10 Questions with ... Us The Duo (Michael & Carissa Rae Alvarado)
June 9, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Three years ago, Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado were living on opposite sides of the country randomly when randomly met at a music video shoot, fell in love, and combined their talents, thus creating Us The Duo.
Their music videos have since gone viral on social media which resulted in them being signed to Republic Records. They are currently in the midst of their North American tour in support of their new single "No Matter Where You Are."
1) When was the first moment that you both realized that you wanted to form a band, write, and perform together?
Michael: I'd say the first moment we wanted to form a band was after we put out the tester of us singing a song together online. We wrote the song as a way to cope with our long distance relationship. It was never intended for us to become a group as a result of it. When we wrote it, we thought, ok, this is a good song. Let's make a vine for it. From the moment we put the song online and read the comments, people were so kind, encouraging and positive which was awesome because they can say anything they want.
Then YouTube saw the video, liked it, and put it on the YouTube home page. In one day it went from a couple thousand views to almost half a million and for us being super super new to everything, it was awesome! That was probably the exact moment where we thought, we should make a career of it.
2) Who are some of your musical influences? Who are some of the new artists who inspire you?
Carissa: We really love John Mayer a lot! He's just amazing and super talented at what he does. We also admire Taylor Swift and her writing, and I'm a big fan of Lorde. She's an amazing writer!
3) How are you using social media networks and sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to interact with your fans? What are your thoughts on all this social media attention?
Carissa: Yeah, we are huge social media fanatics! We love interacting with our fans and we think it's super important to stay consistent on all of it. We are always updating our Facebook page, our fan page and our Twitter and Instagram. We stay on top of all that because we do like staying connected to our fans because they are the reason we are where we are. We actually really enjoy it all!
Michael: We are actually super particular about it! We've tried to have [other] people come on it (like our manager) or somebody else do it and we end up doing it [ourselves] at the end of the day because we just have a way of captioning things and a way we like to do it. So we realized we should just keep doing it so we aren't so paranoid about it. We feel like social media is such an awesome platform to go a little bit beyond music and find things that can actually challenge people. We have to find a balance with that because we don't want people to look at our feed and think we are telling them what to do all the time. It's fun every now and then and it maybe even change someone for the better. It's not always all about us and promote, promote, promote.
4) What is your approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes? How do you capture your idea for a new song when the inspiration hits you?
Carissa: We kind of have to be in the mindset. Right now we are really focusing on pushing this new album and getting it out there to the world. So soon here, we'll probably be getting to the writing zone and that's when all the ideas will start to flow. It randomly happens. We could be out and suddenly a melody pops into my head and I tell Michael and he's like, oh that's cool, put it in your phone, so we record it on the iPhone and we'll revisit it later together and rework it.
5) If you had the opportunity to work with any artist/band from the past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Michael: That's hard. I think we both have a mutual connection with Michael Jackson. And that was our parents fault for playing his records over and over growing up, his 45s and cassettes too. That was really our first introduction to music. I think that even just working with him and trying to understand the songwriting brilliance that was going on in his crazy head would be the best afternoon of life.
What do you think of his new single out now with Justin Timberlake?
Carissa: It's really awesome, I like it a lot and it's catchy!
Michael: Isn't it crazy how someone can still have a number one hit even after they've passed away?! It's a legacy.
6) Why is this lifestyle (recording, singing, traveling) one that you're both willing to follow now?
Carissa: I think it's really cool because we get to do it together. If I did this alone, I would probably lose it. We keep each other sane and we enjoy every moment together and that's really all that matters at the end of the day.
Michael: Yeah, it's all possible because if you had to call home every day and try to explain the experience you've had, it would be hard to capture that and do this. We also both have a love of traveling, doing it together, creating these experiences is something we can both tell our kids. That is the joy that this is all about. Just being able to share it with someone you love and know really well is the sole reason why this lifestyle fits us.
7) What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
Michael: I'd say it's our lead single right now, "No Matter Where You Are" -because it's our wedding vows in a song, and it literally takes us back to the day we got married every time we play it. So it's really cool to be able to remember that moment and share it together all over again every time on stage.
8) Can you pick a favorite song from the new album?
Michael: Mine is "Falling In Love" and it's kind of got a Carrissy [Carissa] sort of feel, it's European and has a wafty feel. It's got an accordion too and all sorts of cool stuff.
Carissa: My favorite now is "Baby Come Back." It's actually about us having an argument or a little fight about something and stepping away from each other and cooling off and then coming back to each other at the end and realizing, "I love you," that was silly. It kind of takes you through that situation which is cool.
9) What are the biggest changes you would like to see happen in the music and radio industries?
