2011 was a whirlwind year for Karmin, going from unknown small town graduates, struggling to make ends meet, to having one of YouTube’s most viewed videos of the year in the form of their cover of Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne’s Look At Me Now, all in the space of months.
Rather than dying down as most YouTube sensations tend to do, the hype just kept growing and growing, even amassing to an appearance on the prestigious Ellen DeGeneres Show all off their own back, eventually leading to getting signed to EPIC Records in June 2011, as music mogul LA Reid’s first signing on his return to the company, at a point where he still wasn’t officially with them.
Fast forward to 2012 and the couple, who’s wedding plans have had to be postponed due to their skyrocketing career, have released their debut EP Hello, had its first single Brokenhearted reach the top 20 in five different countries, appeared on numerous TV shows and sold out shows across North America, Australia and Europe, where I got the chance to chat to the duo following their first ever UK appearance, a sold out headline show at the London Borderline.
We discussed from everything from purple cows to YouTube sensations, from Mac Miller to The Roots and out of everyone that I’ve spoken to, they were two the most quirky, humble and genuinely excited people at their reality of being a popstar, so have a read below and see what was said!
How’s London been treating you so far? How was the show last night?
Amy: It was awesome. For our first show in London, it was pretty awesome!
Nick: London was awesome, and the Guinness is so much better here than in the States!
First off, can you give an introduction to what you were both doing before Karmin blew up and musically, what you both grew up listening to, as from your covers and hearing about all the bands you’ve been in before, it sounds quite diverse?
Amy: We both went to college in Boston, at a school called Berklee. It’s all music, and we got degrees in music and we couldn’t find legitimate jobs afterwards, I mean Nick was working in a boxing gym and I was a wedding singer so that was kinda how we ended up doing YouTube videos, out of desperation really to be noticed! But before that, we came from little towns in Nebraska and Maine and we pretty much carved our craft I would say. I fell in love with R&B music somewhere in there and also hip-hop but I come from a Christian family so I wasn’t allowed to listen to a lot of the really good rap.
When you first blew up on YouTube, were there a lot of pe0ple that underestimated you and tried to take advantage of the fact you’d gained so much attention so quickly, with bad deals, not being able to write your own material etc or were you lucky enough for EPIC to come on the scene pretty much straight away and understand what you were all about?
Nick: It’s like a relationship. You never really know exactly what’s going to happen because people can promise the world but you never know how it’s actually going to pan out. With EPIC, we just had a gut feeling because LA Reid was just coming over at the same time. We were his first signing and everything that he said he was going to do, he’s kept his word on, which is a big deal We’re just lucky to have the whole team over there and everyone’s doing what they said they would, which is amazing!
Being that you’re a couple and all of a sudden you’re famous, travelling the world and both have a lot of admirers, have you ever run into any sticky situations with fans who may have a thing for one you?
Amy: Definitely, but we love that! It’s all a surprise because we’ve been together now, as a couple, for nearly seven years so to have our fans love us that much and to have people propose to us on twitter every day… it’s pretty cool!
Nick: I say yes to them at least half of them!
Since you started touring, what’s the most embarrassing story you have of each other?
Nick: The most embarrassing thing…. Oh god, what is that?
Amy: Good question man, that’s a tough one.
Nick: Ahh, let me think about this.
Amy: On tour?
Amy: Well one time, because I like really crazy shoes, I wear really high heels and I fell on stage one time.
Nick: I hit my head on a microphone.
Amy: Oh yeah, when he plays he rocks out a lot on the keyboard and moves his head around a lot and he hit his head on the microphone one time which was pretty cool. I think both of those are on video tape!
When I tweeted that I’d be speaking to you, @leroidusport sent me a picture of you two with Mac Miller and asked if you’d been working together? Also, you’ve said before that on your second album, you want to collaborate with some different artists. Who would these be right now?
