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You’ll Love Us The Duo No Matter Where You Are

You might have heard of them since their appearance on the hit television show, America’s Got Talent. You might know them from the video that went viral in which they sing one of their earliest hits, “No Matter Where You Are”, during their wedding. Either way, odds are whether you remember their name or not, you’ve heard of Us The Duo.

Soon to be a trio with the birth of their child in the near future, Michael and Carissa Alvarado have set off on tour across the United States ready to blow people’s minds with their artfully crafted lyrics and killer harmonies. As far as concerts go, this is one you won’t want to miss because their set is jam-packed with just about everything. From slow ballads to music fit for dancing, Us The Duo has made sure to provide a little bit of everything.

Thursday night, they took the stage at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Walking into the venue forty minutes before the opener, Justin Nozuka, took the stage I could already tell this was a group with a dedicated fan base. A sizeable portion of the venue was filled with individuals vying for top spots at the front to watch the duo and their band.

As I walked around taking in the calming atmosphere of the venue equipped with everything from chandeliers to disco balls, I listened to excited fans rave about the group. “This is my third time seeing them in concert!” proclaimed one excited concert goer. She went on to explain that she’d gone as far as to see them in Rome as they toured with Pentatonix during her time studying abroad. I was tempted to ask her further questions. However, the lights were dimming, meaning it was time for me to photograph the show.

Unfortunately for me, I’d never heard of Justin Nozuka until the night of the show. This is a pity because had I known about his music he would have made an appearance on my Spotify playlists long before July 27th. His vocal range is astounding and his music makes for perfect relaxation or late night drive music. In fact, I was so impressed with Nozuka I found my way to the merch table after his set to purchase his latest record, Run To Waters.

The rest of the audience was equally as impressed with his vocal capabilities as I was. He had them clapping along by the end of his first song. One fan even went as far as to say, “Damn guy can sing! Can we pay him to stay on stage for a little longer?” By the end of his set, it became clear why Michael and Carissa had chosen Nozuka to open their show. He’d done an amazing job getting the crowd ready for the main act. Let’s just say I’ve very grateful I remembered the earplugs I wear when shooting photos for this concert.

Michael and Carissa didn’t help the noise situation either. They’re experts at getting the crowd to wait with anticipation. Their set opened with their backup band jamming quietly in the dark before Michael entered under blue lights. Finally, Carissa made her entrance as the lights exploded on the stage.

Their set was filled with numerous classics, covers, newer hits and a top-secret surprise well work the price of a ticket to the show. I watched in amazement as Carissa danced the night away as heavily pregnant as she was. She never missed a beat.

At one point the band and Michael went into a Mario jam, allowing both the bass player and drummer to showcase their talents. After the song was over Michael announced, “Yo I hit the keyboard so hard it broke a key!” It was a go hard or go home kind of night.

During their performance of “(Stop) Just Love” I watched a couple hold a poster that read, “Been together for six years because we just stopped”. This highlights the impact Us the Duo has had on the lives of their fans.

All in all, the duo’s performance at the Varsity Theater on July 27th stands as the best show I’ve had the chance to attend since the start of the summer season. I’d highly suggest grabbing tickets to anyone considering attending one of their performances during the rest of the tour. EchoMe is excited to follow Us The Duo’s journey as they proceed through their whirlwind adventure on America’s Got Talent. We wish them all the luck in the world when it comes to family and music.

EchoMe Artist of the Week Jul. 23 – Drax Project

The New Zealand pop group Drax Project is breaking the genre barrier along their rapid come up in the southeastern hemisphere. These dudes have mastered the perfect mix of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop producing a lit pop sound. Beginning in 2013, drummer Matt Beachen and saxophonist/lead vocalist Shaan Singh performed covers on the streets of Wellington, NZ. While attention to the street corner duo slowly built, bassist Sam Thomson and guitarist Ben O’Leary were added to raise the bar. Five years later the four-piece band are selling out venues in New Zealand and Australia, opening for acts such as Ed Sheeran, Lorde, Gorillaz, and most recently Camila Cabello on her European tour. Recently signed to the American record label 300 Entertainment, the band now has the same support as a prestigious list of chart-topping artists on the label such as Young Thug, Tee Grizzley, and Cheat Codes.

The name Drax Project comes from the band’s street corner days when they were just drums and sax, hence ‘drax’. This is one of the most unique and unorthodox bands I’ve seen, but it works to perfection. Multi-talented lead vocalist Shaan Singh has an unbounded voice paired with a sensational ability to shred the saxophone. His skill to shift between vocals and saxophone with his talented band members behind him creates an electrifying dynamic. Their individual sounds mesh together perfectly like rugby and drunk New Zealanders.

