Interview by Karmin Yu. Photos by Marisa Martel. Having been featured on America’s favourite musical television series, Glee, A Great Big World has reached another milestone: reaching over 100 million views on their video for their hit song, “Say Something.” The duo, consisting of Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, took some time before their tour to talk to us about their current album, their new single and an upcoming project they’re working on.
Is There Anybody Out There has been out for 6 months now, how do you still feel about it?
Chad: It feels good! It feels like there was a very big difference in playing shows before the album was released and after. Now when we play shows, people know all the words to all the songs and that’s been a really heart-warming experience because it feels like they’re connecting to more than just “Say Something”, which is awesome!
Speaking of your album, what inspired the name of the title?
Ian: It’s the lyrics in one of our songs. The song is “Rockstar” and the verse is “There’s a girl in the tree top looking at the stars/Waiting for a touchdown coming in from Mars/Thinking ‘Is there anybody out there?’” It reminds us of just being a kid; it’s hopeful. In all of our songs, we’re always searching for something when we write them. We’re asking, we’re putting ourselves out there and we’re looking to connect to people; we’re hoping to find people out there that connect with us.
Do you get tired of questions on “Say Something”?
Chad: No, I feel like people are going to ask as long as we’re alive. That was an amazing moment for us – that was an amazing moment in time. We understand that people want to know about it. They just want to connect even more with the song and how that experience happened for us. There’s no hate.
There are many covers of “Say Something” out there, which is the best version you’ve seen or heard so far?
Ian: It’s so hard because there really are a lot of mind blowing ones. My favourite is the Pentatonix! I think it’s genius! The arrangement is so brilliant! I get that stuck in my head a lot.
Chad: I’m a huge fan of that one too! I also love Victoria Justice; that cover also blew my mind when I first saw that.
You have a new music video out for your single, “Already Home,” can you explain me the inspiration behind the video?
Ian: Yeah, it’s a long distance relationship and the actors are Darren Criss and Jessica Szhor. Basically, they’re always not in the same place, but they’re together. It’s a split screen: they’re eating together, they’re walking in the park together, but they’re not actually in the same place. So, the place and the distance don’t matter, it’s just an allusion. What really brings people together is the love that they have for each other. At the end of the video, the split screen actually disappears. The idea is that love can be in any place.
Why have Darren Criss and Jessica Szohr appear in the music video, as opposed to having unknown actors?
Ian: We were actually in a bind. We only had two days to find actors because of the way everything happened. We’re friends with both Darren and Jessica. We reached out to Darren to see if he was available a few days in advance and he was like: “Yeah! Totally! I just called Jessica to see if she can do it too!” So, they did us a huge favour!
Did you choose Darren because he’s on Glee and they covered a couple of your songs?
Chad: We’ve become friendly ever since they did cover “This Is The New Year” on Glee. So, we’ve been friendly with them and keeping in touch with them. He was the first guy that we had in mind when we needed actors for the film. They’re amazing!
Moving on to another popular song on the album, “Everyone is Gay”, which you say is a message to people who are confused about their sexuality and who are bullied because of that, which is something you, Chad, have gone through in middle school. So this next question is more for Chad: what do you have to say to those bullies in middle school or what advice do you have for victims?
Chad: Oh man! For me in my experience, I basically wanted to try and change everything about myself when I was being bullied. So, everything the bullies were teasing me for, I decided to change and make sure that no one could tease me about anything. I actually became best friends with my bully! I would say to do the exact opposite of what I did. You need to be who you are. You need to live in the skin that you’re in. It’s very easy to conform, to fit in and to feel like you need to please these bullies and whoever is making fun of you, but you don’t have to. This phase – whether it’s middle school or wherever you are in life, this phase is just that. It’s a phase and it will pass; this bullying will pass. You just have to be confident in exactly who you are because it’s beautiful.
Seeing how much success you’ve had over the past year, what would you tell yourselves if we travelled back a year?
Ian: I would still tell myself to calm down and stop stressing out about stuff. Everything’s going to work out and when you don’t know how, everything is going to work out. It does. I would tell myself to have more fun with everything that’s happening because these are the best times of our lives.
Chad: I would tell myself to hold tight because you’re about to experience experiences that you could only dream of in your entire life.
What would you be doing if you weren’t A Great Big World?
Ian: I would be some sort of mathematician/scientist, probably studying the universe.
Chad: I’m a big health mutt, so I would do something in alternative medicine of some sort. I don’t know what that means yet; I don’t know if that can be an acupuncturist, a chiropractor or a nutritionist. I don’t know, something in the health world.
What is one thing fans would be surprised to know about you guys?
Ian: I don’t know…Chad, what do you think?
Ian: Probably that we’re boring.
Chad: Ian! Come on…
Ian: We’re big health fans. So, we focus a lot on eating right and eating raw and natural foods. We’re really big on exercising; we both meditate; we pry ourselves in what we eat.
What’s next for you guys?
Chad: We’re on the road for the next two months. So, that is going to be taking up all of our time. We’re also working on a broadway musical.
Can you give us some details on the musical?
Chad: It’s not actually announced yet, but we’re over halfway done. It’s a really heartfelt comedy. We have titles in mind and we’re just narrowing it down so that we can announce the thing. We’re super excited! It’s all music, but some songs are ten minutes long. So, it’s all original and I think people are going to like it.