Philly-born a cappella act T.3 talks new EP, City Winery show

T.3 A cappella
Pictured are (from left) Liam Fennecken, Brendan Jacob Smith, and Jim Hogan.
Nick Rehberger

A cappella vocal group T.3 — comprised of Jim Hogan, Liam Fennecken and Brendan Jacob Smith —is perhaps best known for their stint on ‘American’s Got Talent’, but the trio’s roots are planted strongly in the Philadelphia area.

And now, they’re coming home for the holidays.

Harmonists Hogan (from Roslyn) and Fennecken (from Bucks County) have been pals since they met while attending Penn State University. The group will play a special show at Philadelphia’s City Winery this Saturday, Dec. 16, hot on the heels of their just-released major label debut recording, ‘Option Up’.

“Had it not been for singing with Liam in The Statesmen at PSU, he may never have auditioned for Hyannis Sound, which is the a cappella group that connected the two of us to Brendan and then, T.3,” said an outgoing Hogan, a vocalist who can move from baritone to tenor to alto, depending on the song and improvisational whim. “Playing in Philly? I can only describe that sensation as pure euphoria. It’s my favorite place in the world and I cannot wait to be back. We even shout it out it in our debut single, “Dilly Dilly”: ‘…Or we can get a little litty in Philly, we’ll Dilly Dilly down the Broad Street Line.’  I am counting the days until I can grab John’s Roast Pork and shout from the stage at City Winery: Go Birds.”

Fennecken is just as outgoing as Hogan, and twice as dedicated to his hometown.

“We love coming back to Philly every chance we get,” said the Pipersville, PA-born Fennecken. “We met when I was in the Singing Lions show choir at Penn State and Jim was in another a cappella supergroup when our wires got crossed.”

Through the invitation of mutual friends shared between them, Fennecken and Hogan got paired together, and have been making soaring harmonies ever since.

“That’s over 10-year-ago, and Jim is still one of my best friends.”

Fennecken has, in the past, sung punk rock hits as part of Green Day’s American Idiot Broadway musical. When It comes a cappella, for him, that brand of song is more communal.

“Penn State had this huge a cappella community, a subculture unto itself,” he said. “The more you learn about music and close-knit harmony the more drawn into that culture you become. You just want to keep doing it.”

Though T.3 was started around the might of a cappella, and its social media/YouTube fame (‘T.3 Thursdays’ and its mix of Disney, Broadway and charting pop hits) came from singing unaccompanied as a harmony trio, T.3 has brought musical instrumentation into its performances, live and on record, for a fuller sound.

“A cappella is always the musical center of everything we do,” said Fennecken. “We’re really just there for the harmony, which is why we still love putting out new songs almost every week on ‘T.3 Thursdays. Doing a new song 50 weeks out of a year, we’re too busy compressing the longest of our choices into short, internet-worthy versions. We each take what is best for each person’s voice, and go with that. And we know each other so well, that it is second nature to get who’ll tackle the high, floaty bits or the stuff with the rock edge or the big theater-y stuff… We each want our moment to shine, but with so many moments to go around, we’re easy about sharing the load.”