Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller owe thanks to their short-lived TeenNick sitcom Gigantic.
The 18-episode, 30-minute comedy series that aired for one season in 2010-2011 didn’t break Nielsen ratings or win an Emmy, but it did serve as the meeting ground for Kelley and Oller to develop a real bond that transcended the show.
Three years later, the actors have not only rebranded themselves as singers in the Columbia Records band MKTO (a combination of their initials), but they have a Top 40 single "Classic" to their credit.
"When the TV show ended, we stayed in contact," Kelley, the group’s rapper, tells Yahoo Music. "We played best friends on the show and became best friends." In addition to being less than a year apart in age – Kelley is 22 and Oller is 23 – they are both bachelors, and love music.
Kelley says music is one of the things that fostered their friendship. "When we hung out, we always ended up making music," he says. "When you meet somebody who loves music as much as you do, if not more, it’s like you start to bring your styles to the table," he adds.
Kelley and Oller ended up recording covers of songs by Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, and Bruno Mars during their pastimes and, on a whim, uploading them to YouTube. They quickly caught the attention of Columbia Records and signed a deal. "I don’t think either one of us expected that to happen," Kelley explains.
Kelley and Oller bring their musical styles together on their self-titled debut, melding R&B, hip-hop, pop, and rock. "That’s kinda what we wanted to do," Kelley adds. "We love all types of music from ballads, from pop to country to rock. We love everything."
Though Kelley and Oller have had opportunities to showcase their musicianship on some of their acting projects – Kelley appears in the cult, dance classic movie You Got Served and Oller sang duets with Demi Lovato on Disney’s As the Bell Rings – Kelley says there’s a big difference between making music for a scripted project and as a recoding artist. "With music, you have a short amount of time to get your point across, in a movie you have a little bit more time to explain things," he says.
Even though acting came first for Kelley, he always wanted to pursue a music career. He viewed recording songs as a means for telling stories and wanted to take some time to develop his chops. "I just wanted to grow a little bit more while I was acting, so I started to focus on acting," he says. "As I got older and started dealing with women and dealing with problems, music was just a great outlet."
MKTO’s transition from acting to singing and rapping has worked out perfectly.