New pop duo Nikki & Rich merge retro and modern sounds

Among the many new artists releasing albums in 2010, chances are that few sound anything like pop duo Nikki & Rich. Combining the sounds of 60s girl groups and modern, radio-ready beats, the group’s sound is refreshingly different. Chalk that up to the approaches of the two individuals who create Nikki & Rich.

Nikki & Rich is comprised of Nikki Leonti, a former background vocalist for Carrie Underwood who serves as the group’s vocalist and songwriter, and Rich “Rich Skillz” Velonskis, a Grammy-winning hip-hip/R&B producer who creates the group’s music.

The two paired up after a series of emails and collaborations where Nikki wanted to fine tune her songwriting. Rich, who was working on developing a new project in the wake of winning a Grammy for his work on Ludacris’ Release Therapy, realized he had the perfect match in working with Nikki.

The work is paying off. After landing a development deal with Reprise Records, the duo started work on their debut album, due out later this year. To tide fans over, the group has released an EP, the appropriately titled Next Best Thing. The EP captures the basics of how the group describes their full-length album – songs with vocals out of the 60s, production out of the 21st century, and lyrics that are timeless.

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

Nikki agrees.

“Lyrically the songs draw on the everyday things people deal with,” Nikki 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 relationships, or trying to win someone over – are things that a lot of people can relate to.”

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