LOS ANGELES — When Season 21 of the NBC hit series “The Voice” kicked off Sept. 20, the first performer of the season, the group Girl Named Tom, was as surprised as anyone.
The trio, which features siblings Bekah (21), Joshua (24) and Caleb (26) Liechty, formerly of Pettisville, had no idea their performance would be the first performance of the season.
In fact, the group which formed in 2019 at the urging of their mother, Holly, was playing a fundraising concert in Lancaster, Pa., on the night of “The Voice” Season 21 premiere, and didn’t get to see their performance until after the show aired (the group’s blind performance was taped over the summer).
“We had no idea!,” exclaimed Bekah about Girl Named Tom kicking off Season 21. “I think I lost all of my mind. It was so humbling to see everyone reach out to us, especially people who have supported us since we were young, and strangers who told us we have something special.”
Said Joshua: “I about jumped off the couch ... it was a pretty special moment. We were just settling in watching the judges do their incredible rendition of ‘Respect and Hold On’ and then we had to follow that up. I was like, ‘Come on!’ But people seemed to like it, and I think we held our own. After people saw our performance, our phones were on fire the whole evening, it was hard to keep up with all messages and people reaching out to us on social media.
“We’ve had people from Tasmania, Australia, Venezuela and India reach out to us on social media,” added Joshua. “We just didn’t realize the reach.”
The three siblings admitted they each took piano lessons and vocal lessons separately while growing up in Pettisville (with their mom, Holly, and dad, Chris), but it wasn’t until 2018 when the trio arranged a song for a cousin’s wedding did they ever think they would become Girl Named Tom.
In 2019, the trio embarked on tour in a mini-van, where it played 67 shows across the country. With momentum building, the group had to take a step back when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which put a halt to the group’s traveling ways.
While working on refining their music, the group was urged to try out for “The Voice” by former music teacher and family friend Mollie B (who lives in Ridgeville Corners and performs with her husband Ted Lange in the polka group Squeezebox).
“It was always Bekah’s dream to sing in front of millions of people, she sings in bathrooms, she doesn’t care who listens,” laughed Caleb. “During the pandemic, we got an email from our vocal instructor in high school, Mollie B, saying it was the last call for season 21 auditions. So we all took that very seriously. Because we weren’t able perform live due to COVID (the band did release music on YouTube), we felt we were ready to take a big step.”
Girl Named Tom went to work and prepared an audition tape, which led to more work, which led to the group getting a shot to perform on “The Voice.”
Girl Named Tom performed “Helplessly Hoping” during its blind audition for judges Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton, in the hope that just one judge would turn around.
As it turns out, the siblings didn’t have to worry, all four judges eventually turned, meaning the group had a tough decision who to pick as their mentor.
In the end, the group picked Clarkson, who was the first judge to turn during their performance.
“We really didn’t have any expectations going into our audition, we just wanted to do our best,” said Bekah. “We felt if no chair turned, we could walk out of there with our heads held high, knowing we did our best. When Kelly turned around right away, it gave us peace of mind we were going on.”
Said Joshua: “We did not expect to get four chairs, but we were all excited when they turned!”
Added Bekah: “To get all four judges to turn, they’re such different artists, it really gave it another level of gravity ... they each wanted us on their team.”
Caleb admitted that going into the audition, they had a judge in mind they would like to work with, however, the decision on who to pick wasn’t easy.
“We did not expect the decision to be that difficult,” said Caleb. “You couldn’t see it on TV, our heads were together for quite some time, it took some time for us to make our decision. Each artist made a great case for themselves, and in the end we knew we couldn’t make a bad choice. In the end, it felt like Kelly’s energy and enthusiasm matched ours, and that would serve us going into the next rounds.
“It’s been cool to see family and friends tell us they felt famous after our performance, because people were reaching out to them,” added Caleb. “It’s been a fun week.”
When asked if they knew they could perform as a trio when the group embarked on its tour in 2019, Caleb was quick to answer by saying: “It was an experiment, we really didn’t know. The initial idea from our mom is that we call up all of our friends and family across the nation, any connection we could find, and form a little tour. It would be a good excuse for us to travel together and get close as siblings.
“Initially it started as a vision for a gap year, I was going to study to become a doctor, Joshua was going to do more studying and Bekah was going to go to college,” continued Caleb, who along with Joshua, both graduated from Goshen College in Goshen, Ind. “We didn’t know if the band thing would work, but pretty early on we realized something special was going on, and people were moved by our music, so we couldn’t stop.”
Since choosing Clarkson as the group’s mentor, Girl Named Tom, and the other members of “Team Kelly,” have been working with Clarkson. The Battle Round lies ahead, with the group competing against another member of “Team Kelly,” in the hope that Clarkson will chose them to continue to move on.
“Kelly has a great ear and is a great mentor, she wants the best of us and everyone on her team,” said Joshua.
If the group survives the Battle Round, Girl Named Tom will move to the Knockout Round, which is similar to the Battle Round. If the group survives the Knockout Round, it will then perform during the live performances of “The Voice.”
During the live performances, viewers are given the opportunity to vote for their favorite singer/group, until a winner is selected. In the 20 seasons “The Voice” has aired, no group has ever won the competition. The winner of “The Voice” will receive a recording contract.
“We’re taking it one step at a time, one song as a time, one performance at a time,” said Caleb.
As far as the group’s name? It comes from when the siblings were little and Joshua started calling Bekah, “Thomas.” Although Joshua doesn’t remember it, Caleb admitted he remembers it well.
“I’m the oldest, and although Joshua doesn’t remember it, I remember him calling her, ‘Thomas,’ although I really don’t know why?”
Although the siblings now call South Bend, Ind., home, they love they were raised in Pettisville.
“We’re very proud to be from Pettisville, Ohio,” began Bekah, “in fact, the boys used to ride their bikes and deliver The Crescent-News. It feels like we were raised by the Village of Pettisville, and although some people can’t understand where we come from when we describe it to them, we know it has a big impact on how we treat each other, and in trying to take kindness everywhere we go.
“We can have an even bigger positive impact now that we’ve been on national television, and it’s not something we take lightly,” added Bekah. “It’s something we hope to spread around with our music.”