By Lisa Occhino
Photos provided by DKC Public Relations
A month ago, Rolling Stone announced Boston pop duo and Berklee alumni, Karmin, as the winner of their “Women Who Rock” contest. The two finalists, Karmin and Rita Ora, racked up close to a million votes on rollingstone.com/womenwhorock. Karmin’s lead singer, Amy Heidemann, appeared on the flip cover of the September 28th issue with a spread inside the magazine of Amy and her band mate/fiancé, Nick Noonan.
We published a “quickie Q&A” with Karmin over the summer, but we were so proud of all that our fellow Berklee-ites have accomplished since then that we just had to get the inside scoop on everything in a follow-up interview. Below, Amy and Nick tell The Groove what the Rolling Stone photo shoot was like, what they’re going to be working on in the studio in November, and the top three things musicians have to do in order to achieve success.
Berklee Groove: Congratulations on winning the Women Who Rock contest! That is such a huge accomplishment, and I know everyone here at Berklee is absolutely thrilled for the both of you. So how did the competition work?
Amy Heidemann: The Rolling Stone editorial staff chose the contestants. I forget all of them, but I know there were some really heavy hitters… It was all fan-voted. People had to vote to get us into the final round, which was then whittled down to two contestants. And then of course the big vote-out was the very final round, in which the winner got the cover [of Rolling Stone].
BG: What was running through your head when they broke the news to you that you won?
Amy: We were actually pretty convinced that we had lost. We were up against a girl [named Rita Ora] who’s very popular in the UK. She’s got like, ten times the social media support that we do, and she’s also Jay-Z’s new protégé, so that was a little daunting. So we had our loser answer prepared… but then they told us we won, and we freaked out! [video: Karmin finds out they won]
“They have to put together a magazine every two weeks, so it’s always down to the wire.”
BG: Being on the cover of Rolling Stone is nearly every musician’s dream and a huge milestone in your career. Was this a goal you had actually set out to accomplish, or did it take you by surprise?
Amy: It’s funny because we put an album out last May and it got mixed reviews from everybody, I think because it was so unique – I mean hey, we’re from Berklee, we’re gonna make some pretty crazy music. The person that reviewed it at Rolling Stone was not a fan, so when we got nominated to be in the contest, we were shocked. But yeah, that’s one of the big tickets up there with winning a Grammy. We’re just excited that it happened so early, and we can’t wait for our next cover.
BG: What was the photo shoot like? Can you tell us some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went on?
Nick Noonan: The photographer happened to be the one… that shot the Gwen Stefani cover, and a lot of iconic ones in the last 12 years, so we were really pumped about that.
Amy: They have to put together a magazine every two weeks, so it’s always down to the wire. You get there and they’re still pulling clothes and deciding what they want your hair to look like. It was really cool; we were very comfortable. All the art direction people were just really creative. We went out into New York – where was it?
Nick: Washington Square.
Amy: And we took pictures with random things… It was really fun.
BG: What is the next big milestone you’re hoping to accomplish?
Nick: We’re actually kind of going back – the ‘album’ that came out in May was kind of an EP, so we’re looking to finish that album. We’re going back in the studio for the entire month of November, and really just kind of getting back to Karmin roots, bringing in live instruments, and doing the whole thing – we’re getting really excited about that again.
Amy: Yeah, this whole last year has been such a whirlwind, and we’ve learned so much. I think now that we know the rules of the game, we’re gonna go back in and kind of… incubate, and we’re gonna Karminate. And we’re gonna come back out with that album – I think that one is expected at the top of next year. The rest of this year we’re definitely still touring, we’re doing a bunch of holiday shows. We actually have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. And you’ll see Karmin on TV a couple more times too.
“If you want to be a real working musician, you’re gonna have to swallow your pride sometimes.”
BG: What would you say are the top three things musicians have to do in order to achieve success and be able to do music fulltime?
Nick: That’s tough. There are a bunch of things I could think of…
Amy: I would say general points to follow would be – what should we say?
Nick: I’ll say get out of your own way a little bit. Coming from Berklee… if you want to be a real working musician, you’re gonna have to swallow your pride sometimes, and just play music to play music.
Amy: Related to that, remember what made you excited about being a musician in the first place. For us, it was just going back to pop music. The second thing would be to just work your tail off… We would spend 15-17 hours a day just working on Karmin, whether that was emailing people, or creating a new video, or tweeting – you really wanna get into that stuff, and really just immerse yourself in it.
Nick: And number three: don’t be a dick. Seriously, it’s an extremely social industry. People talk, people like talking… There are a lot of amazing players out there, and a lot of those amazing players will never be on tours. It’s the people that know how to talk to people, and want to talk to people, and want to make friends –
Amy: Yeah, and that show up on time. It’s really crazy, just being nice can get you so far.
BG: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans at Berklee and in Boston?
Nick: We just want to say hi to everybody! I know we haven’t been back there for a minute, but we can’t wait to come back. Hopefully we can bring the full band, do it up, and have a full show.
Amy: We want to do a real show at Berklee, or somewhere close by. And thank you everybody for your support. We get your Facebook messages, we just haven’t been able to respond… our Facebook pages are a little frozen, but we love everybody so much, and yeah – just keep in touch!