Us The Duo has an authenticity that is hard to come by in the music industry. You can hear it in their lyrics, you can feel it when they perform, but most of all, you can see it through their love story. The husband-and-wife duo first garnered fame through Vine, but they have certainly come a long way since their covers on social media. After releasing their album Just Love and embarking on a new tour, the two already have a brand-new project in store. In collaboration with AT&T Hello Lab, the couple is creating an inventive EP called Public Record based on the experiences and stories of their fans. We had a chance to sit down with Michael and Carissa Alvarado and they opened up about the music industry, the mindset behind their latest record, and how they inspire each other from day to day. See all their sweet quotes and get ready to fall in love with Us The Duo.
POPSUGAR: I must say I am super excited about your Public Record series. What inspired you to do this EP?
Michael Alvarado: We've written music based on our own stories and our own life for so long that it comes to a point when you start to think about your fans and say, "What about their stories? Has anyone ever written songs about them and put it out in the world?" When we started talking about it, we realized that that hasn't really been done before. So treading on new ground was really exciting for us but also the challenge of working with our fans, hearing their stories, and writing something from scratch was really exciting in our brains, so we're about to get started and we're pretty pumped.
PS: What are you most looking forward to about this process?
Carissa Alvarado: I'm most looking forward to getting even closer to our fans. I think this is such a personal moment for each and every one of them to share their stories with us. It's really cool because most artists tend to write about experiences that they've gone through themselves, but not many artists — ourselves included — write stories about fans, which we call #UsTheFamily. So it's going to be really nice to get to know our fans on a deeper level.
PS: You have always had such a great connection with your fans. What has been one of your most memorable fan experiences so far?
CA: One of my favorites was, I think our first tour two years ago, someone had emailed us — he was serving in the military — that he was going to be back visiting with his girlfriend at the show and asked if he could propose to her during one of our songs that was "their" song. So at the show he went on stage and he proposed to her right there. That was the first time we had ever done anything like that and it was just such a special moment to be there for.
MA: For me, it was when we released our Just Love, we asked our fans to write iTunes reviews and in exchange we would surprise some of them with a Snapchat video call. It was the craziest thing! Just to call your fans, who have no idea that that's coming and they're sitting in their natural habitat, to see the look on their face when they answer the phone like, "Are you seriously calling me right now?" I remember one fan in particular was like, "I can't speak because I'm talking to my idols right now." Then, something happened with the connection and [the video call] quit and we couldn't reconnect, but we saw on Twitter that she was like, "I'm glad we couldn't connect because I would have just stared at them." So it was just really fun to connect with fans on that level.
PS: Like you just mentioned, you recently released your third album, Just Love. What word or phrase would you best say describes the mood of this record?
MA: "Back to basics" is what we kept saying to the band when we were telling them where we wanted to go with the album. Carissa and I have obviously had a really long journey the last couple of years from being independent and making videos on social media to then signing a major record deal and going through the whole radio path and the ups and downs of the music industry and then leaving the label and putting out an album by ourselves. We had listened to so many opinions over the last three and a half years and somehow we didn't even know what our music was anymore. We didn't know who Us The Duo was. So we left the label and went to the studio and we just told the musicians, "Hey, let's go back to the basics of music. Let's just go back to the roots of who Carissa and I are," which is soul music. We grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Commodores, Stevie Wonder, and motown, so that's what we tried to do on this record, to take it simple. We just wanted to come back to the core of who we are, which is all the bells and whistles gone. It's just honest, simple songwriting.
PS: What would you say was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of creating this album?
CA: I would say some of the most challenging parts of the Just Love album would be writing some of these songs. They were so personal and not every song is about love. It's struggles that we both have gone through, individually or with our relationship, and some of that was kind of difficult for us to put out because it brought us back to that difficult time. I also think it was freeing in a way, just to have it out and to be able to sing about it and understand that we're growing as husband and wife. There are so many aspects of our life that it's nice to look back and say, "Oh, we've overcome that, and we're stronger now." I think that was also the most rewarding thing, to be mature about it and to look back and say that we got through it.
