While they’re not forgetting their roots, Michael and Carissa Alvarado are stepping outside of the box to explore music in a creatively freeing way.
Charm. Charisma. Beauty. Brains. And most importantly: Talent. If any band has the full package, it’s Us the Duo. This husband-and-wife team is graced with all of the attributes necessary to not just be a good band, but an amazing one.
Us the Duo is composed of Michael and Carissa Alvarado, who met on the set of a music video in 2011 and then married the next year. Their chemistry is apparent just from watching six-second clips on Vine, which is the app that they used to first get their music out. They began their musical journey as a duo on a whim. When Vine was first released, Michael told Carissa they should post a cover of a song, and they filmed the video from the nose down. They immediately gained tons of attention with their cover videos, and fans loved the mystery of only seeing the bottom half of the duo’s faces.
In a short time, Us the Duo signed to a record label and put out multiple albums, along with a few covers of popular songs. They were known for their folky-pop sounds and playful lyrics. While they’re not forgetting their roots, Michael and Carissa are stepping outside of the box to explore music in a creatively freeing way. Their newest album, Just Love, was released last week. The pair finished it back in December, so their excitement about its release was palpable as they explained all of the effort, love, and attention that they put into it.
Now they’re taking that excitement and bringing it on their Just Love tour with them, and they have a setthey’re stoked to play. (The tour stops in St. Louis at the Ready Room on Friday, July 29.) Carissa explained they’ll be singing mostly music from the new album, but they’ll definitely throw in some songs from past releases that their dedicated fans will know. For anyone who loves covers, you won’t even have to be a previous fan of Us the Duo to appreciate how Michael and Carissa take a well-known song and completely make it their own. With their gorgeous vocals and harmonies, you will be left wishing that they could cover every song that you’ve ever loved.
With a full band in tow, Us the Duo is ready to hit the stage. “Safe,” Carissa’s favorite song on the new album, will be performed in a stripped-down way, making the emotional song even more raw and real. She believes the song is extremely relevant to what’s going on in the world right now—which means she is sure to perform it in a very vulnerable and emotional way when she’s on stage. On the flip side, Michael’s favorite track is a very upbeat and fun number called “(Stop) Just Love.” He told me the song really forces him to stretch vocally, which he enjoys because he got to explore more of his range. It pushed him outside of his comfort zone, but that’s what makes an artist truly great. He believes this new album and tour will really help them transition into the new sounds of Us the Duo.
Michael and Carissa both feel strongly that music should be about taking risks and doing what you love, while also having fun with it. While stepping away from the folky sounds of their past albums, they’re now incorporating more funky and soulful elements into their songs. As a musical husband-and-wife pair, they’ve gotten to share each moment together, both professionally and personally.
When I asked if it’s difficult to work together as well as be in a relationship, Carissa admitted that it’s not always easy—but she sounded like it was the best gig in the world. Getting to travel with your best friend, never having to say “wish you were here,” and getting to create music together were just a few of the high points she mentioned. She said one of the most important things about finding a balance between work and chill time is for them to each find separate hobbies and projects. For Carissa, that’s her fashion blog called Wear I Am.
After a few more minutes of interview time I got to spend with them, I found out that Michael is hoping to channel one of his musical duo inspirations: Johnny Cash and June Carter. He said that he loves the stage presence they had, and the way that they interacted with the crowd. His other duo inspirations are The Civil Wars, since they are “harmony gold,” and Tennyson, a new EDM duo he just started listening to. His dream collaboration would be with John Mayer, while Carissa’s would be with Beyonce (because, duh). Carissa also shared that she’s recently been binge-watching the latest season of Orange Is the New Black and she’s successfully avoided all of the spoilers about the ending. (Michael prefers reruns of Full House.) I also discovered Michael’s first CD purchase was the Space Jam, soundtrack and Carissa’s was the Cheetah Girls soundtrack.
As Us the Duo gets ready to bring their Just Love tour to the fans, they reflected back about the last time they toured the country. They had recently finished their tour with Pentatonix and one of their stops was the Gateway City. While they didn’t have much time to explore, Michael fondly remembers taking a jog to see the arch and Saint Louis University’s beautiful campus. Both Carissa and Michael raved about Imo’s pizza and enjoyed the “weird cheese” and square slices. (It’s truly not a trip to St. Louis unless you’ve had Imo’s provel cheese.) This time around, they plan on eating more local food and venturing out into the city a bit more. | Kayley Withers
Us the Duo’s Just Love U.S. tour dates are below. Get your tickets on their website.
07.26 | Bluebird Theater, Denver
07.28 | Granada Theater, Lawrence KS
07.29 | The Ready Room, St. Louis
07.30 | The Deluxe at Old National Centre, Indianapolis
08.01 | Cannery Ballroom, Nashville
08.03 | Fraze Pavilion, Kettering OH
08.05 | 9:30 Club, Washington DC
08.06 | Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh NC
08.08 | Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale
08.09 | The Plaza Live, Orlando
08.11 | Manship Theatre, Baton Rouge
08.12 | The Parish, Austin
08.13 | Paper Tiger, San Antonio
08.15 | Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix
08.17 | House of Blues, San Diego
08.18 | El Ray Theatre, Los Angeles
08.19 | The Fillmore, San Francisco