The Audio Diva Interview: Nikki & Rich

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two can really make it out of sight. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. The Eurythmics. Gnarls Barkley. Hall & Oates. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. All have been prolific duos in the music biz, and sooner or later we probably will be adding to the list the duo magic of Nikki & Rich. The two have gotten our attention with their Motown/60's Soul revival sound on singles, "Cat & Mouse", "Next Best Thing" and their addition to the Just Wright soundtrack, "Dreaming". Soon we will hear the full experience with the release of their debut album, Everything, this summer. Perfect timing, considering Nikki & Rich have a sound that is meant for basking in the sunshine and having the car windows rolled down, singing along at high decibels to the radio.

The duo were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me, in order to share with you guys all the in's and out's about their upcoming album, what they felt about their first TV appearance and if they could face off with any other famous singing duo who'd it be. All that good stuff and more after the cut. Also while you're at it check out the "brand new" interview page to view all the other interviews conducted on this here blog. Without further adieu...

How did you two happen to form a musical duo? And what were you involved with before you joined forces?

Rich: Nikki And I met about 3 years ago. We were connected through a mutual friend to do some co-writing. There was a great writing chemistry and we found ourselves working more together. It wasn't until about a year after that we started writing music that wouldn't fit other artists. Nikki became a little possessive over the songs (ha!) and we decided to form the group.

Nikki: Well, I started as a singer in Gospel music. I was raised in church and was only allowed to listen to church music. I later toured as a backing vocalist for Carrie Underwood before I made my way back to L.A. and met Rich. I will also answer for Rich and say this guy was doing his thing before we met! He had already won a Grammy for his work with Ludacris and worked with amazing artists such as Eve and Robin Thicke.

You both came from two diverse musical backgrounds, Nikki as a Christian artist and Rich as a hip-hop producer, how did you manage to make it the ‘best of both worlds’ with your sound as a duo?

Rich: The beauty of Nikki is that she has this larger than life voice. I would work with other singer/writers and they couldn't quite attack the music the way Nikki did. She blew me away with her range and ability to take on a song and make it big. You can hear the Gospel roots in her tone.

Nikki: Well, Rich was my "met my match" moment. I was in awe over his music. I hadn't worked with someone who could take my sound to another level till I met him. He had a refreshing take and coming from his hip-hop background, created a sound that very much complimented my soulful passions. It oddly worked together perfectly!

What made each of you decide that music was your calling?

Rich: It was the first thing I ever did in my life that came very easily. And the only thing I wanted to keep doing over and over again.

Nikki: I was raised in a musical family and really had no other choice than to hop on the family band wagon and join the Christian Partridge family.

What musicians/artists influenced your sound?

Nikki: I was influenced by many gospel artists, Cece Winans etc. Later when I was an adult and allowed to listen to all music I fell in love with James Taylor, Whitney Houston, Brandi Carlisle, Marc Broussard, Bonnie Raitt & Stevie Wonder.

Rich: I was influenced by artist/producers Rick Rubin, The Neptunes, Michael Jackson, George Michael and Led Zeppelin. I grew up listening to Public Enemy and Blondie.

You’ve been getting comparisons to Amy Winehouse and others in the Motown/60’s Soul/Pop revival, what do you feel you bring different from other acts with this sound?

Nikki: I think that's a compliment. We love Amy. I feel our music doesn't just fall into the 60's sound. We have elements of that in a few songs. Rich and I were inspired by some of the same artists of that era. But parts of our record go away from that sound and into some soul/gospel/r&b/hip-hop tones. We have moments such as "Yellow Brick Road" that end with a huge choir. And we also have songs like "Everything" and "Same Kind of Man" that go in to a real soulful r&b place.

What do you feel about the recent revival of the 60’s and 70’s sound in mainstream music?

Rich: It's such a great era in music. I think what Nikki and I love the most about it, is how the music just made you feel good. The concepts were not as formulated there were real melodies and a live musicality that has been lost.

Describe what kind of sound listeners can expect to hear on your debut album, Everything?

Nikki: We journey through a range of sound going from classic hooks and feel good melodies. We incorporate 808's and hip-hop beats with a throwback yet modern blend. It's lyrically relevant to what a lot of people I know are going through in the dating games and relationship woes. I feel it's such a journey of our own growing and the record really nailed the process for me. Everything is just a mix of everything for us. All of our favorite writings for the past three years and a end product that we are both really proud of.

Take us through the process of crafting Everything. Such as, what did it take for you to make this record, what type of vibe did you want it to be and did you have any obstacles with making it?

Nikki: We never had a set agenda. It is a day by day thing. Whatever music Rich creates at the moment is the inspiration for the song. It is always the jumping board for whatever comes out of me lyrically. The beauty of making this record was we didn't set out to make a record. We set out to just write music that we loved and inspired us. In the end we compiled this into what is now Everything. But it wasn't a forced process. I think that's what made it so enjoyable. To not have a formula or direction but to simply collaborate based off of enjoyment and love of music. That made our record something we truly love.

What is your favorite track off of the album, and why?

Rich: I would say "Everything". It really brings out the r&b sound that I love in our record. "Yellow Brick Road" is at close tie as well. It's just a big record with sounds and vocals that stand out to me.

You guys have been on the tour circuit lately. How have the audiences been responding to you guys and what do you like most about performing live?

Rich: We have been so fortunate to play some really cool venues and meet some amazing people. We have not been at a lack for crowd energy and support. We love the fans that have responded and shown love. Were at the early beginning stages of this and just are thankful that we can do a show and be able to fill a room!

Congrats on your TV debut on The Ellen Show! How did you feel about that?

Nikki: WoW! WOW! We loved doing Ellen. Ellen and her staff have been so amazing and supportive. We felt soooo honored that we were able to do our very first TV debut as "Nikki & Rich" on the Ellen show.

What do you guys do when you step away from the mic and out of the studio? Any hobbies, talents that aren’t music related that you guys do?

Nikki: I love to shop for shoes. HA! I love to eat Mexican food everyday! I love E-bay! And I love to try out different bakery's!

Rich: I love to go to restaurants, entertain friends and play a few hands of Texas Hole Em!

Name a few artists that you hope to work with in the future and why?

Nikki and Rich: Here is the ultimate wish list, Jay-z (Rich), Alicia Keys, Eminem (Nikki), and we might have a little [Justin] Bieber fever as well.

What do you hope to accomplish with this album and what future plans do you have in store?

I would just love to expand our audience and play more show's. Just to be able to do what we love is a blessing. I would love to continue on writing for other artists and seeing what other music we can create as Nikki & Rich.

Okay, final question, there are/were many famous singing duos…Hall & Oates, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Milli Vanilli (just joking) for example …if you could battle anyone to a singing duo duel, what duo would it be?

Rich: We would battle Milli Vanilli...we would just turn their mic's on and win hands down :)

Further Information
Learn: Nikki & Rich's MySpace 
Purchase: Cat & Mouse/The Next Best Thing/Dreaming
Fandom: Nikki &Rich Facebook
Follow: Nikki & Rich Twitter

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