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'The Book of Life' and Writing Your Own Story; An Interview with Us the Duo

'The Book of Life' and Writing Your Own Story; An Interview with Us the Duo

The Book of Life is a story about relationships and going through whatever means necessary to be with the one you love. It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the prominent songs in the film is “No Matter Where You Are” by the talented husband and wife team, Us the Duo. It’s a song that captures all of the themes in the film and perfectly describes the relationship between the two main characters, Manolo and Maria, who are voiced by Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana. Shakefire sat down with Us the Duo’s Michael and Carissa Alvarado to discuss having their song in the film and their sudden rise in popularity over the last few months.

Us the Duo’s rise in popularity took off when they started posting six second covers of popular songs through the social media app Vine. Within a month they already had amassed one million followers.  

“We were scratching our heads like, ‘How did this happen? This is crazy!’ explains Michael. “And we kept going. Every single day we’d make a new cover, we’d change our outfits, and next thing you know we have another million followers in another 30 days.”

That kind of attention landed them on Good Morning America and a record deal with Republic Records. “Now we’re at four million followers about and it’s all happened in a matter of six month so we’re trying to adjust to this life, you know. We’re used to just being at home and cutting our grass, and playing with our dog, and watching Home and Garden television.”

In addition to GMA and Republic Records, Us the Duo also caught the attention of the folks over at 20th Century Fox, who were looking for a song for their upcoming animated film, The Book of Life, that encompasses the themes of family, love, following passion, and writing your own story. Us the Duo’s “No Matter Where You Are” fit every one of the criteria.

 

 

The song is unique in that Michael and Carissa sang the song during their wedding in place of saying vows.

“It just became the perfect match for this particular scene in the movie that calls for this emotive capture,” he says. “It was really a great fit, and we’ve had such a blast working with the FOX team and so glad they thought of us for this opportunity.”

“It’s a pretty triumphant final scene, and it’s the apex of their emotions and their love,” Carissa chimes in. “They [Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana] do sing it, which is really crazy, because we’ve always wanted and dreamed for one of our songs to make into a feature film, but what’s even cooler about The Book of Life is that the characters are actually singing our parts. Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna are just amazing vocalists too and actors. It’s super cool to see that happen.”

For the film, “No Matter Where You Are” was given a Latin makeover, which Us the Duo had the pleasure of being involved in. It’s easy to just sign off ones music to be used in a film and then just walk away, but the song has such a personal connection to Michael and Carissa that FOX wanted them involved in the entire process of adapting it for the film.

“We came in at the very end process of the movie, and it was the like the last piece of the puzzle,” says Michael. “We met with the FOX team and marketing department over and over and just talked about how we wanted the song to be interpreted because the characters had not been animated to our song yet so we could tweak things around.They wanted to really understand the emotions that we had when writing the song. And we had a say in the arrangement and they brought in the orchestra from London. They had this whole orchestral scene to it and we got to hear every step of the way. When we see the movie, we can kinda see a culmination of both of our minds coming to life.”

But all of this sudden fame is still second to what they really care most about, each other.

 

 

“We got together, we got married, we played music for fun, says Carissa. “It wasn’t until after we finally got married where we were like, ‘Let’s seriously do this together.’ This is what we love to do. We love to just hang out with our best friend all day so this works out really well.”  

“It was a natural fit,” adds Michael. “Like she said, we got married first so we figured out that we are in love and music was just an extension of that. It was kinda an afterthought. It’s a good balance to keep that in mind as this success continues so we can always focus on our marriage and our relationship first and music will come after that.”

Closing out the interview, I asked them each how they would describe their music to someone who never heard it before using only one sentence. After some quick thinking and a few do-overs, Michael said “Our music is an extension of our relationship one pop song at a time.”

“You pretty much nailed it. You took what I was going to say right out of my mouth,” Carissa responded with a big smile on her face.

As far as what comes next after The Book of Life, Us the Duo are currently touring the country with Oprah as part of her “The Life You Want Weekend” tour promoting the film in addition to their own music tour. You can see what cities they'll be in next on their official website. The Book of Life will be in theaters on Friday, October 17, 2014.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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