Q&A … GNT takes time to answer pre-selected questions from the crowd. (PHOTOS BY AMY WENDT, STAFF)
By: Amy Wendt
On Friday, January 6, Pettisville’s own Girl Named Tom treated their hometown fans to “A Backstage Pass” slideshow presentation at the Pettisville School Theater.
Nearly 600 guests packed into the theater where they had the opportunity to hear stories of the Leichty siblings’ life on the road and got a glimpse of what their life is like backstage.
Oldest band member, Caleb opened by thanking everyone for coming and noted that it’s been a long time since the trio has been on the Pettisville School Stage.
“I need to say this is not a concert. I’m so sorry. We are a little disappointed because we are way better at singing than talking.”
“If you’re disappointed, you’re not alone. We have something special planned for you that we have never done for anyone else.”
“It’s really just like a backstage look into our first few years as a band and equally on The Voice. “
“Because, we know that this community in particular has been so invested in us, and our story, and on that tv show, and you were the reason we won.”
“So, we wanted to come back and just reminisce with you. Because we have been really busy, we haven’t actually reminisced that much.”
“We haven’t looked through our videos and photos too much, so we thought we would do that in front of you all, so you could be a part of that.”
Caleb made the crowd chuckle by continuing, “It’s kind of like a slideshow at grandpas house, like when you have the old clicker.”
Since he was operating the laptop slide show, Josh, interjected, “I’m the clicker guy.” Without missing a beat, Caleb remarked, “Yeah, so Josh, you’re grandpa.
The trio started with “Before the Beginning” slides highlighting school performances long before they ever thought they would be a professional band.
Josh provided an explanation for the shots. “We made a lot of music, taking piano lessons, singing in JCS, Noteworthy, and on this stage, but we hadn’t done a lot of singing together, just the three of us, until Mom (Holly Liechty) had this wonderful idea to start a band.”
“We kind of took that idea and ran with it. So thank you, mom.”
Josh continued., “But really when we started this band, we had no idea what that even meant…we did know that we had to sing for people at some point. “
“We grew up in church, singing a lot in church, and we were very thankful for those opportunities. But that was kind of like the only venue that we knew about.”
The Liechty kids reached out to the Pettisville School Choir Director, Duane Beck to help them put on their first show at West Clinton Mennonite Church.
“In our typical Liechty fashion, we were running a little late. We might have been the last to that gig that night.”
“We pulled up and the parking lot was already full…It was just so amazing and humbling the support that we’ve felt…,” Josh recalled.
“Pretty quickly we started moving on to like the winery down the road…and then we took this thing on the road. We packed up mom and dad’s minivan.”
Becca interjected, “We may or may not have crashed that mini-van on day one of tour.”
Josh completed Becca’s thought “…very first day. It only made us stronger. We just kept going…”
“We had a little cooler, so we would literally buy groceries and like make sandwiches in our car as we were traveling.”
“We had a tent with sleeping bags and we really kind of roughed it.” We love being outdoors…so we would always stop at national parks whenever we could.”
“Thanks, Mom and Dad for the National Parks Pass that year.” Caleb jumped in to add, “…and for the van.”
Josh joked, “we think we got a few more tips when we had the crunched-in fender because the day we got into that crash, we just kind of bungeed the bumper off the ground and we just kept driving.”
Becca recollected, “so that brings us to 2021. We are going to skip 2020…did not happen…”
“We all moved into a little house in South Bend, Indiana. That is where we auditioned for The Voice.”
“It was a virtual audition…we had to impress them in 40 seconds and we sent them little videos, “Becca continued while their audition video played.
“There were over 40,000 auditions just like that for season 21 of the Voice so we were shocked.”
Caleb chimed in, “Quickly, we would like to make a shout-out to the English department of Pettisville, because they (The Voice) also made us write essays and tell our story and be persuasive as far as why we should be considered for something like a tv show.”
Becca continued, “Then we got the call to go out to L.A. and we were so, so excited. Here, we lived in a hotel for over six months.”
“It was cool because we had like an adjoining room,” added Josh. It was COVID time so the first five days that we were out there, we could not go outside for but 10 minutes every day.”
“We were just so thankful to have each other because a lot of people had to go through those first five days just alone in their rooms.”