While some early singles and their collection of live cover songs have been removed from Spotify and Soundcloud, Drax Project’s first EP, “Noon”, released on June 8, 2018 is available on these music services. The five song EP includes “Woke Up Late” which has already garnered nearly 10 million plays on Spotify. Drax Project featured on co-300 Entertainment artist Famous Dex’s “LIGHT”, which was apart of his April 2018 album, “Dex Meets Dexter”. I’m sure they have a healthy collection of music that will be pushed out heading into Fall 2018.

Similar to many artists from New Zealand and Australia Drax Project heavily focuses on their live performances. Their talents and passion is put on display while playing live and that will certainly help their climb when they begin touring regularly and appearing at music festivals. They recently completed their first overseas trip on Camila Cabello’s European tour and the band’s brief July 2018 U.S. tour marked their first appearances in America.

Here are two Drax Project songs plus a video of a live performance of their “Cry Me a River” cover:

“Falling Out of Sight”, a 2016 release was removed from music platforms and is currently only available on Drax Project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DraxProject/videos/1092392334205366/

Instagram: draxproject (21.9k followers)

Soundcloud followers: 1,041

Spotify Monthly Listeners: 728,020


By EchoMe SBM: John Faus


Ro Ransom: An Interview

For some musicians’ music is in their blood. That’s the case for Ro Ransom, the first of many artists to be picked for Sony Music and SamePlate Records’ collaboration. “I didn’t really have a choice. My parents both made music and they just brought me around it so early and I fell in love with it,” he shared during our interview.

The Mystery Boy hails from Harlem, New York, and is set to drop an upcoming EP titled Possessed. When asked what we can expect from this project he replied with, “You can look forward to a lot. The story you see is the different stages of a breakup. The different emotions you go through, the denial, the guilt, that point of moving on.”

These themes are evident in his latest release, “Wraith”, a track discussing carrying pain. While it’s written so that anyone can relate to the lyrics, Ro Ransom wrote the song on his prior experiences, “It was like you know me carrying a bunch of pain for a month and being drunk and high off everything for a month. That feeling of having to dig deep and find the ambition to you know fuck that chapter and move on.”

His sound mixes the modern with 90s/early 2000s hip-hop/R&B. It’s a fascinating pairing fresh hits with a throwback vibe, perfect for any party playlist. This all makes sense when taking into account that one of Ro’s biggest musical inspirations is Justin Timberlake himself.

From his current success, it’s clear music listeners around the world already love him. He’s been named one of Soundcloud’s Artists to Watch in 2018 and his single Prettiest was included in Time Magazine’s 5 Songs You Need To Listen To. Feats like these don’t come to just anyone and these achievements are exactly why Ro was deemed to be the perfect artist to start Sony Music and SamePlate Record’s partnership. “It feels amazing. I’m just grateful and flattered my name even came up in the conversation,” he mentioned when asked about the joint venture.

As far as his personality is concerned it’s clear from our conversation he’s got to be pretty fun to hang around. One of our favorite questions to ask during an interview is “If you were to describe yourself as a mixed drink what would it be?” Oftentimes, it takes several seconds to a minute for artists to pick their poison. Ro wasted no time exclaiming, “definitely a margarita. One thousand per cent. I’ve never had a question I knew the answer to immediately. I’m sweet, light and tasty, but I can still get you fucked up.”

He’s also got a pretty amazing hidden talent. Ro’s a great writer. “That’s just a piece of me that never gets exposed because it’s not really part of my job, but I definitely have super interesting takes on music, culture and art. Maybe one day I’ll write a book,” he shared during our phone call.

At the end of the day, Ro Ransom is an intelligent, hilarious, and multitalented artist ready to take the world by storm with his music. With so many trends from the past coming back into style, his old school sound and new school lyrics might just be what everyone’s been waiting for.

Industry Updates: Sony’s Making Money Moves

Ultra Records Expands:

Ultra Records, one of the top EDM labels in the business, has just expanded its operations throughout Scandinavia by hiring Michel Petré as the Managing Director for the region. Petré will be joining the label, which was recently acquired by Sony Music to fortify artist signings and to find new talent throughout the Nordic region.

Petré has 44 years of experience in the industry. He started out in Stockholm’s first import record stores and has held positions at Edel Music and Ministry of Sound. As for other accomplishments, Petré, Martina and Daniel Ledinsky cofounded Family Tree Music in 2004, which has grown into one of the leading independent companies in the Nordic Region.

