When siblings Caleb, Joshua and Bekah Liechty formed their acoustic vocal trio, Girl Named Tom, they could never have imagined the changes that awaited them.
The Liechtys had always been precociously talented singers and musicians, but the group was merely supposed to be a way to have fun in the years prior to all three siblings entering the medical field.
Then came the pandemic, a move to South Bend from their hometown in Ohio and, most important of all to their professional aspirations, an audition for NBC's "The Voice."
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Success came in a rush throughout the fall of 2021.
Girl Named Tom garnered the rare four-chair turn from the celebrity judges, and the Liechtys found themselves under the tutelage of coach Kelly Clarkson.
Week after week, they survived elimination rounds and emerged as frontrunners. They also became the first act on the show to have four songs on the iTunes Top 10 list at the same time.
But a private grief tempered their enthusiasm. Their father, Chris Liechty, had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and his treatments were not going well.
On Dec. 14, Girl Named Tom won Season 21 of "The Voice," the first time a group had done so.
That night, however, the trio posted a message to Twitter in which they announced their father was "in horrific pain" after a surgery and that they would be flying to Ohio "as soon as possible" to be with family.
On Jan. 27, Chris Liechty died. He was only 56.
Psalm 23 and local ties
Currently, Girl Named Tom is writing songs, playing gigs and making plans for future recording sessions. On April 23, the trio performs two concerts (both already sold out) at the Blue Gate Theater in Shipshewana.
Chris made his children promise not to derail their newfound careers by spending too much time in mourning.
He asked them not to cancel any concerts. For the most part, they obeyed, canceling only one show that they just couldn't bring themselves to do.
They also honor him by playing his music at their concerts. Chris was a prolific songwriter, and his musical setting of Psalm 23 ("The Lord Is My Shepherd") is now a Girl Named Tom concert staple.
"It's one of our favorite songs to sing," Joshua said by telephone during a car ride from Nashville, Tenn., to visit their hometown of Pettisville, Ohio. "It already has those beautiful, beautiful words, and he gave it such a great melody. Now, of course, it has taken on a new meaning for us."
It's long been part of their repertoire and was one of the first songs the siblings ever arranged as a trio.
"When we were just starting as a band, he said that he wondered what we might do with Psalm 23," Bekah said. "It was one of the earliest songs to make our setlist. We've played it in a room for 12 people and we just played it at a festival with 2,700 people. It touches a lot of hearts."
Both brothers are graduates of Goshen College, and Bekah was to follow in their footsteps until she deferred acceptance in order to focus on Girl Named Tom.
The siblings moved to South Bend in order to be closer to Joshua's then-girlfriend who was studying at Indiana University South Bend. Although they have now decamped for Nashville as their headquarters, South Bend will always be important to them.
They hunkered down to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic and write songs together in their South Bend house, and South Bend was their official city when they started on "The Voice."
"Being in Nashville will make our lives a lot easier. We'll launch our tours from there, and that's where our management is," Joshua said. "We love being part of the music scene there."
Writing and performing
By the end of their run on "The Voice," the Liechtys were singing songs that were chosen for them by Clarkson and the network's team. Now, they are fully in control of those decisions again.
"For these shows, we're doing most of the favorites that we sang on 'The Voice,' as well as a lot of our own original music," Bekah said. "It's a blend of the familiar and a lot of things our audience has never heard before. Most of our new songs haven't even been recorded yet."
Caleb is now 27, Joshua turned 25 on Easter and Bekah is 21. All three are maturing as songwriters. Caleb described their writing process.
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"Typically, one sibling will flesh out an idea as much as possible and then bring it to the other two siblings, and together we take it to a new level," Caleb said. "Recently, though, we've been experimenting with building songs together from scratch. We all have our different strengths as writers."
All three play multiple instruments at a high level, skills that were de-emphasized on "The Voice" in order to focus more on the vocals. The instrumental prowess — such as Bekah's high facility with the flute — still comes as a surprise to many fans who know the siblings only as singers.
"We've been trying our songs in different ways, figuring out which arrangement serves the songs the best," Caleb said. "Usually, that means me on guitar while Bekah and Joshua decide how to add their own instruments and voices."
"It comes down to what the song is asking for," Joshua said. "Is it asking for a harmonica? A piano solo? A flute solo?"
"I'm always pulling for a flute solo," Bekah said with a laugh.
The trio's sweet spot has always been close harmony in a mellow, acoustic setting. They have been working on a further dimension: rocking out.
"We're touring with a bassist and a drummer now, and with them on board, we can tap into a higher level of energy," Joshua said. "It's been so much fun to have this higher ceiling in terms of how much sound we can generate."
• Who: Girl Named Tom
• Where: Blue Gate Theatre, 105 E. Middlebury St., Shipshewana
• When: 1 and 8 p.m. April 23
• Cost: sold out (both shows)
• For more information: Call 260-768-4725 or visit thebluegate.com.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Girl Named Tom won 'The Voice.' Now, trio with South Bend ties tours