The title of their debut record, Is There Anybody Out There?, is probably a rhetorical question since Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, better known as the duo A Great Big World, have been sitting in the top ten of the iTunes charts with their nearly double platinum, hit single "Say Something" featuring Christina Aguilera for months.
The duo met nearly eight years ago at NYU. "I stalked Chad down in a practice room one night and made him listen to the songs I was writing," Axel joked. "I was really looking for a collaborator of sorts, and Chad was 'too busy' for new friends and so I had to be persistent. It wasn't my intention to sing though. Once Chad heard the songs I was writing, he helped me finish them and pushed me to sing them!"
A Great Big World took a break from prepping the release of Is There Anybody Out There? (available January 21) and a US tour that includes a February 5 Nashville stop at 12th and Porter, to talk to O&AN about their crazy whirlwind since they got the call from Christina Aguilera, what fans can expect from their shows and a secret musical project.
In October you were playing for thousands at Atlanta Pride and in November you were performing for millions on The Voice– has it just been a whirlwind ride for you guys?
It's been so intense. It feels like we got shot up in a rocket and we are holding on tight. All of our wildest dreams are coming true but we haven't had a moment to process it all!
When you guys got the call from Christina Aguilera, what went through your head?
We were in disbelief. We were like "Us?! Christina?! Is she sure?!" It just wasn't news we could have ever expected in a million lifetimes. We were floored, and felt humbled and a little scared!
Did you expect “Say Something” to affect people the way that it has?
It's always been a really powerful song for us. It came at a really difficult time and helped heal our broken hearts. We wrote it years ago, but decided to record it for our recent album because we knew it hadn't reached the people we wanted it to. But what the song is doing is on a whole different level than anything we expected. It'salmost as if the song has a mind of its own. It's bigger than us.
The video is heartbreaking. When you filmed, were the vignettes for the video filmed separately from your performances?
Sometimes they were, and sometimes they weren't. Everything was done on the same day, in the some place. And there's one scene towards the end of the video where the three of us are at the piano and you can see the vignettes in the background.
Some people might not know you had a song on Glee much like fun. and “I Really Want It” from the new album reminds me of the band's playfulness but also of their reflection on life- are you hearing that comparison a lot?
We are hearing that comparison a lot, and we love it. They have a really similar story to us, and we really like their writing and dream of reaching as many people as they have.
You're releasing Is There Anybody Out There? next week, how excited are you to get this group of songs out into the world?
SOOOOOOOOOO excited. A lot of these songs we wrote years ago. So it will be a huge weight off our shoulders. We are so proud of the songs. We poured our hearts into them.
The album seems to really speak to this lost generation who is figuring things out and making their mark on the world- does that accurately sum up where you guys are this moment? Making your mark on the world?
Wow. Thank you. It's hard to respond to that! We definitely feel great purpose in what we are doing. "Say Something" for example is a song we wrote years ago when we never felt more alone. And to think that it's reaching this many people now is so hard to process. But we believe the songs come from a place that we are all connected to. Call it "universal consciousness" or "God" or whatever you want. We just feel so lucky to be a part of it.
“Already Home” and “There is an Answer” are already favorites of mine- do you guys have any favorites from the album?
Aw thank you! It's hard to pick a favorite, but a few that come to mind are "Rockstar," "Everyone is Gay," and "Shorty Don't Wait."
How about the song “Everyone is Gay”- you guys created that track for a friend correct?
Our friends Kristin and Danielle run the website everyoneisgay.com. They give all sorts of advice to kids who are struggling with or have questions related to sexuality. They were putting together a compilation album filled with the "gayest songs ever" and asked us to write one of them. We are so into what they stand for, so it was a big "Yes!"
Why is equality important to A Great Big World?
We're all in this thing together. We believe that everyone is a reflection of everyone else. That literally and collectively, we are one. And what ties us all together – the common thread – is love. And we feel a great responsibility as artists to spread that love and positivity in our music.
After the song’s release didn’t some people mistakenly thing you guys were dating?
People have always thought we were dating. (laughs)
Your first Nashville show was rescheduled- what can people expect from your February show?
Expect to smile. We're a bunch of guys running around the stage like fools playing music we love with our friends. It's pretty high energy. And Chad's excited for Nashville to know that he sings, too!
Will this be your first trip to Nashville?
We've been to Nashville before, but just a few times. This will be only our second show in Nashville with the band.
So, what’s next for A Great Big World?
Hopefully a lot of touring and many more records. We're also writing a musical, but shhhh you're not supposed to know!
A Great Big World will play at 12th and Porter on February 5. Enter for your chance to win below or purchase your tickets here.