10 Questions with ... A Great Big World
March 14, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
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A Great Big World is Ian Axel & Chad King (Singers/Songwriters/Recording Artists).
The magical journey of A Great Big World began in the music practice rooms of NYU (New York University) where Ian and Chad were attending college. In 2012, after a few twists and turns of fate, the friends formed A Great Big World and released a six-song EP funded by Kickstarter. It spawned the viral sensation "Everyone Is Gay" and "This Is the New Year," which was performed by the cast on Fox's Glee.
Soon after, Black Magnetic/Epic Records offered the duo a deal, and issued "Say Something" as their first official single in 2013. Its terse, tearful piano and Axel's heavenly hypnotic vocals tugged on heartstrings, and struck a chord. After hearing it during a pivotal segment of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, Christina Aguilera fell in love with the song. She collaborated with AGBW on a new recording of the track that they subsequently performed together on NBC's The Voice, which launched it to #1 on iTunes. More TV performances followed (The American Music Awards, The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show), culminating with the song's release on AGBW's debut album, "Is There Anybody Out There?" (January 2014).
"Say Something" ultimately occupied the #1 spot on iTunes, Billboard's Digital Songs, Digital Tracks, Adult Top 40, and Hot Dance Club Songs charts, as well as Spotify and Shazam, in addition to going Top 10 on sales charts in 19 countries. After turning in a riveting performance at Clive Davis' prestigious annual pre-Grammy(r) party in January 2014, A Great Big World toured from May through August across the U.S. and Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. For the remainder of 2014, into 2015, A Great Big World was hard at work on new music that they were eager to present to their legions of fans across the globe. The release of "Hold Each Other" in July 2015 set the stage for the arrival of their second album "When the Morning Comes" last November.
1) Hey there Ian and Chad! Where does our interview find you today? What else is on the agenda besides our interview?
Ian: Today we are at Chad's apartment in New York City. When we're done with this interview, we are going to be writing our Broadway musical that we've been working on for over three years!
2) You both met while attending NYU. Did you have any classes together? How soon after meeting did you know you wanted to start a band with one another?
Ian: That right! We were in a music writing/publishing class. We were both studying Music Business and in the same group for a project. I knew that Chad was a writer and I was looking for someone to write with and basically, I had just transferred into the school and I had no friends. (laughs)
"Chad was very closed off to being my friend and collaborating with me and I kinda forced it on him...and here we are today!"
When I played piano for Chad for the first time, he freaked out. He wasn't singing and he was like, "You're gonna be a star! You're gonna sing and I'm gonna manage you!" He had on his little manager cap and I don't know ... he was very much like a business man. As we started writing together, he started singing. In our relationship, we push one another constantly.
3) You just released your full length, second album: "When The Morning Comes" which is a bit different than your hit song, "Say Something" in that it is for the most part, very upbeat. Was there a type of mood or vibe that you wanted to infuse into the new album or was it more organic?
Chad: I don't think we had an intention of a vibe or energy that we wanted the album to have, but I do think that the "Say Something" phenomena put us in a place where we were like, really analyzing pop music and what works and what doesn't.
There was a period where we were writing with all sorts of writers for the sake of writing a pop hit. After those sessions, it felt like we were empty. It felt like those sessions didn't fill us at all. It didn't feel like we were doing what we were meant to do.
We eventually realized that what was at the heart of our music, was at the heart of us which is being as honest and true to us as we can be and not necessarily trying to write a pop hit, but by circumstance, it might be a pop hit. So, we ended up going that route with our writing and by connecting to who we are and being as honest as possible. I think we came up with these songs that we are both super proud of and these songs represent a time and a place in our lives that we are really happy to have.
4) Please tell us about your current single "Oasis" which is currently doing well at Hot AC?
Chad: Our new single is called, "Oasis" and we are about to shoot the music video for that one and we're super excited about that. I don't know if the director has been announced yet, but the video is super cool.
Ian: Yeah, we're taking some risks and it's a little bit "out there". We're actually shooting it tomorrow. We're excited!
5) Take our readers back for a moment, you performed on The Voice with Christina Aguilera for over 14 million viewers and performing on a "not so little" show called The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. That has got to be a bit nerve wracking! Do you have any pre-show rituals to calm your nerves?
Chad: I would say the thing we do most, before a show or performance is meditate.
Ian: No, it's actually ... (sings) "Ba..BA...Ba..Ba..Bababaaaaaa" (laughs) It's actually annoying vocal warm ups. Chad does them more than me.
