Written by Jessie Moniz Hardy
Published on www.royalgazette.com
ThirdStory members (from left): Richard Saunders, Elliott Skinner and Ben Lusher. (Photograph supplied)
For Ben Lusher, there’s nothing like a home crowd.
It’s what’s motivating the singer as he prepares to open the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts next month as part of the trio, ThirdStory.
“I can’t wait to come home and perform,” said the 23-year-old who lives in New York. “I’ve noticed that the Bermuda community really rallies behind Bermudians who are doing things on an international stage, whether it be football or music or whatever it is. They are incredibly supportive. I’ve been telling the other members of ThirdStory about my Island since I met them. Now they get to see it for themselves.”
He met ThirdStory founder Richard Saunders in an arts programme several years ago, and then lost touch. Two years ago Mr Saunders reached out to Mr Lusher and invited him to join the group in New York City. Mr Lusher was hesitant, at first.
“I was in my senior year at Berklee College of Music in Boston,” he said. “My aim was to launch my own solo career when I graduated.”
But he gelled so well with Mr Saunders and ThirdStory member, Elliott Skinner, that he changed course and joined them.
“I quickly realised ThirdStory was going to be something very special,” he said. “We love to sing together in three-part harmony. That is the most obvious defining aspect of our sound. We split everything up evenly including taking the spotlight and singing lead. We like to think of ourselves as a collective group of singers, rather than a boy band.”
Their first performances were in New York 18 months ago, at the Cutting Room and Rockwood Music Hall. They followed up with shows at Brighton Music Hall in Boston and Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles.
“[At the Cutting Room] only friends and family showed up and we wore corny suits and bow ties,” he said.
Since then, they’ve ditched the bow ties and their fanbase is growing.
“We’ve learnt how to relax, and how to dress up and still be ourselves,” said Mr Lusher. “Generally, we like to look clean and sleek but cool.”
Last month ThirdStory performed before a sold-out crowd in the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.
“There were at least 600 people there, maybe more,” Mr Lusher said. “Our audiences have been getting bigger and bigger thanks to our YouTube channel.”
The channel has had almost four million views in the year since they started it. They are gaining a reputation for their covers of Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Jimmy Cliff, Sam Smith and many others.
“We were doing absolutely nothing until we put out our first video doing Sam Smith’s I’m Not the Only One,” said Mr Lusher. “That changed a lot for us. We gained a lot of attention and that kick-started our career and opened up a huge number of doors for us.”
They put their own spin on covers, and also write their own songs.
“Right now, we are very excited to be working on our own stuff so people who know us for our covers can start to understand us as artists and people,” he said.
ThirdStory hopes to release its first album some time next year. Their original work springs from group members’ experiences with life, particularly with love.
“After we put all our songs together we realised it’s going to be a heartbreak album,” said Mr Lusher. “We’re shooting for a release date in mid-2016. We don’t have a title yet.”
The group has been successful enough that Mr Lusher was able to quit his day job earlier this year to focus on ThirdStory full-time.
“That has been a massive blessing,” he said.
He comes from an artistic family. His father, Nicholas, is an art dealer and his mother, Jamie, is heavily involved in the arts.
“They were not disappointed that I didn’t go into the visual arts,” he said. “There was no push in any particular direction. My parents were thrilled that I gravitated to music from an extremely young age.
“Growing up I spent a few hours each day practising the piano. These days my time is spent less in practice and more in writing with my group, performing, recording and travelling.”
He graduated from Berklee in May.
“Berklee is notorious for dropouts,” he said. “By that, I mean that many people who go there leave to pursue their music careers or follow opportunities. I’m glad I stuck it out for the four years, although I didn’t have record deals dropping in my lap to tempt me away. There were definitely times when I questioned my choice of music as a career, but I’m happy now.”
ThirdStory will perform at the Fairmont Southampton at 8.30pm on January 22 and 23. Tickets, $65 for adults and $25 for students, are available from www.bdatix.bm.