Artist Interview: MKTO's Tony Oller breaks the mold and discusses his move from Nickelodeon acting to platinum selling music

Artist Interview: MKTO's Tony Oller breaks the mold and discusses his move from Nickelodeon acting to platinum selling music

MusicJuly 01, 2014

Having something go platinum still means a lot to musicians. It means people like them and want to see them around for a while. It’s praise. Above all else though, it means that people actually paid for their music - a shocking anomaly in today’s finicky world of album streaming, track downloading and frugally pinching hard-earned, but too little paychecks.

That platinum distinction is real for LA pop-duo MKTO. As of last month their song “Classic” went certified platinum in the U.S. It also holds the status of being double platinum in Australia. Multifaceted co-frontman Tony Oller (The Purge, Beneath The Darkness) and his band mate Malcolm Kelley make up the pop-centric outfit and will perform live at The Gothic Theatre this Saturday July 5. Oller allowed us a quick sneak peak into their world before the bus rolls into town this weekend.

You and Malcolm met on the set of a Nickelodeon show, yeah? Tell us about how that turned into a musical partnership.

Yeah, we played best friends on a show (Gigantic) and it lasted about a season. We just stayed in touch and found ourselves putting stuff up on YouTube and recording stuff on Garage Band. We saw the response and thought it’d be a cool thing to do. It’s a perfect fit, I’m glad it happened when it did.

Was acting or music your first passion growing up?

Well, I started in theater and just kinda got so much crap for it, and that made it hard to want to do it. Music has always been a passion - both of ours. It’s now the right timing and worked out perfectly in our favor. We’re still in acting, though, whenever we can. Stuff’s busy, so that’s a good thing.

Your breakout single “Classic” grabs people and has the super catchy element needed for pop. Did you have an idea that it would be so big?

No! We like all the songs; we consider them all our babies. It’s just more or less whether the listener thinks the same way. We love the track. We thought it was a great track. It has a great melody. Especially for the older generations, we have some throwbacks in it. We’re happy it went the way it did, it just went platinum so we’re excited for that and more to come.

The hook in "Classic" makes references to a lot of musical icons including Michael Jackson. Do you have a favorite song of his?

Oh man, that’s a hard question. I mean, yeah, "Billie Jean." "Black or White" is probably one of my favorites too because I love the guitar lick in it. He’s huge and has done so many great records. Like the whole Thriller record? There’s so many people we could have named in that song, but these people we just wanted to pay homage to.

How about Prince, any favorite songs of his?

I would say “Kiss” has always been the one that I always dug. I enjoy his live performance more though. It’s just a crazy whirlwind of features.

Artists coming out of Disney and Nickelodeon have to break a certain mold to be taken serious on other levels. Do you think you’ve broken it?

I think in general it’s just about doing the music we like to do. We get to more or less be ourselves. We’re not worried about it. At the end of the day everyone is gonna say what they’re gonna say. We’re two young dudes getting to travel the world and making music – that’s the only reason why we’re doing it. This is the time we get to be ourselves as opposed to any other time.

Your new self-titled album is out now. Are you guys working on something new yet?

We’ve definitely got some new songs; we’re always recording. We’re just waiting for the right time to release them.

Are any of those new tracks in the current setlist?

No, no, we’re definitely keeping them under wraps for now. The newer stuff will definitely be more mature sounding. We’re always working on new stuff.

Is that the future plan for MKTO? Finish tour and keep writing?

Absolutely, I think that’s the only thing you can do as an artist. We’re excited for more. It’s good to be back in the states and do this tour. But then we have the Demi Lovato tour. We just have a lot of touring coming up and to continue writing.

Editor's note: Want a fancy sample of the goods before the show? MKTO will perform its single “American Dream” on Good Morning America this Thursday July 3 (national call-in sick day). They also have a video posted of their performance on ABC’s The View. Watch it here.