Norwegian super duo Nico & Vinz just released their highly anticipated album Black Star Elephant and are now taking the world by storm. We had a chat with them about the new album, the road to success and what’s next.
Four years ago they launched themselves as Envy and released their debut album The Magic Soup and The Bittersweet Faces in 2012. One year later they released their hit single Am I wrong which came to be their international breakthrough by reaching number one in the UK, Canada, and number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After performing with Bruno Mars their moving on to touring with Usher come February. We had a chat with them about their new album, the road to success and what’s next.
How did you meet?
Nico: We met in 2009 through the person that’s our manager today. I was making music with him and then I traveled to the Ivory Coast for a year, where my father is from, and during that time he was making music with Vincent and when I came back he suggested that the two of us should start working together to see if we were a good fit. Which we were, we had great chemistry on stage and in the studio and most important of all, we had the same dreams, goals and visions. So we decided to just go for it and form a group. And back then we called ourselves Envy.
Why did you choose the name Envy?
Vincent: Really we just wanted a name for our duo but we couldn’t find one that we liked and then a friend of ours came up with the idea Envy. “(E)N” for Nico and “V(Y)” for Vincent, so we went with that one since we didn’t have anything else. And we kept Envy for four years.
When did you change your name to Nico & Vinz?
V: Earlier this year.
Do you like this name more since it’s a bit more personal?
N: Yes, definitely. It’s us!
When did you start with music?
N: We have always been very interested in music and my father is s a musician so I’ve always been around music. When I was 16 I made my first song but it was just as a hobby, nothing more.
It’s a lot about an inner struggle, especially since we have mixed identities and identify ourselves with two different countries and cultures
Who do you look up to?
V: My mother, she’s from Ghana and came to Norway in the 80s. And she’s always been working really hard and has made real sacrifices in order to provide for our family and so that I could have the possibilities that I’ve had. And because of her and her determination I’ve been given the mentality that I have today and for me, it’s about being able to give back to her and our family in Ghana.
N: I have always been very inspired by my father and I look up to people who posses big dreams and aren’t afraid of actually achieving the things they’re talking about. I also think that my work ethic comes from the place I grew up in in Norway, where a lot of immigrants lived. Growing up you constantly heard people talking negatively about immigrants and about that place, you could hear it all over the news. So it was always important for us to show that we also could make something of ourselves, and to prove to Norway that we also had talents. I’m also really inspired by musicians who dares to fight, that will stand up for what they believe in like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson etc. Just like it was back then, it’s equally as important today to stand up for yourself.
V: Yeah, it’s a lot about an inner struggle as well, especially since we have mixed identities and identify ourselves with two different countries and cultures. And we’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a country filled with possibilities and that’s not something you shouldn’t take for granted. And that’s what the new album is about. To see the world’s true colors and all the cruelness that’s going on, and the gratefulness of what we have.
The Black Star Elephant works as a symbol and a metaphor for us
Can you tell us about your new album?
N: We’ve named the album Black Star Elephant because as Vinz previously mentioned he’s from Ghana and the people there call themselves for “Black Stars”. And my father is from the Ivory Coast and over there they call themselves “Les Elephants” in French. And this has created a character that we’ve chosen to name The Black Star Elephant that works as a symbol and a metaphor for us. In the album we go through his story as he grows up and his journey.
So the songs are chronologically organized?
N: Exactly, and we also have some interludes narrated by my father and uncle, so it turns into a story.
V: Basically we wanted to create something more than just an album with 14 songs, not just a single here and a single there. We really wanted to show our work and explore the opportunity we have been given.
How does it differ from your first album?
N: Oh it’s a lot! First of all we’ve found a sound that’s 100% Nico & Vinz. It’s a mixture between our African heritage and our Norwegian background, and it has more of a pop vibe to it than our first album. Back then it was more of and urban touch and Hip Hop.
V: But it has the same honesty as our new one and the same strive to tell the listeners about our experiences.
Which show has been the most memorable to you?
N: I have to say the Nobel Prize, it was such an honor to preform! It was such a big arena and so many cameras everywhere.
V: And it was live and a real orchestra was playing.
N: The plan was to first preform our second single In your arms and then Am I wrong and that would be when the people would get out of their chairs and start dancing. But when we got out there the audience was already standing up and cheering for us. I just got this overwhelming feeling of being home, Norway will always have a special place in my heart.
How do you feel about Am I wrong’ s breakthrough in the U.S.?
N: It’s really crazy and also kind of satisfying since that’s what the song is really about. Making it internationally, not just in Scandinavia. To dare to be different and take a risk and see where it will lead you.
So what’s next for Nico & Vinz?
N: First and foremost we’re traveling around promoting our album. And in February we’re going on a tour with Usher. It’s going to be great to be able to perform in large arenas. And it will also be exciting to play our new songs from the album.
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