There’s an unexpected musical feature on Us The Duo’s new Christmas album, and it’ll thrill the ‘Anchorman’ fans out there. The pair also talks about ‘DWTS’ and more!
Us The Duo — husband and wife Michael and Carissa Alvarado — has just released their holiday album Our Favorite Time of Year exclusively on Amazon Music, and it’s a winner. Of course, the first thing I had to ask was whether the title is true…and how many times they’ve gotten that question already. “It actually is our favorite time of year!” Carissa tells me, laughing.
“When we think of the holidays and Christmastime, we think of all the great memories we’ve had. Drinking wine and eating cookies…it makes you feel cozy and warm and we love it,” she adds. Oh, same. Check out the rest of our Q&A below.
Let’s talk about the record. What’s the story?
Carissa: We’ve never put out a Christmas album before, and we’re super excited about it. Again, we love Christmas! There are some originals and classics that we’ve put our own spin on.
How did you put your own twist on the covers?
Michael: We made a long list of the covers we wanted to try, then sat down at the piano to figure out what worked best with our voices. We wanted to pay homage to traditional songs, but switch it up on a few. We didn’t want to touch “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” for example, and did it simply. But “Silent Night” is historically very slow, and we were like, let’s make it upbeat. I played a samba riff on the guitar and we called this jazz flute player to come in and play. It turns out that it was the guy who played flute for Ron Burgundy in Anchorman!
Carissa: Yeah, I fangirled.
Michael: We were like, we have to get this guy for sure. We were calling him the “Yazz Flute” player in the studio the entire time. He came on and tore it up. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record.
You’ve celebrated more than a few Christmases together at this point. What was the most stellar year?
Michael Alvarado: I’d say our first Christmas having a house together was the most special. On the corner there was a tree farm, and we only had a small car, so I was like, I’ll carry the tree on my shoulder. We found the perfect one and I put it on my shoulder like some crazy lumberjack, it was super heavy —
Carissa: — Branches are falling off —
Michael: — Everything’s falling off, and Carissa’s taking pictures of me the whole time and laughing and cars are beeping. It was worth it.
You just performed on the TODAY Show. I love that you had a strings section!
Michael: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” has always been one of our favorite songs, and one thing that was important to us in the recording was to add strings. So we created this gorgeous symphony sound and when I played the rough mix for Carissa in our house…what was your reaction?
Carissa: I cried. I was tearing up. It’s such an emotional song. When the strings came on, I was like, “this is beautiful.”
Michael: So on the TODAY Show, we asked our manager about the possibility of getting a strings section. We’d never played live with strings before, and it would be really cool. But we had four days to pull it together and I was like, we’ll never find four people to do it in the early morning. He called me back and said, my fiancee’s roommate is a Juilliard string player and they know some people! When we got to the studio and they started playing, the tear thing happened again. I also got to play a nice baby grand piano and Carissa had this elegant dress…it was a moment.
What was it like singing during Dancing with the Stars for the pair that ended up winning?
Carissa: We’re really excited that they won. They deserve it and are so sweet and hardworking. When I was younger, I’d watch DWTS all the time with my parents, and it’s a great show!
Michael: There’s so much talent, it’s crazy.
Carissa: It was a real honor to perform on that episode because it was about memories and it was a very emotional episode. Lots of tears that night. Hearing Jordan Fisher‘s story and seeing them hug at the end, it was hard to not cry while I was singing! It was an honor.
Any set secrets?
Michael: The set seems so huge on TV but you get in there and it’s actually quite small! It was a cool show. We got to meet Tom Bergeron, too. He came to our dressing room and told us we’re awesome. I used to watch him as a kid on America’s Funniest Home Videos and we hung out.
Speaking of people on the show, I feel like a collaboration between you and Lindsey Stirling would be so good.
Michael: She’d be cool!
Carissa: We saw her in hair and makeup…
Michael: We talked about doing something this Christmas together, but scheduling didn’t work out because she was on the show. Maybe next year!
Has there been a celebrity fan of your band?
Michael: Steph Curry follows us on Instagram! We’ve heard through the grapevine that he likes our tunes. He’s the man. That would be the top one.
Finally, you got started on Vine. What do you miss about it?
Carissa: We used to do a cover every single day. Our voices grew and stretched, so I miss the exercise of vocalizing and practicing, and getting creative with fun covers! I also miss the funny Vines. It was the place for comedy.
Michael: I like the confines of 6 seconds. I’d spend hours sifting through the Vines and only show her the good ones!
Carissa: RIP Vine.