New York duo A Great Big World turned out to be one of 2013’s biggest breakout acts in the US when their single Say Something exploded on the charts.
Featuring the vocals of Christina Aguilera, the track has sold over 2 million copies in the US alone and has been a hit across the world. This week the track is finally released in the UK ahead of the group’s album Is There Anybody Out There? which follows on 3rd March.
We caught up with Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino aka A Great Big World during their recent trip to the UK. We chatted about the huge success of Say Something, working with Christina Aguilera and the inspiration behind their debut album.
How are you guys today?
Ian: We’re good! We’re happy to be here. A little delirious because we didn’t sleep last night (laughs) but we’re great. We’re really excited to be here.
How’s London treating you so far?
Ian: We got in at 6am this morning. We had some really good coffee. It’s good! The sun came out for us.
The city is treating you pretty well then as we haven’t seen the sun in weeks…
Ian: I know! Everyone’s so excited because it’s out.
You’re in the UK to promote your single Say Something which features Christina Aguilera. Tell us about the track and how it came about.#
Ian: We wrote it about 4 or 5 years ago. We were both heartbroken at the same time and it was a really dark place for us. It was one of the most powerful writing experiences we’ve ever had, it was like our therapy and the song helped heal both of us. We decided to record it for the album and right when we finished it we got an email from So You Think You Can Dance the TV show and that wanted to use the song. They knew about it because it had been out there in the universe because we recorded it so long ago. Literally a week later Christina Aguilera reached out to us.
That’s got to be pretty amazing right?
Ian: Yeah! That was a phonecall we never expected in life.
What was it like getting her vocals on the track?
Ian: Oh my god!
Chad: The first time she said she wanted to sing on the track, I felt like I wanted to fall over because it was so amazing.
Ian: It was so surreal! It happened so fast and we couldn’t really process that it was happening. We just started working as soon as we met her and when we got to the vocal booth and she was singing I’d look up and pinch myself that that was actually happening to us.
Cha: I was like ‘how is Christina Aguilera singing on our song?’
The song definitely showcases a different side to Christina. There’s no vocal acrobatics and she’s very restrained. You’re bringing out something different from her…
Ian: That was all her intention when she came into this. We asked if she wanted a verse and if she wanted to do a little embellishment for the end and she said no. She wanted to be really respectful of how the song already was and where it was living.
Chad: It floored us that she reached out to us to be a part of it, not do that stuff and be so restrained, subtle and vulnerable. It’s the biggest honour we could have gotten.
The song is huge back in the US with over 2 million copies sold to date. How much pressure does that give you in terms of having a hit with it here in the UK?
Ian: You know it’s interesting. There is pressure because the song has been released all over the world except the UK. The UK is one of the most important markets for music in the world. When we think of success overseas we think of the UK. It’s a really big deal for us to be successful here.
Chad: We hope people respond the same way. It actually gives us a lot of pressure for the next single because everyone is trying to wrap their brains around what we’re going to release. They’re like ‘what could possibly follow that song?’
Your album Is Anybody Out There? is released on 3rd March. What can your UK fans expect from it?
Ian: They can expect much more happy songs and also Chad sings. Chad is the secret weapon of the band. It’s a lot of harmonies, it’s very hopeful and positive music. It’s upbeat and theatrical.
You mentioned earlier that Say Something is a song you wrote a few years ago. Are the songs on the album ones you’ve been working on for years? What’s the inspiration behind the album?
Ian: Kind of. All the songs feel like they’re chapters in our lives over the past seven years. It tells the story of our lives, our friendship and what we’ve experienced. We’re two of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. We’ve only been heartbroken once at the same time.
Chad: For the most part, I’d say 90% of the songs, were all used as therapy in the writing process. It was motivation for us that we can follow our hearts and live our dreams which we’re doing now. It’s crazy that we’re even here talking to you.
Clearly heartbreak suits you! If it sells you over 2 million singles then maybe you need to be heartbroken more often?
Chad: I know! I know!
Ian: Well Chad can be heartbroken more often. I’m in a good place. I feel like I’m happy and my heart is healed and whole. There’s part of me that’s so dark and I can totally go there.
Chad: it’s amazing how pain can inspire. Pain and joy are really close together somewhere down there.
Pain can come out in two ways can’t it? Either Alanis Morissette angry or quite beautiful like Say Something has…
Ian: After writing Say Something I didn’t even know I was heartbroken until half way through writing that song. For me it was finding an awareness and a new perspective on a toxic relationship that I had in my life and finding closure. I look at that song as resolution for me. It feels like it’s an open ended song and by the end it doesn’t feel like the relationship is closed.
Chad: I think our angrier song is Land of Opportunity, which isn’t very angry at all.
You’ve just played your first ever London show. What can fans expect when they come to see A Great Big World live?
Ian: We are a five-piece band and it’s a very high energy show. It’s a little bit rockier than the album sounds. We’re all friends and we want to have a good time on stage and just share it.
Chad: It’s an emotional roller-coaster for us and the audience. Think of a variety show.
If you could Say Something to one person right now, what would it be and why?
Chad: Oh man!
Ian: I would tell my family, I know that’s not one person, that I love them more than I could ever say or write in a song and that I miss them and can’t wait to see them again.
Chad: I think I’m going to go pretty personal right now (laughs). I have a friend called Leif and I would say ‘it’s way too hard to be your friend and I’m sorry’. I can’t give any more, that’s all I can say (laughs).
Say Something is available now. Watch the video for the single below: