Carrie Underwood Official News

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nikki Leonti Update

Carrie Underwood's former backup singer has come a long way and is making quite a name for herself. Imagine my delight when I saw her on last night's "Leno." She's quite good and I think you'll really enjoy the direction her career is taking.

Nikki & Rich - Performance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on 7/13/10

Nikki & Rich - Backstage

Nikki & Rich Biography

Upon first meeting the members of Nikki & Rich, the two come across as the prototypical odd couple. Soft-spoken and sophisticated Nikki Leonti is a Corona, CA-born pastor’s daughter who grew up singing in church and wasn’t permitted to listen to anything but gospel music as a child. Talkative extrovert Rich Velonskis is a Queens, NY-born former DJ and established hip-hop/R&B producer who got his start spinning in New York City clubs at the age of 16. On the surface, it might seem as if these two have little in common, but listen to the music the pair have created together and it becomes obvious that when opposites attract, it can yield some pretty amazing results.

Preorder their album today!

Now signed to Warner Bros. Records as Nikki & Rich, Leonti and Velonskis have been writing and recording up in Velonskis' Hollywood Hills home studio since December 2008. The songs they’ve come up with encompass everything from a present-day interpretation of R&B-pop to exuberant doo-wop pop-soul—a sound that, thanks to Leonti’s sassy, high-stepping vocal quality, captures all the fun and vitality of classic ’60s girl groups but is made thoroughly modern by Velonskis’ combination of hard-hitting, radio-ready beats, programmed keyboard flourishes, and live instrumentation. Imagine Lauryn Hill and The Supremes hanging out with Alicia Keys and listening to Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and you’re not far off.

“We didn’t want to make a tribute record to past artists and have it sound like something that came out 40 years ago,” Velonskis says. “We wanted to take the spirit and greatness of those times and bring them into the present day, and I think the way the music is produced and the style of Nikki’s writing bear that out. The album we’ve made sounds contemporary, not like a doo-wop throwback.”

“I’ve always loved gospel music, but you can’t get on pop radio today singing these big old songs,” Leonti says. “What we do enables me to keep my love and passion for soul, but still be a pop artist. It’s a great balance to incorporate both worlds.”

Leonti, who released two CCM albums on her own and has toured as a back-up singer for Carrie Underwood, and Velonskis were first introduced by Leonti’s management company in 2007. Velonskis, under his professional moniker Rich Skillz, had produced tracks for Eve, Robin Thicke, Mario, and Ludacris, and won a “Best Rap Album” Grammy Award thanks to a track he produced being included on Ludacris’ No. 1 Release Therapy. As part of his company Born Rich, Velonskis was looking for a strong vocalist and lyricist to collaborate with and take his tracks to the next level.

The result of their musical partnership is an upcoming album of brightly melodic soulful gems, like playful first single “Cat and Mouse” (which has been featured on Entourage and 90210 and is inspired by the hypocrisy of men, women, and dating), the cinematic sounding “Take The Lead,” the Motwon-esque “On The Run,” and the tears-on-your-pillow weepie “Show Ya” about the mistakes we make in relationships. “Lyrically the songs draw on the everyday things people deal with,” Leonti says. “Some of it is personal to me, some of it isn’t, but I think the subject matter — like someone cheating, making bad choices in love, or trying to win someone over — are things that a lot of people can relate to.”

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