This new talent acquisition to the Sony team demonstrates US companies’ growing interest in talent throughout the Scandinavian population, also highlighted by Sony/ATV ‘s launch of Stellar Songs Scandinavia last week.

Activism and Artists:

Many artists use their platform in order to speak out issues they view to be unjust. This week Selena Gomez used her power as an influencer to speak out against children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border. She discussed this controversial issue at the premiere of Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation in LA stating, “It’s extremely disheartening. There’s a lot of confusion and anger.”

In other news Panic! At the Disco’s frontman Brendon Urie pledged $1 million dollars towards setting up Gender and Sexuality and Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at schools throughout the United States. He’s partnered with GLSEN in order to make this possible. This partnership follows his creation of the Higher Hopes Foundation, which aims to support human rights advocacy in marginalized communities.

Minor Court Victory for Kesha:

A judge in New York has demanded that Sony Music must disclose the identities of the individuals they interviewed during the internal investigation into Lukas Gottwald also known as Dr. Luke. Gottwald is currently pursuing defamation claims against Kesha and is continuing to argue against the rape allegations she claims he perpetrated.

In a decision made on July 2nd, a New York Supreme Court Justice stated that Sony’s argument that releasing the names of those interviewed violates attorney-client privilege was invalid as the release of such names would not disclose the team’s legal strategy.

Cardi B Breaks More Ground:

Cardi B has become the first female rapper with two Hot 100 Number One Hits. With the success of “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It” it seems that Cardi has cemented herself and an unstoppable female force in the music industry. This record was previously held by Lauryn Hill with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and Iggy Azalea with “Fancy”.

Ground was further broken as Invasion of Privacy also became the first album to hold two Hot 100 Number one hits since Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ record, The Heist. Cardi’s album debuted at number one in April, making Cardi B the fifth female rapper with a chart-topping LP.

Giiants: An Interview

“Mysterious” might be the best word to describe Giiants. The band, made up of Adam Bailey, Andrea Rullo, and Cameron Maxwell, is set to make it big. Their first single, “Small Talk,” has already blown up, with 1.5 million YouTube plays and 450,000 streams on Spotify. Their new song, “American Summer”, was released just in time for the 4th of July on June 29th. It’s upbeat, it’s got a catchy refrain, and it’s sure to end up on your summer playlist. Did I mention they’ve been picked up by Ultra, one of the top electronic music labels? Be on the lookout; Giiants is set to take the world by storm.

Typing the group’s name into a Google search won’t provide much information. In fact, the only result to be found pertaining to the band itself links directly to their Facebook page. When pressed for personal details about Giiants, Cameron responded with, “There’s not much out there, and it’s kind of on purpose.” If anything, this just adds to their mystique and makes the listening experience that much better, as the music remains the focus.

As enigmatic as they were during our interview, I was able to discern how passionate each member is about their craft. When asked, “What would you be doing if you couldn’t make music?” they responded simply, “We’d still be making it in secret.” I’ve asked this question countless times to artists across every genre. Giiants is the first group to firmly assert that music is all they could envision themselves doing.

Furthermore, the band is perhaps one of the most dedicated groups on the scene right now. They noted, “We spend quite a while in the studio. Collectively, we’re writing and producing every single day.” Each member has previous experience in the industry, be it through writing for other artists or working on other projects. This balance of passion, commitment, and experience makes Giiants a force to be reckoned with. Clearly, the music industry agrees, as the band explained:

It started with an email. We finished the song and our manager loved it, so we said ‘Okay let’s send it to our top pick labels’. We wanted to shoot really high and aim for our dream labels to start. We sent it to Patrick Moxey, the head of Ultra and Sony worldwide for EDM, and David Waxman. They got back to us quickly and were in.

This desire to make it big is partially what inspired the name Giiants in the first place, according to the band. “That’s kind of where the Giiants name came in,” they noted. “We just wanted to be huge. And we wanted something that didn’t really have any backstory. We wanted to build from the ground up.” The trio believes that their “I’ve made it moment” will be the first time they see just Giiants as the artist name when one of their songs plays on the radio and not just as the last name in a set of remixes. With their current sound, influenced by the likes of Avicii and Empire of the Sun, it’s only a matter of time until this is a reality.

Adam, Andrea, and Cameron have combined forces to become a powerhouse trio set to take over the world, or at least your summer, with their latest hit, “American Summer.” With music festivals and concerts on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how the passion and dedication they feel for their craft will translate onstage. EchoMe is excited to follow all they accomplish as they release more music and their sound develops.