“Grandma asks me all the time ‘how did you cook in the hotel room?’ and the fact is, we didn’t really cook that much.”
“I mean, I would sometimes order food from like Amazon fresh or something and put it in the fridge, but we did a lot of DoorDash and food deliveries and that got kind of old after a while,” recalled Becca.
As the slide changed a picture of all of the contestants, Becca explained “…So, you fly out to L.A., but you’re not guaranteed to go on stage and sing for Kelly Clarkson and all of them.”
“So, we made a lot of friends and it kind of felt like a big music camp. The talent was just unreal, everywhere you turn was pretty intimidating, and just amazing to hear these people’s voices.”
“While we’re out there, there were wardrobe appointments, tons of interviews and rehearsals with voice coaches, and all of that. At any point, we could be told ‘You’re going home tomorrow.’ So scary,” Becca recalled.
As the video of their first rehearsal played, Caleb offered some context. “So that’s the first time we stepped foot on that stage and that was the week of the blind audition.”
“But just imagine us stepping up on that stage for the first time…it’s really hard to describe how wild and unearthly it feels.”
“Like Star Wars,” Josh joked. “It kind of feels like going into a battleship.”
“And sometimes,” Becca added, “the show can make it look like people are just walking off the street and auditioning and I was surprised that’s not how it goes.”
During the video of the blind audition, Josh explained “this was the moment before going on stage, and if you can see Caleb’s face he was like ‘ah’.”
“Literally, all of it rided on him playing the first notes on the guitar. Most people had a big band, you know, to give them like four seconds to get comfortable, but we just had Caleb and he did such a good job.”
Josh changed the slide to the video of The Voice Blind Audition where the trio sang “Helplessly Hoping,” “so that takes us to this moment, we were trying not to pass out,” Josh added.
In the video, Kelly Clarkson asked the group where they were from and when the trio answered “Pettisville Ohio,” the school theater audience cheered.
“We are just so proud to be from Pettisville, I mean, people from all over America were gathered in L.A. to audition and we just loved talking about you,” Becca noted.
Josh added, “And we still do. At every show, we talk about our hometown, and we just have so much pride in this place.”
After playing another video, Josh said, “You can see here that we had masks on. We COVID tested every day. Every morning at like 6:00 am, we had to do this thing called ‘check into work.’”
More backstage clips were shown of the band walking around Universal Studios. Caleb explained, “This is where The Good Place is filmed, it’s where a bunch of westerns are filmed, a lot of Netflix shows that we watch every day. Like we would pass their sets every day as we drove onto the lot.
Next was a look in the day of a live taping of The Voice.
“We would be up in this room,” Josh began. “It was at stage and we’d get there at like 9:30 in the morning…and do hair and makeup.”
“And then there were wardrobe fittings again. Becca was often getting like alterations the day of.”
“Because it was just such a quick turnover week to week, there was just so much just packed in, and everything came down to last minute.”
“We were practicing in these rooms until about 5:00 or 6:00 at night and then it was just go time. Somehow, we pulled it off,” Josh recollected.
“When it was our turn to be on live television, we’d get on an elevator and go down three stories and step off and basically be on stage and when we were done singing, we’d get on the elevator and go up to that room again,” Caleb added.
“Recording songs was another awesome part of this experience,” Josh noted while switching the slide to a recording studio the band worked in.
“This is a really professional music studio and it was our first one that we really went to that is legit…this studio was designed for Karen Carpenter…there was another studio where ‘We Are the World’ was recorded. So, this is a very storied recording studio.”
“This studio itself used to be a movie studio for Dharlie Chaplin, he built it,” added Caleb.
Switching the slide, Josh said, “This is one of the huge warehouses on Universal Studios lot.”
“You can see just all of the equipment, the green screen back there and we’d come here to do like B-roll which is just like a bunch of awkward poses where they are like ‘ok, now just look nervous for five minutes and we’re going to film you.’”
Caleb added, “They would put the craziest things on the green screens back there. We would wait for hours in these chairs…and then right before we’d go to do something, they would put us through hair and makeup touchups and so we were constantly getting touched up.”
“I think one day, they knew we were from Pettisville, Ohio, and then they put like cornfields or sunflowers on the green screen, and they were like ‘just dance through the light’ and we were like ‘okay,’” Becca laughed.