Amy: Mac Miller is a badass! We met him at a show… somewhere. We’re big fans of his, I don’t know if there’s a collaboration somewhere in the future, I know he’s working on a lot of stuff with Wiz and Kreayshawn right now, but I would say that if we had to pick somebody, it would be Kanye West. Musically, he particularly one of our favourites, especially because he does production too as well as the rapping and you might know, we’re both super into the musical part of it. We like doing the production and the writing all on our own.
I think Kanye would be a top pick, I think Nicki Minaj is an amazing artist and we would love to work with her and there’s a couple of UK aritsts like Ellie Goulding who we’d be really interested to work with.
Yeah, that was going to be my next question! Are there any UK artists you’ve had your eye on recently?
Nick: There’s a lot man, I’m a huge Coldplay fan. Obviously Ellie Goulding, we’ve been watching her for the last couple of years actually.
She’s been doing a lot of collaborations with very different artists lately!
Nick: Yeah, and she’s really starting to hit her stride of the stage now too.
Amy: We also love Tinie Tempah, he tweeted us a couple of days ago and it would be really fun to work with him.
To a a lot of people, it seems as if it just all happened overnight but what they don’t see is that you’ve been at it for years, both individually and as Karmin. What advice would you give to people chasing their dreams who are getting setback after setback or just don’t seem to be getting any closer to them?
Nick: I would say you have to have an amazing work ethic. Keep working, keep grinding at it and find your purple cow. What I mean by that is to find your one thing that nobody else has, that’s unique just to you. When you get to the point where you’re not afraid to be different, that’s the thing that’ll get you noticed, that people will be able to identify you with. So just try to find what that is, and sometimes it takes a while to find it, but just try different things, experiment and when you find that purple cow, really hammer it home.
What’s your take on the whole youtube stardom thing? Because obviously there’s a very select few like you who’ve used it as a promotional tool to move onto bigger things but you’ve always been proper artists from day one, but then there’s lots of kids in their bedroom who get millions of views and a lot of attention on YouTube but can’t really take it any further than that because that’s all they are, and they don’t have that musical background. Would you say that they’re almost being sold a false dream?
Nick: Thank you first of all, that’s a big compliment to say! There are some amazing, amazing talents out there, dude. I think now that you have the internet and the things on YouTube, I think it’s just levelling the playing field a little bit because otherwise, we would have never been heard. So I think there’s going to be a lot more acts coming out as well who are so artist aware because there are some very very talented people out there.
Amy: But the same advice applies, try and find your purple cow or your unique part because there are so many, there are over a billion youtube accounts now, so you do want to try and stand out, be consistent. If you can post a video every week for example you’ll eventually start building a fanbase.
Since properly getting into the industry, who’s been the most inspiring person you’ve got the chance to work with and why?
Amy: I would say Quest Love from The Roots. He kinda took us under his wing and offers us a lot of advice, is always texting us and checking in on us on the road. He’s such a talented guy and he’s got so many things going on.
What does the future hold for Karmin, both musically and beyond music and what do you want to achieve in your lives?
Nick: I want to be the fifth member of the Beatles! Honestly though, we feel like we’re just barely starting so next we want to go play for everybody because we really feel like playing live is our bread and butter and so we want to play live for everybody with our band and then just continue to write, continue to improve and progress and it’s just really exciting!
Amy: We want to create our own little community and our world. Like the Karmin World where people dress a certain way, we want to just keep preaching that and honing the skills there.
Any final words for the world?
Amy: Yeah! Follow us on twitter @KarminMusic, we’re on there all the time and that’s kinda our portal to our fans and that’s really handy and we speak to people directly. Make sure to check our website too because it’s got all our tour dates and we’re definitely coming to a city near you! We’d love to put on a show for you and hopefully meet you backstage as well!
You can buy Karmin’s debut EP Hello now on iTunes and for more exclusive interviews and the best new music, be sure to stay tuned to LozzaMusic.com, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr, let me know what you think and say Hello!