PS: How is this album different from anything else you've created in the past?
MA: Well, this album is really a snapshot of our personal life. The first album was pretty much about long-distance relationships, because I was from North Carolina and she was from California and we had 5,000 miles in between us, and the second album was about us getting together and exploring all the themes of love and the hardships that come with being together and working, and this album is like the frustrations of creativity that have been bottled up for two and a half years that we never got to let out. So it has a different edge to it. Like Carissa said, we're just exploring new topics. We went to some deeper, darker places than we ever have and I think it's because we're growing up. The things that happened in the studio for those few weeks will never happen again, because it was just a real moment where we pressed record in the room and it happened.
PS: You also just started your Just Love tour; what is your favorite song to sing live?
CA: It's always changing for us, but my favorite is "Goodbye Forever," mainly because it's my sassy song. It's really great to see all the ladies in the crowd singing along because we've all been in relationships or we've seen other people go through relationships where it was just terrible, and we just need to say goodbye forever. It's just a part of the show that is really fun for me to unite with everyone in the crowd and just get sassy for a second.
MA: I think my favorite is probably when we do a stripped-down set in the middle of the whole show. We have the full band and just us two where we form a horseshoe in the middle of the stage and they're just playing very lightly. I love that part of the show because it takes it back to how music was a hundred years ago. We just went to Europe on the tour with Pentatonix, and we were walking around the streets of Czech Republic and we saw this band of four guys sitting in a horseshoe, standing up and playing acoustic instruments, and captivating people as they walk by. I remember, I looked at Carissa and said, "I want to do that at our show." We do it for one of our songs, "Falling in Love," so I think that's probably my favorite.
PS: Speaking of Pentatonix, what would you say was your favorite part of that tour?
CA: One of my favorite parts was getting closer to them. We were kind of friends before, and we knew each other through social media, but it was really nice to get to know each and every one of them as a person. They're just all really great people with great hearts and have so much talent. We learned so much from them just watching them on tour. It's really inspiring to see that they're doing so well based on how hard they have worked.
PS: What is the best part about touring with your spouse?
MA: It's so different, because that's all we really know. We haven't really toured much as Us The Duo, and with Pentatonix, they're playing arenas. So there's catering, there's fancy showers and extreme organization, and with Us The Duo, we have to take a step back a bit and come down a few levels because we still have a lot of ways to grow to get to that status. The first couple of shows are a little humbling, but then as the shows go on, we realize how much we love touring just us because you have complete control over the show and the people in that audience are there just to see you and they are #UsTheFamily. They know every word to your song. You don't have to win them over every night and hope that you gain them as a new fan by the end of the night. They're already your fans, so that's a really comforting feeling.
PS: Your love story has inspired so many people over the years, but what do you think is the most inspiring thing about each other?
CA: I mean, Michael inspires me in a lot of different ways, but I think for me, it's how great of a leader he is and how well he takes on that role. When he wants something, he'll do whatever it takes to get it. Even when we got together, he did a lot. He took a cruise as a paying job playing piano that he was miserable on, but he did that to save up to get to me. It just showed a lot about his personality and his work ethic. I think it's super inspiring to watch because not only does he do that in our relationship, but he also does that in our career.
MA: I just have to name one thing, but there are 150 of them. I think she inspires me with her willingness to be adventurous. My mind has always been that of a dreamer, so I come up with these crazy ideas and I go for it, and if I fall down really hard, I don't care. Failure is all a part of taking risks. And I'll look over at Carissa and be like, "Are you ready to jump off this cliff with me right now?" and she's like, "Heck yeah! Let's do it together." It is so inspiring to have someone who is always willing to do anything, no matter how crazy it is. Whether it's standing on a stage in front of 10,000 people and singing a song or whether it's skydiving out of a plane in Hawaii, she is down.