Chad: I probably meditate for about ten minutes and then I do the vocal warm up. It just feels really good to sit still, close your eyes and just breathe and recognize where you are or don't even recognize anything and just be. So, that's my ritual.
6) I was able to see you perform with Christina Aguilera at KISS FM's Wango Tango awhile back. What was something you learned about Christina (in general) that you didn't know before you met her?
Ian: I learned that she's really into street art. We were over at her house recently and she just has the most beautiful art on her walls. This one Banksy piece is just so stunning and I was just in awe to be in the presence of it. I'm a big street art fan too, so that was something pretty cool to learn about her.
Chad: In general, Christina's work ethic is pretty amazing. When she is going in for a session, she is like 150% in it and that makes you have to be 150% into it with her. That was amazing and inspiring.
7) On your debut album, "Is There Anybody Out There?" you have a song called, "Everyone Is Gay". How did that song come about and why was it important for you to put it on the album?
Ian: Chad you could answer this...
Chad: Why do I have to answer this? Is it because I'm gay? (laughs)
Ian: Okay, I'll answer this. (laughs) Our friends, Danielle and Kristen ran a website called, www.everyoneisgay.com and they were putting a compilation album together to raise money for a college tour they were doing where they would go to different colleges and campuses, talking to kids about their sexuality and asking any sex related questions and giving advice...Chad's laughing at me.
Chad: I don't think they had the intention of asking any sex related questions. (laughing)
Ian: They absolutely did! I read some of the questions they were getting ... so anyway ... moving on (laughing) They asked us to be a part of the compilation and they were asking their friends to write "the gayest song ever" for the "gayest compilation ever."
So, we wrote the song and it just became an equality anthem for us and I mean, it was powerful for us because it was the first time we were singing about the issue.
When we were playing it at shows across the country, that's when we started to notice how powerful it really is to sing that message when we are in areas like Salt Lake City at a show where the majority of the audience is Mormon, or in Alabama where someone came up to us after the show and said that their parents were sitting next to them and thank you for playing that song because they even tried to perform an exorcism on them because of their sexuality.
"We are super grateful to be able to spread that message and to give people hope and to help them realize they are beautiful and perfect, the way that they are."
8) Other songs that carry a similar message of acceptance such as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" have been somewhat criticized because they have come from straight artists. So, you Ian are straight and you Chad, are gay. What do you think about such criticism? Should the sexuality of the artist even matter?
Chad: I think the whole point, is that sexuality doesn't matter in general. It's like, it doesn't matter if that message is coming from a gay or straight person. They are preaching this message of love, equality and unity.
Ian: That criticism that, that message should come from a gay person and not a straight person is the very issue. There are no divisions here. It doesn't matter who sings that message. It's about being separate from the labels and it's just an illusion.
9) What was the first song you fell in love with or the first song that had the biggest impact on you growing up?
Ian: Okay, so I'm gonna spin this question and say, the first two albums that I ever bought on my own were...the "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack and Michael Jackson "Dangerous." But I also want to say that Disney movie musicals like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" and "Aladdin" had probably the most impact on me growing up.
Chad: I would say that the first albums that I bought were not the albums that influenced me the most. I remember having "The Lion King" soundtrack and feeling like that was where I belong. (laughs)
But, five years later, I bought a Sum 41 CD and that was the first CD I ever bought. I bought it because, I wanted to look cool and I wanted people to think I was into cool rock and alternative music. Then I bought a Third Eye Blind CD because I was continuing that fad, like, "Yeah...I'm really into this guys!" (laughs)
Ian: Yeah well, Third Eye Blind was awesome.
Chad: Yeah, they were awesome but they had some pretty heavy songs on their first singles. I think it was their self-titled album.
Ian: Are you saying that you only bought their albums to look cool or that they actually had an influence on you?
Chad: Ha, no ... yeah ... I'm saying, the only influence they had on me was making me cooler in school.
Ian: (laughing) ....That's interesting.
10) What's on tap next for A Great Big World? What are you most excited about for this year?
Ian: We are currently working on a Broadway musical that we have been working on for over three years. It looks like we are finally gonna take it to the next step this year and start work-shopping it, get some Broadway actors to sing it, do a reading for this musical and actually watch it come to life. It's a long process and we're excited to take the next steps. That's a really big deal for us this year other than touring.
We're excited about this Kaleidoscope Tour with The Secret Weapons and Genevieve who are opening for us. We are super inspired by those artists. I think this is the longest bus tour we have ever done. We are just excited to be getting out there on the front lines and connecting with people. That's what it's all about.
*Special thanks to Nicole DeRosa who conducted this interview.