By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor
Thirdstory is a classic tale born of three cities and the Internet. The boys – Richard Saunders, Ben Lusher, and Elliott Skinner – met up in New York and, through a series of smaller tales, came together. Their career began with cover videos on YouTube, doing a capella versions of pop songs that quickly gained notoriety and comparisons to the likes of the much-lauded Pentatonix for their seemingly effortless harmonies and undeniable charm. Lately, the boys have been releasing highly anticipated original songs – in fact, their EP “Searching” just hit the market on May 13. Between finishing their tour with Tori Kelly and preparing for their own tour coming up this fall, Thirdstory sat down for an interview over breakfast with WSN.
WSN: So none of you are originally from New York, right?
Elliott Skinner: Yeah, that’s right.
WSN: Did any of you try to be career musicians before you came out here?
Ben Lusher: I think it was different for each of us. Richard was in a bunch of choir groups, a bunch of jazz groups.
ES: I think we all had projects going on.
BL: We all grew up doing music. When I was in high school, I did a bunch of different things. I had gigs playing guitar, I also play piano, we all play instruments. So yeah, I think up until we got together, we were doing a bunch of different things here and there.
WSN: What do you think was the most educational experience you’ve had since you’ve become musicians?
BL: The most educational experience?
ES: I would say this experience. I mean, for me, I dropped out of college and started working with these guys. Their influence and getting to work within the music business, making music and writing… there’s a lot that I’ve learned how to do while doing it. This group has been it.
Richard Saunders: I think on the music side of things, my family was always really musical, and we would do a lot of singing in a circle with guitars and singing American folk songs, and that was a really important of my upbringing.
BL: For me, there have been a lot of very different types of education that I’ve gone through over the past few years. Even going back, growing up in high school, up until high school, I was focused on learning music stuff – notes and rhythms – and focused on taking from albums and stuff that I liked, and really focused on the music itself, which is obviously important. But then when I went to college, I had my mind opened to other aspects of music, like production. Mainly production and the way that music is recorded and mixed and a lot of stuff that I’d never really thought of that goes into constructing the actual sound. And then, especially since working with these guys, a whole different form of education, which is figuring out how we fit into the industry and how to get our music out there to people, and maintaining relationships. Even just over the last three or four years, it’s been so many different forms of education.
WSN: What was it like to try and find where you fit in the industry? How did you find your own sound now that you’re writing original songs?
BL: It’s ongoing. I mean, we started off – the first stuff that we put out into the world was covers of songs that were on the radio. And we’ve evolved enormously since then. We’ve written tons of music together, recorded and released and EP, and have a bunch more songs that we’re waiting to release. So it’s something that is an ongoing process. Because we’re evolving every day as a group and as artists, so we’re still basically finding where we are.
RS: And interesting aspect of this group is that we – the whole songwriting and figuring out our songs, that whole process – it’s been a matter of combining three super individual and distinct musical perspectives together. Like, I come from doing singing in a circle with acoustic guitars, as well as a lot of other music. Eliott grew up with a gospel background and also loves folk music. Ben, I would say, in high school really got into jazz piano and I think it was definitely a process bringing all three of those perspectives together. But in the end, we’re super happy with the album we’ve created, and we’re excited to show what we’ve made.
WSN: What do you think is the hardest part of the [songwriting] process?
BL: Learning where to compromise and not compromise as individuals within the group. Because we are very much three individuals… I guess like a boy band or pop group, but we write all of our own music and we were very serious about our own thing before we decided to get together and make music together.
ES: I think the most difficult of that process was figuring out that give and take within the group, and also the give and take between the group and the producer. Learning where to let something ride or where to really put your foot down and say, “no, I really think we need this.” But at this point – I mean, the process has taken a really long time, but we’ve got a process and we’ve figured out how to move quickly past those kinds of things.
RS: It is funny – one time we were in the studio with a song writer, and he was like, “I’ve never seen this before. You guys just very calmly criticize each other – “
ES: Oh, yeah!
RS: “- and think of ideas very calmly.”
Ben: Yeah, then he got confused, he like, wrote our manager and was like, “I’m not sure if they’re mad at each other…?” And we were like, no! I was just like “oh, I don’t really like that idea.” And you were like “well, I kind of like that idea.” And then we went with the idea. It’s a really interesting process of critiquing and giving out different ideas. But because we’ve been doing it as the three of us for so long, other people are like, “what’s happening right now?”