Music Meter Monday: How Karmin Went From YouTube To SNL

Posted February 21

The stable of stars who got their start on YouTube has been bursting with steeds of late — from Justin Bieber to Kina Grannis to Walk Off The Earth. Now, it seems, the future husband and wife duo Karmin is pulling ahead in the race to “legit” musical stardom. In addition to performing on Saturday Night Live the other week, the band was also burning up the MTV Music Meter, making them the subject of this week’s Music Meter Monday.

Karmin — a.k.a. Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan — met while attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston, dropping their first EP of original tunes, Inside Out, in 2010. However, it wasn’t until the pair started posting covers of songs like Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” to YouTube that they truly started stealing the attention of the masses. They released an album of cover jams in May of 2011, and after signing to Epic Records, they are primed to release another original album in April 2012 titled Hello.

The O Music Blog caught up with Karmin in the wake of their SNL performance to talk YouTube, cover songs and when, exactly, the duo plans to tie the knot.

Where are you guys today? What state?

Nick: I am in a weird state of mind.

Amy: Aww… We’re in New York City and then we’re heading back to Los Angeles.

So how are you guys doing after appearing on Saturday Night Live?

Nick: We’re hanging in there, actually. I expected we wouldn’t have that much time to slow down or any days off or anything — I expected a big crash, a letdown, because everything building up to it was so ridiculous. But we just kept going. It was ridiculous. It was an incredible experience.

Amy: Yeah, really amazing. I actually liked staying in New York for a week after the show, because you walk around the city and people recognize you and know what happened. We were out last night and someone gave us a complimentary dessert at this restaurant that we went to. It was amazing. They were like, ‘We saw you on SNL!’

Oh, wow. Is that the craziest thing that happened after the slow?

Nick: Well, there was a guy that happened to be at the show. Steven Spielberg happened to be at the taping. At the very end of the night at the afterparty we went to say ‘thank you’ to Lorne Michaels. We just wanted to shake his hand really quick, get out of his hair, and somebody from his table was trying to shake our hand. It was Spielberg. And he was like, ‘Wow, you guys were incredible. That was fantastic. My favorite song was the second song.’ It was pretty ridiculous.

Amy: It was wild. I think I just blacked out and was like, ‘Was that Steven Spielberg?’

What was the second song that you played? The one he liked?

Nick: The second one was, ‘I Told You So,’ the darker, more hybrid rap song.

So do you think he’ll be asking you to score any films?

Nick: Yes. [laughs] God, everything… Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, everything. He literally made everything.

Amy: It would be amazing to work with him in the future, but I think we have a little ways to go before we’re at that level.

How did you celebrate after the performance?

Nick: Uh, we said hi to Steven Spielberg.

Amy: We went to the official after party, but it was more like a dinner party. We were surrounded by team Karmin. It was kind of an emotional night, because we had found out about Whitney [Houston's death] earlier.

Nick and I kind of shared a moment at the after party where we were thinking, ‘Can you believe 10 months ago we were making crappy YouTube videos in a little crappy apartment in Boston, and now we’re celebrating a great SNL performance with our team and our families and friends?’ It was amazing. I guess there was another after-after party, but we didn’t go to that. We had a music video shoot the next day.

Nick: Some of the people in the band got back at 7:30 a.m.

So you guys are really interesting to the O Music Blog because we cover social media and its effect on music. You guys are in there with Julia Nunes and Kina Grannis and Justin Bieber — these musicians who made it big through YouTube. How did you get into using YouTube as a medium?

Amy: You know, I wish we could say we started at the very beginning of YouTube. But Nick and I actually graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston and the economy tanked. We couldn’t find really great jobs. He was working at a boxing gym. I was a wedding singer. It was crazy.

I remember being so desperate for people to hear our music, but it was one of those situations where we didn’t have the money or the luxury to go out on the weekends and perform our music. We had to work every single day to get by. So I think it was this realization that there was this website called YouTube where you could upload your stuff for free, and there just happened to be millions of people waiting to watch something interesting. So that’s what we realized we needed to do.

We quickly found out that it had its own community and its own vibe. It was just so cool to be initiated into the YouTube world. People call us YouTube sensations, but we consider it like our family now. We went to visit them at their headquarters in San Francisco and we were able to thank the head of YouTube and Google for making it possible for artists like us to survive. It’s such a different industry these days. We hope that we can keep active in the YouTube world.

You said that YouTube is kind of a family. I know a lot of YouTube people help each other out when it comes to popularizing their videos. What kind of help did you give or get working with the YouTube community?

Amy: Absolutely. I would say that they helped us, it was not the other way around. There’s a guy called AJ Rafael who is based in California as well. He does a ton of charity work and he has way more followers than us. He’s incredible. Melissa Polinar — she’s an incredible artist. There’s a lot of people. We always wanted to work with people in person — we didn’t do too many long-distance collaborations like the really professional YouTubers who can collaborate over Skype and record it and edit it and put it together remotely.

Our manager — who used to be a friend of ours from college — has a company that puts together different collaborations called Raw Session. He flew me out — Nick had to work — to collab in person with all of these people. We did a song for John Lennon for what would have been his 70th birthday — ‘Imagine,’ a kind of tribute for him with six different YouTube people.

I’m curious to know how you feel about becoming popular via cover songs. You have a song called ‘Carbon Copy’ that kind of speaks to that.

Amy: It’s kind of an ironic song, right? When we started Karmin, we decided doing the covers was going to help us get the attention we needed. It’s such a big world and there’s so much noise out there. But we promised each other that we would never, ever, ever just buy the karaoke track and imitate somebody. All those cover songs — it took an original musical arrangement. We changed quite a bit. ‘Look At Me Now’ sounds nothing like the Chris Brown version.

That was our goal for the covers: To make sure that they’re just as original and as Karmin as possible, but make them recognizable so that people will search for them and share them with friends. And it was a great study for us to learn about hit songs and what they sound like. So when it came time for us to write our album it was super easy.

So you guys have a ton going on — and you’re getting married, too?

Amy: It hasn’t happened yet. We’re trying to plan something, but we need a whole week off. That’s the hard thing.

Image courtesy of Facebook, Karmin