This week, Nico & Vinz embark on their Ones To Watch with Skype tour. The Norwegian pop duo have toured globally with Bruno Mars and Usher previously and this is their first headlining run in North America. We caught up with the singers while they filmed a private concert session for Rock Revival last week, where we chatted about their influences, the making of their multi-platinum hit "Am I Wrong," and what they're looking forward to about their tour.
Read on below for our Q&A and check out their performance at RockRevival.com, coming soon.
How and where did you two meet?
Nico: We met in Norway in 2009. We're from the capital, Oslo. I'm from Holmlia and Vinz is from Lambertseter. I'd been in a group with that friend who makes music as a hobby. Then I left to live in the Ivory Coast where my dad is from, and afterwards West Africa for a year. When I came back and this mutual friend of ours had made a song with Vinz and suggested that me and Vinz should get together because he felt we could have good chemistry. So we tried it out and the chemistry was great onstage and offstage in the studio. We made music together for five years before things really started happening. It was a hobby at first.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Nico: African music, because my dad was a musician too and he's African, so that was the first genre I heard when I was born. After a while I started listening to pop, as every kid does: Backstreet Boys, A1, you know, Spice Girls. Then I started getting into hip-hop which I listened to for a long time, probably since I was 14 to the age of 19. Then when I started making music I started opening my mind to other stuff: rock, country, reggae. Now I pretty much listen to everything.
Vinz: My mom played a lot of African music at the house and also country music, and definitely reggae: Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Kenny Rogers, Paul Simon. So there was a lot of different music in the household.
How did you two develop your sound taking into account all your influences?
Nico: We made a lot of different genres coming up together. We sat down in the studio one day and thought, "Let's try to be ourselves 100%, because we need to be able to stand behind this and sell this and support the music that we're making." We have African roots, we are from Scandinavia and were both born in Norway, so we added that in there as well, and we both used to rap more before, so we put that in there as well. From that mix of genres we found a sound.
Who are some of your favorite Scandinavian artists?
We were just looking at some Tove Lo videos just before this interview actually. We don't know her personally but think she's a great songwriter. From Norway, there's a guy called Cashmere Cat, and a guy called Kygo coming up.
Vinz: Matoma is a DJ and producer and artist who's got some really great stuff coming up. I want people to check him out.
What do you think is the biggest difference between touring in America and touring in other countries?
Vinz: What I'll give Americans props for is when they come to a show, if they paid the money for a ticket, they will have fun at some point, no matter what. They expect to have fun, and if they see something they like, then they'll go crazy instantly. They're not shy to show they like you, but they're also not shy to show if they don't like you - they'll let you know. I like that kind of forwardness. In Europe, people might be a little more reserved.
You opened for Bruno Mars in North America and Usher in Europe. What did you learn from them?
Vinz: You learn a lot from just watching and paying attention to all the details that go into having a tour of that size with such world class artists. It's a crazy lifestyle, watching how they coped with that and how everything was organized around them. I picked up on their professionalism and their consistency. Just imagine they go on every night and perform the same set for months and months upon time; we were out for a month. They'd been out for 6 months, maybe a year. You gotta have a passion for music if you're going to be doing it at that level for that long.
Nico: You can only imagine the chaos of everything surrounding a person like Usher. But he was just so calm and he seemed to be at a place in his life where no matter what happened around him, he was who he was and he was comfortable. I know he meditates a lot, so that might be how he manages. I think if you manage to get to that point in your head, no matter the pressure of everything, you manage to be yourself without drugs or doing destructive things, then I think you'll live longer and have a better career.
So do you guys meditate now?
Nico: We started on that tour. Usher had a guy on the tour.
Vinz: He was leading, he had all the dancers around.
Nico: We had a friend on that tour too who was with us, and he kind of saw his opportunity to convert us into doing meditation. It's really steering your brain towards where you want it to go. And that I've done a lot of.
Vinz: Before shows, I can really tell the difference. If I get a good meditation in, then after that it's just whatever, I'm not afraid of anything. I have to find my peace before I get on stage, if I don't then I get stressed.
Tell us something we don't know about your hit single, "Am I Wrong?"
Vinz: We weren't sure of it in the beginning. I remember when we were writing the song, I was almost about to be like, "I don't mess with this song, at all." We'd made the hook, and Nico and I were in two separate rooms writing, and Nico had recorded his verse and was almost done. Afterwards I went back to my room and tried a little longer and from there I was like, "This is alright."
Nico: That's good that, you know, Vinz isn't that kind of person. If somebody starts something, he isn't the type to come into the session and say "Stop, I don't like it." He'll say, "You guys finish, okay, we'll see where it goes."
Get tickets to see Nico and Vinz on their Ones To Watch with Skype tour, kicking off tonight!