Josh continued, “After rehearsals and all this b-roll they would put us in these late-night slots for interviews.”
“Sometimes we would get to interview and it would be 12 midnight. Then they’d ask you these deeply personal questions and try to get all the tears out of you to make it as emotional and dramatic as possible and it was successful. I mean you can see here that we kind of look dead. It’s a long day.”
“And there was some really interesting parts about being on the show for so long, being in L.A., we were away from family and friends for so long and it included a Thanksgiving dinner that [we] won’t forget.”
“All of us packed into this…hallway, eating our turkey dinners,” remembered Josh.
“I put this up because sometimes we still have to pinch ourselves that we actually sang with Kelly Clarkson. It just blows our mind,” Josh said while changing the slide to a photo of the Liechty sibs with Kelly Clarkson.
Briefly moving away from the slides Becca said, “and now we are going to take the spotlight and shine it on you guys, because you guys are the reason any of this happened.”
“Here’s a little video of us putting up the first-grade and kindergarten classes notes and pictures that they made for us and sent all the way to California.”
“We looked at them every day. Just having that constant encouragement. We could feel the love and you surrounded us with it,” said Becca.
“Both hotel rooms were covered with notes and pictures,” remarked Caleb. Becca continued, “They made us smile every day.” Josh added, “I mean how can you be grumpy waking up to this?”
A video was then played of Pettisville Elementary students sending encouraging video messages to the band.
“And then ya’ll made it on TV with your watch party,” added Becca.
Josh shared, “And a little tidbit about this segment that was shown right before we went live, I think Duane was talking…about us and about the community as a whole and we were about to sing on national TV, and we literally couldn’t watch because it was making us so emotional to see all of you wonderful people here. It just meant the world to us. We watched it many times after.”
“Your support, your recognizing our gifts and just that belief has given us so much strength and encouragement as we keep this thing rolling,” Becca said while tearing up.
“I didn’t plan on crying. But it’s just so special and we would not be holding that trophy if it wasn’t for you, so thank you very much.”
AN HONOR…Superintendent Josh Clark presented GNT with a copy of a sign that has been placed at the town limits honoring the band.
Following the GNT slideshow, Superintendent Josh Clark spoke.
“On behalf of Pettisville schools and the community, you winning The Voice and taking us on that journey during such a weird time in history, there was a lot of unrest, there was a pandemic.”
“We got to come here every Monday night and forget all that. And that was because of you. We thank you so much for that.”
“Pettisville schools have a nice big collage planned for right outside the theater.”
“It’s still in the works and we’re gonna take some photos from tonight too and add that.”
“I know you have provided a signed poster for that so we’re really looking forward to getting that on the wall.”
“There will be a nice big plaque out there as well to commemorate your experience, our experience.”
Clark also read a letter on behalf of Dr. Switzer and the Pettisville School Foundation before presenting them with a sign.
“You may have seen the signs at the edge of Pettisville honoring the 1991 State Track Championship, 3-star General Jeffrey Kruse, and a Girl Named Tom. “
“What you may not know is that the recognition is sponsored by the Pettisville School Foundation to honor those who, through their accomplishments, or status, or other achievements, have brought honor and recognition to the Pettisville school community. The Foundation paid for the original track signs back in 1991.”
“Caleb, Josh, and Becca, we’re pleased to present you with the sign, that not only honors your outstanding talent and success but celebrates the class manner in which you have represented your Pettisville School and community to a national audience.”
“We are able to give you this recognition because of what you have done but more importantly, we are thankful for who and what you are.”
“Your school and your community are proud of you. May God bless you in all that you do. Thank you very much.”
After receiving their sign, GNT then played replayed the video of the band receiving their trophy after winning the 21st season of The Voice.
“We’re holding it (trophy) up there with Kelly Clarkson, on national television,” began Becca, “And we’re holding it right here, with you on this Pettisville School stage.”
“But we feel like this doesn’t just belong to us. It belongs to you. So, we want to put this somewhere in this school.”
“As thank you, as a way to say we’re proud to call you home, and hopefully, it inspires future generations to come, to follow your dreams, and follow your heart. Pettisville’s got your back.”
Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org