A Great Big World talks tour and new album

By Janelle Harb

Features Editor

You may remember way back in 2013, mindlessly flipping across radio stations until hearing the simple, now iconic, piano introduction of the smash hit “Say Something” by A Great Big World.  The duo quickly took over the airwaves with this iconic ballad featuring Christina Aguilera, and have not rested since.  Now Grammy winners, Chad King and Ian Axel have released their latest album, When the Morning Comes to overwhelmingly positive reviews and have begun their headlining Kaleidoscope Tour across North America, stopping in Buffalo on March 5th.  The Griffin was able to talk touring, song-writing, and success with the dynamic duo themselves.

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Ian Axel and Chad King of A Great Big World

Janelle Harb: How has the reaction been to your latest album, When the Morning Comes?

Chad King: I would say the reaction is pretty awesome.  We had about a decade to write the first record, and it was kind of a collection of songs over the course of that decade.  This record was sort of like, we have six months, we’re going to write about our experience over the past few years.

IA: I think that we were really nervous to release the record, When the Morning Comes, because we have grown as writers and artistically, and I guess we were nervous that our fans would reject it, but it was the complete opposite.  I think we’ll always have those nerves and it’s normal.

JH: Have you enjoyed playing your new songs live?

IA: Yeah, it’s a completely different live show, it’s a lot more ambitious, the production on the album is bigger and we tried to recreate that live.  There’s new instrumentation, it’s hard, I don’t think we’re fully comfortable with the new songs yet, but we’re excited for this tour in March and April because it’s our chance to really get it right.

JH: How has your touring in the past been?

IA: When we first started playing shows, me and Chad, it would be the two of us, in like a rental car, playing in small rooms, and sometimes five people would show up in a 400 capacity room.  Then it’s been growing, and it’s amazing that the two of us have graduated to a tour bus and we can afford to have someone help us with simple things, like to set up our stage for us, and we’re playing for more people, and we got to tour all around the world.  I think that we’re lucky that we’ve always had fans that are super passionate about our music, and that they’ve been there from the start.  We’re seeing the same fans at our shows now that we saw eight years ago.

JH: What is your favorite song or lyric that you’ve written?

CK: I would say my favorite line that we’ve written is “say anything you’ve always wanted, be not afraid of who you really are,” that was from “This is the New Year.”  I think I had come out recently to Ian and I think it was that line that we wrote where it was kind of like a realization that I can own who I am, I am who I am, and there’s no reason to hide or be ashamed of it.

IA: Also, that was the first line that Chad sang on his own in any of the songs that we had written together up to that point.

JH: What or who serves as inspiration for your lyrics?

IA: I would say that when we’re writing, Chad and I strive to be as honest as we can, and if we’re writing a song and it feels like a therapy session, like we’re writing because we have to write it, and we’re learning and growing in our lives from writing the song, then its right.  I just think there’s beauty in truth.  Chad and I don’t really have any walls up when we’re together, we’re practically brothers, and we’re able to access this really truthful place when we write.

JH: What was it like having such sudden popularity with “Say Something”?

CK: It was incredible, it was a ride that anyone would be excited about.  It was amazing, getting to work with Christina Aguilera was incredible, that was probably one of my favorite life experiences ever.  I feel like I grew as a person and as someone who wants to be working at her level, to be forced to was an incredible spike for your confidence.

IA: Also, yeah it gave us the confidence, because, I mean, not really a lot of people knew who we were, then all of a sudden, someone like Christina comes along and wants to work with us and treats us as her peers.  So it was a pretty shocking and earth-shattering experience.  “Say Something” kind of came out of nowhere for us, and that was the last song that we thought would do anything like it did, and we literally went on a rollercoaster ride for two years, and after that, when it happened, we were like “what the hell just happened?” It was seriously like were we present for that? Was that real? Did that just happen? Were we there with those people and at that thing? Did we play that show? It was crazy, but looking back at it now, it was interesting for me and Chad because that was the only song on the album that I sang alone.  It was difficult in a way, because the soul of A Great Big World is me and Chad, and it was hard for Chad during that whole process because people knew “Say Something” and they knew my voice, and they knew Christina’s voice, but Chad is kind of like the secret weapon.  So I think for this new album, we really tried to solidify that unity that Ian and Chad is A Great Big World.

JH: What has been your favorite moment as a band together so far?

IA: My favorite moment was when we won the Grammy [for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance], I think that kind of just summed it all up.  Both of our families were in LA with us for that moment, and it was just a celebration of everything that we had accomplished of really just going for your dreams.  It was amazing to have our families there because they supported us when we wanted to do this crazy music thing when we were younger and it was so surreal, it was like a dream.

CK: The Grammy win is number one, because you never expect them to say your name.  Why would they say your name? You’re also in the mix with Katy Perry, and Iggy Azalea, and all of these other big stars, and it was like we were one of them!

IA: We weren’t expecting that at all, we had already won by just being there.

JH: Have you ever been to Buffalo? What are you looking forward to?

IA: I think we’ve been to Buffalo once, we’re looking forward to playing for new people, playing in a new place, connecting with people.

CK: Wait have we even been there?

IA: I don’t even know, it’s all a big blur I want to say that we have.

CK: We’re excited regardless if we have or haven’t.  I’m excited for you guys to see this tour and this new band setup because it’s a fun one.

IA: I’m excited to give you a hug.

A Great Big World will be playing the Waiting Room, in Buffalo, NY on Saturday, March 5th in support of their latest album, When the Morning Comes, available now.


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