While on the Saint Paul, MN stop of their headlining tour, where the trio was in awe of the “extremely much” snow (Ben’s words) that is unfortunately still falling in April, we had the chance to speak with Thirdstory. Thirdstory, consisting of Ben, Elliot, and Richard, is an NYC-based, soul-folk-pop (yes, they do it all) group who just released their debut album, Cold Heart, on March 9. If you haven’t listened to it yet, we’d definitely recommend playing it right after you read this interview.
We spoke with them about their transition from YouTube fame to touring arenas with Chance The Rapper, the inspirations for their album, and how music has shaped their lives. Keep reading for more!
Congratulations on the release of your debut album and the current tour that you’re on in support of it! How is the tour going so far? Any standout moments you can share?
Ben: It’s been going pretty well! It’s been really great after the project came out, and we’re singing all these songs that we’ve sung before in shows, but now people are singing along to the lyrics more than they were before. They’re really into the deep cuts on the album that when we played in shows before were kind of like the filler songs, but now people are really listening to them.
How are the crowds reacting to the album? Has anything surprised you or are there any songs that resonate more with them than you thought would?
Ben: It’s been really crazy for us to hear our fans singing the words to these songs. We’ve been performing a lot of them for a couple years now on tour. In particular, last night we sang “Goodbye My Friend,” and the crowd took over for us in singing the chorus and that’s never really happened before so that was a cool moment.
You have a great fan base and YouTube has played a pivotal role in your success and popularity. What has the transition been like from performing covers on YouTube to writing and performing original music?
Richard: Basically from day one we’ve always looked at ourselves as singer songwriters. When we first started as a band, we wanted to get something out there so we started arranging some pop tunes and had a lot of fun doing it. In the meantime, we’ve always been writing music, and a debut album filled with original songs was definitely the goal from day one.
Ben: As far as transition, we’ve always tried to keep it as organic as possible from the covers to the original songs. We chose to cover songs that we connected with and similarly with writing, we wanted people to connect with the emotion behind the lyrics of our music.
You actually had to put the album on hold to embark on a tour with Chance The Rapper. How did that relationship come about and what did you learn from that experience both personally and professionally?
Ben: We met a producer named Nate Fox a few years ago in LA when we were just starting to work on our album, and he is the person that introduced us to Eryn Allen King’s music. Nate was one of the main producers on Chance’s Acid Rap, so when we found out about Eryn we became fans, followed her on Twitter, and reached out to her saying that we want to meet with and work with her.
We met up with her in Chicago when we were passing through on tour and next time she was in New York, we met up and told her that we’ve been using Facebook Live to connect with our fans and asked if she’d wanted to sing with us. We ended up singing “Still in Love” with Eryn on Facebook Live and that video did pretty well. Sometime after that we were getting in the studio to record a proper version for the album and Eryn invited Peter Cottontale to the studio. Peter is another one of Chance’s producers and musical director for his live shows. We all stayed in touch and shortly after, Peter invited us to join them on SNL for the Christmas episode. Right after that, he also invited us to join them on Chance’s Be Encouraged Tour.
We learned a lot from that whole experience. We had never played arenas or main stage festivals so just as performers we definitely gained a huge amount of experience. Personally, the biggest thing that we took away from that is learning how a successful, independent business in music can work. Everyone on Chance’s team admires him and is supportive, and it’s just a big group of friends that are working together towards the same goal.
One thing that I’ll always remember from the tour is that before every show we would all get together and pray, and Chance would always pray for strength and focus which I think is a great thing to pray for before any show. We never really thought about it that way but you really do need a lot of strength and focus to get through a show, especially one on a gigantic stage for 40,000+ people.
Heartbreak is a common theme of Cold Heart; could you tell us more about what inspired the songs and the album title and what story you hope to tell though the album?
Ben: When we first started writing songs together, it’s not like we had a clear vision of what the album would be or what all of the songs would be. We just tried to write something that the three of us could relate to individually and as a group. Everyone goes through heartbreak, finding love and finding yourself, and searching for happiness. I think once we started to put the songs together and when it came to be an album, we saw it as an ode to being okay with not being okay. Our goal is that people listen to the project and relate to it and hopefully it’ll help someone through their process of healing or growing.
The tour goes on for a couple more weeks. What’s next for you after the tour?
Ben: These past few months we’ve been working on some music with a few of our friends, Peter Cottontale, and Brasstracks, so we’ve got some stuff cooking up for the future.
Here at Music Creates Us we love to share how music has formed and shaped us as individuals, so how has music done that for each of you?
Richard: My entire family was musical. We would always sit in a circle and play music together whether it be playing the guitar or singing in harmonies. I think that had a big impact on me as an individual. I’m always seeking out places to share and participate in a community of musicians.
Ben: I think for all three of us, music is our lives and it’s really a lens through which we perceive everything else. I know for me, music has informed everything including my ability to collaborate with other people and my creativity. Music has also really informed my own spirituality and my connection to something greater than myself.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Ben: This project was a child that we’ve been birthing for a year, and it’s just the beginning so we’re excited for people to hear this and get the full idea of who we are as a group. That’s been one of our biggest struggles for a while, to have people see us for exactly what we are and I think this project does this really well. It’s really exciting!