebration with the first release from his new group, Avriel & the Sequoias (the band takes its name from the sequoia trees of Northern California, where Kaplan grew up).

Kaplan and his new group have put an Americana-infused spin on Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”, transforming the fun, funky 2003 hit into a country-inflected, folk stop that still encourages us to “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

In a recent interview with People, Kaplan opens up about the positive response he’s received after leaving Pentatonix and striking out on his own.

RELATED: Avi Kaplan Announces He’s Leaving Pentatonix: ‘The Hardest Decision I’ve Ever Had To Make In My Life’

“It’s been amazing,” he told People. “Leaving the group and putting out a new EP, I prepared myself for the worst — people either being really mad at me for leaving, or really weirded out that I was doing something totally different from what I was doing before.”

That, however, hasn’t come to pass. “But with the fanbase that we have, they really do know who we are as individuals, and I think that’s why they’re such diehard fans,” he explained. “They really know me and where my heart’s at. So when my [solo] music came out, the most popular opinion was that it really felt like me. That’s all I could have asked for, regardless of how well it did or anything like that. All I wanted was for it to come off as true and honest, because that’s what it is for me. It’s honestly who I am.”

Adds Kaplan: “Obviously it’s a big life change, but it’s something that I know was the right decision for me and for the group. There’s still some anxiety, but that’s just life, honestly. But it’s a lot of excitement and a lot of uncharted territory for me. I think it’s really going to force me to grow as a musician and as a human.”

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