TORONTO — A Great Big World made its mark on the music scene last year with the anthemic “This Is the New Year” — covered by the cast of Glee — and the heartbreaking ballad “Say Something.”
The latter got a boost when Christina Aguilera added her vocals to it, propelling A Great Big World’s Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino to stardom.
The duo’s unabashedly fun “Everybody is Gay” is on every Pride playlist this summer and the new single “Already Home” is giving hope to folks in long distance relationships.
A Great Big World is touring in support of the album Is There Anybody Out There? and will perform June 17 at Montreal’s Corona Theatre, June 24 at the Danforth Music Hall and on the Coca-Cola Stage at the Calgary Stampede on July 10.
A day after playing at the Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in New York City, Axel and Vaccarino spoke to Global News about their music, their success — and their living arrangements.
At what point did you realize that you made it?
Ian: Oh man, I would say when we performed at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party and we were with all the biggest stars in the world in this one room and we were performing alongside legends. When I was on stage and looking out to see who was in the room — that was a moment for me.
Chad: I feel like Christina entering into the picture was, for me, the life-changing moment. When does that happen and how does that happen to two artists that people don’t really know of? All of sudden it felt like our lives were being changed forever.
What has surprised you most about success?
Ian: How much harder you have to work. We both always thought there’d be a moment where we made it and then everything would just be easy. But it feels like we’re working the hardest we’ve ever worked, every single day. We’ve just been working harder and harder.
Chad: Also, I feel like this has been the best learning experience for us. Both Ian and I are the most confident we’ve ever been on stage and performing. With the hard work, the success is bringing a lot of firsts for us.
Why do you think “Say Something” has resonated with so many people?
Ian: It’s probably the most honest and vulnerable we’ve ever been writing a song. And that song was our therapy. It was a healing song for us. Every song that we write is pretty much a chapter in our lives and that was a huge, really important chapter for us. I think it’s raw, it’s quiet. And maybe there’s a lot of noise out there, especially on the radio, and that song is super quiet and forces you to listen to it when it comes on. We weren’t expecting the song to do as well as it’s doing. When our label wanted to push it to radio we were actually fighting it at first because we never thought a song like that can work.
Do you write songs for yourselves and hope they connect with people or do you set out to write songs that you know people will relate to?
Chad: We usually first dive into our own psyches. Trying to be as deep as we can within ourselves to uncover some truths that we didn’t know existed. And then it comes out as trying to connect with others, trying to relate to others. For the most part it’s mainly us finding something within.
Ian: At the same time we’re not alone. It’s easy to forget that everyone experiences the same things. To know that other people are out there connecting and listening — it takes the burden off and it kind of reminds us that we’re all in this thing together.
Talk about “Everyone Is Gay” and the importance of its message.
Chad: I am most proud performing that song and even writing that song was an awesome experience for me. I was bullied as a kid for my sexuality and feeling like I didn’t identify as gay but kids would tease me for being gay. I didn’t understand it. I don’t know, it kind of haunted me up until college. It wasn’t until I met Ian and figured out a lot of things in college that I realized there’s a spectrum of sexuality and we’re all part of it and you can be gay, you can be straight, you can be somewhere in the middle. And it’s a celebration and it’s speaking to the kids who are bullied or confused — or anyone who’s confused or feeling uneasy about their sexuality. You should be who you are and you should love who you love and this is life. Your feelings are not meant to be suppressed.
How important is social media to you?
Chad: I feel like social media for us goes in spurts. There are some months where we can’t stop tweeting and some months where we need a break so we can decompress. It’s amazing to connect with your fans and to engage with your fans and again, feel like you’re not alone in this and hopefully make them feel like they’re not alone.
You guys are coming to do shows in Canada. What can fans expect?
Ian: We’re playing the album. It’s probably a little more rockier than the album, and we have a cover or two. We’re just a bunch of guys having fun on stage. It’s a little bit more of a theatrical performance than what people would expect.
Chad: People can expect to dance a lot more than cry.
They say friends don’t always make great roommates or travel companions. Are you ready to spend a lot of time together on the road?
Ian: We’ve been living together for seven years and we’ve just both signed leases for independent apartments. For the first time!
Chad: Yeah, we’re separating for the first time.
Ian: So when we are home in New York we’re not killing each other, because we’re always together.
BELOW: Watch videos by A Great Big World.
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