Michael: Yeah I think a positive message via love. Not just marriage or dating love, any kind of love, between friends, brothers, sisters or whatever. It's a cool feeling having that streaming over thousands of radios across the U.S. A good message that actually inspires people to want to do good or change or be a better person. At the end of the day, I think (as cheesy as it sounds) love really does surpass the bad. So if we are just talking about going crazy, eventually, you are going to grow out of that. You are going to turn 30 and want to have kids. It's cool to write a message that is relatable to all age groups. That an 11 year old can relate to, and a 45 year old can look at his kids and relate to as well. We want to send that message through our single.
10) Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians?
Carissa: Yeah, I think you should find your niche and stick to it. Just keep following your dreams, and don't let people tell you "no" or that this isn't right for you. If you are passionate about it, then keep pushing for it. Like with Vine, we kinda found our plan. It happened accidently, and with music not really being big on Vine at the time, we stayed consistent and posted every day. The next thing you know we are conducting interviews in cars!
Michael: When other musicians ask us on Facebook or Email about it: We'll send them a little encouraging blast and we always tell them "Find an idea that no one has and go after it as hard as you can every single day." And for us, that was Vine but for them, that could be whatever the platform is. It's got to be unique enough that it has never been done before but then not stopping after trying it once or twice because it's going to take a lot more then 10 Vines to get 3 million followers. You have to be consistent. We think that applies to every budding musician.
When you both aren't performing and writing new material, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Carissa: We like to eat. So we like to go out and get dressed up and go to fancy restaurants. Mike actually likes to cook a lot so we enjoy talking about our dinner and acting like we are the Food Network.
Michael: We pretend like we are foodies. We like to have a conversation after every bite so our dinners last like seven hours long. It's so much fun. And then we'll go to the movies afterwards or something. Yeah, we are big movie theater fans.
During your performance, it's evident how you two are so in love. But like all couples you probably have disagreements at times. Can you give us an example of something funny that you recently argued about? :)
Michael: Oh yeah...
Carissa: Oh I have one, when he uses all the toilet paper, he either leaves it without anymore or he'll get one and just sit it on top of the roller thing and not put it on. (laughing) I think we are all guilty of doing that but he likes to do it a lot.
Michael: It's just one extra step that I'm too lazy to do in the moment. We have petty little arguments when we are filming vines too. You know, it's such a creative process that when you spend 45 minutes to an hour filming it, by the end of it, if you haven't gotten the right take, the tempers get a little shorter and we just want to nail it but we can't. One person will do the take amazing and the other person will fall short and it just gets a little frustrating. We'll be like, "Ugh, I don't want to film this vine anymore" and then we'll step away. Then we'll come back an hour later and film it and everything will be great.
How has your family dealt with you both being on tour so much lately?
Carissa: They are super supportive of it. Actually, my parents are watching our dog who is their grandbaby for now. They are just super proud of us and we still keep in contact with all of our family. We text and Facetime and all of that. They are really proud and excited for us. All of my family is in Los Angeles, and Michael's are in North Carolina and Baltimore. It's an East Coast/West Coast family.
Michael: It makes the holidays a little tricky.
Carissa: We gotta switch off.
Do you have any great/interesting road stories you'd like to share?
Michael: The radio promo tour is different since we are going from station to station. We are going around with some of the Republic staff and some of them are even in the front seat with us right now! So our stories here are about the joy of meeting radio personalities every day, and it's staying in cool hotel rooms and meeting jocks every morning in whatever city we are in at the time.
Any experiences with crazy fans yet?
Michael: Oh yeah, we were just driving from our house to a radio thing. Well, you should know, we have this super janky Honda Civic. It's a 2005 crack tail-end light, needs a wash sort of thing. We've been avoiding getting a new car forever because what's the point, we are never home to drive it. Anyway, we usually have a driver come get us or somebody from Republic will come pick us up. Well, this was the one time, we were said, "Alright, we are just going to drive our car." So, all of a sudden we hear this beep in the middle of this six lane highway, and we look over, and it's these four girls reaching out of their mom's minivan with their phones out.
Carissa: They weren't waving at us or anything! They were just taking pictures!
Michael: And then later, we checked Twitter, and there were all these pictures of us in our car on the highway. And then we were like, "Maybe we should get a new car?!?!"
What is the one truth that has always remained constant so far throughout your career?
Michael: I think it's focusing on people and love before work. That's kind of always been the mission of our career so far. We also don't just look at radio as stations that will hopefully play our music, these are people! This is their job everyday. They go home and they want to be loved and we have to treat them as if it's a relationship we are starting... Who knows, we could be in touch on Twitter with them years to come and they even if they never played our record but it doesn't matter, we got a friend out of it.