Catching Up With A Great Big World
By Samantha Henderson
Ian Axel (left) and Chad Vaccarino | Photo by Joseph Llanes
Perhaps you don't think you're acquainted with the band A Great Big World, but it's quite likely you actually are. Watch Glee? Recall the cast performing "This Is The New Year?" Yep, that's A Great Big World brainchild, brought to you by band members Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino.
Or maybe you've heard "Say Something," the wildly popular collaboration between Axel and Christina Aguilera. They've performed the international hit on The Voice, at the American Music Awards, as well as during the Victoria's Secret Fashion show (sans Christina).
Based on all that hubbub, VH1 took notice and named them a You Oughta Know artist. Last week they finally released a full album, Is There Anybody Out There? We were able to talk with the pair a few days after the release and based on what we learned, it's fair to say VH1 was right—A Great Big World is going to be a major player this year.
Out: How have the few days following the album's release been?
Chad: It’s been amazing. We’re kind of starting a new life after this release. It feels like we kind of gave birth.
Is that a good thing? Is that scary?
Chad: I think it’s an awesome thing because people don’t know this music at all and all they know is “Say Something,” so I’m really excited for people to hear other music and for them to know that I sing, too. I don’t know, I hope they like it and are accepting of that sound.
Now, the album is kind of different from "Say Something" in that it is, for the most part, very upbeat, which is pretty unique nowadays. Where does that come from?
Chad: I think both of us are pretty optimistic people but we also use music as our therapy and so when we are, either feeling down or feeling insecure about our place in life we try to use music as an outlet and kind of the to relieve that.
What effect do you hope that will have on your audience?
Chad: We have a responsibility to put out joy and love and hope into the world and people are listening to us. Why would we put out anything else? We hope people are ready to be happy. I mean, “Say Something” is aligned with the rest of the songs because it is a sad song, but it also still has a string of hope in it that the rest of the album has.
Possibly the most upbeat track on the album is "Everyone is Gay." What are the origins of that song?
Chad: Our friends Christian and Danielle run a website called EveryoneIsGay.com. They do advice for kids who are struggling with their sexuality and they wanted us to create a song, one of the gayest songs ever, to add to a compilation album that they were gonna put out. I want to say it was about a year and a half ago. And then we decided to re-record that song for this album because we felt it was a really important message and the reaction has been amazing, unlike any other song we’ve had.
Chad: People have come up crying to us for having that song. In particular, I think it was Huntsville, Alabama, there were several girls who came up crying with their parents at the show. And it was so amazing to have their parents hear it, who are not accepting of them for being gay. I don’t know. It’s amazing that that still exists. Amazing, not in a good way, but it’s incredible that it still exists today and I think that’s who we want to be speaking to and reaching to.
Ian: I was also going to talk about a show in Salt Lake City. It was a house show and there were mostly Mormons in the room and we were told that we shouldn’t play the song, just not to offend anybody. In our rockstar moment, we decided to play it. I don’t know. It really hit a nerve that we were told not to play it not to upset anybody, because it’s a song about love, and how could that offend anybody? And we played it and it went over so well. So many people came up to us afterwards and I think that’s important. I don’t know. It feels like we’re breaking down some walls when we perform it.
Chad: Also for me, a big hope is that kids who are struggling, who are confused or being bullied at school can use it as their way to cope with it, and as their way to understand that it doesn’t matter what kids are saying or who they want you to be or who you should be. You be you, and it’s OK. From my personal experience, it was the most confusing time in middle school, when kids would tease you and bully you and call you all sorts of gay slurs, when you never thought of yourself as gay in the first place. I don’t know it was just a super confusing time and I wish I had a song like this growing up.
Other songs that carry similar messages of acceptance such as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Same Love" have been somewhat criticized because they come from straight artists. So you, Ian, are straight, and you Chad, aren't. So what do you think of such criticism? Does the sexuality of the artist matter?
Chad: I think it doesn’t matter. It’s the message behind the song. “Same Love” or even Lady Gaga, their support and their being proactive about their support for gay rights is huge because we need that in the mainstream media and pop culture and if it can be said by straight people who have major influence on the world, so be it. It’s amazing, and it doesn’t matter their sexuality. I think it matters most that they’re reaching people and they’re connecting and spreading the message that we all are equal.
And what are you excited for this year now that the album is out?
Ian: We’re excited about our live shows. Most people know about “Say Something,” as me just singing and playing the piano but Chad is our secret weapon and we also have a really sick, crazy, powerful band. We’re five guys total and it’s a very high-energy show. It’s an important part of what we’re doing and how we’re connecting with people. We’re going to be touring a lot this year and we’re also writing a Broadway musical. We were approached by some Broadway producers a little over a year ago and we’ve been writing the music to an original story ever since and we’re so proud of it and can’t to share it, so we want to finish it this year.
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