Thirdstory Talks Touring with Chance the Rapper, Their Viral YouTube Videos, and Plans for an Album

Third Story photographed in 2016
Victoria Stevens


New York City-based band Thirdstory catapulted to internet fame, garnering almost 10 million channel views on YouTube with covers of Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, and Adele songs.

Known for their hypnotizing harmonies, chill-inducing runs, and soulful voices, the group is quickly making their way into the mainstream after opening for fellow viral YouTuber Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Tour, releasing their debut EP, Searching, in May 2016, and most recently, joining Chance the Rapper on his Be Encouraged tour as his background vocalists.

As the tour nears its down, Billboard had a chance to sit down with the guys as they reflect on the craziness of the road, and discuss what they’re planning next.

Tell us how you’re feeling about your tour so far.

Elliott Skinner: Everyone has been really great -- [Chance] and his whole team. It’s cool because everyone is pretty young, but professional, and they’re all amazing at their jobs. We’re in an environment where everyone feels like our peers [because of their ages], but they’re a well-run machine.

How did Chance find you?

Richard Saunders: His musical director, Peter Cottontail, saw a video of us singing with Eryn Allen Kane. He came to a studio in New York and we met him there, which led to him asking us to sing behind Chance for his appearance on SNL. We’re so excited to be doing it again for his tour.

Where does this tour lie in the grand scheme of where you want Thirdstory to go?

RS: Right now, we’re finishing up our album and we’re hoping to get it out there this fall. We saw touring with Chance as such a great opportunity that we didn’t want to miss.

ES: It’s been really great making actual, genuine connections and hanging out with everyone [on Chance’s team]. We’re building a community of people that we can be friends with, and make music with, and perform with.

Ben Lusher: We’re definitely focused on our s--t and getting our music out as soon as we can, but a lot of the relationships that we’re building on this tour are relationships that we want to continue [fostering]. There are people here that we’ve worked with in the past and we want to continue to work with later on. Ideally, we want to stay in contact with everyone, and we’re sure that [these relationships] will take us great places.

You’ve all worked as solo artists, both before and during the formation of Thirdstory. Are you still pursuing your own solo projects?

BL: We’re all definitely throwing ourselves into trying to get out this [Thirdstory] music that we’ve been sitting on for awhile, but we all write music on our own and work with different people, as writers and instrumentalists.

What are you all looking forward to once this tour is over?

ES: We’re planning two shows that we have booked for the end of June -- one in New York and one in Boston -- and we’re really excited to see where the summer takes us.

BL: We’re also looking at releasing our album in the fall -- no definite date yet -- which will include songs from the EP [Searching, released May 2016] and some new stuff as well.

You first came onto the scene with your viral YouTube covers. Any plans to continue releasing videos on your YouTube channel?

BL: We’ve definitely been more focused on our original music, but we’ve tried to bring the concept from our covers into our music. The vocals are still very important and [at the center] of everything, and melodies are also really important to us, which is how we picked the songs we wanted to cover in the first place. [We would ask,] “What song has a good melody that we can totally flip?” These are the things we’ve thought about while writing our own stuff.

RS: We also recently released a video of us performing one of our original songs live, and we’re really excited about putting out more content that shows our live performances of our original music. I think our fans are really going to appreciate seeing how we perform these songs. A lot of them have only seen videos of us...

ES: …sitting and singing in a small room. But with the live show, we’re in a band setting -- I’m playing guitar, Ben plays keys, Richard has electronic triggers, and we have a drummer. It’s definitely a different side of us that we’re excited to show online.

RS: Our live shows are often a surprise to our fans because we’re playing a lot of instruments on our own, which is something they don’t see us do on [our YouTube channel]. We’re really excited to put out more content that shows us playing instruments, and building the sounds of what we do.


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