We had the pleasure of meeting Ian Axel and Chad King, who are the incredible band A Great Big World. We talked to them in Madison Square Park in Manhattan. Ian and Chad have been friends for 11 years and, according to them, it all started when their music teacher grouped them together while taking a class at NYU.
What’s your favorite song on your album “Is There Anybody Out There”?
Ian: I would say my favorite song is “This Is the New Year.”
Chad: I would say “Say Something” is my favorite song on the album.
How did you feel when you heard your song on the radio for the first time?
Ian: That was the most incredible feeling. Like you guys, we grew up listening to the radio. To hear our song on it is like some weird out-of-body experience, and the idea that so many people are hearing our song at that one time was just overwhelming. I remember it was actually your brother [looked at Chad] who took a video of the song on the radio in Orlando, Florida, and the DJ announcing our name, and he sent it to us.
How did the group name come about?
Ian: There’s a lyric in our song, “Cheer Up!” — “It’s a great big world and there’s no need to cry.” And we were thinking about our music and we tried to write really positive music and just beaming love out to the universe. We felt like A Great Big World was a name that meant a connection to us because music is the ultimate connector. It brings everyone together and that’s what we wanted it to stand for.
Have any of your songs ever been in a movie?
Chad: “This Is the New Year” was used in a movie called “New Year’s Eve.” I think that was a few years ago. I think that was the first movie placement that we ever got.
Who are your musical inspirations?
Chad: Mine are The Beatles and Beyoncé.
Ian: Mine are Randy Newman — “Toy Story,” “You Got a Friend in Me.” Danny Elfman who scores the music for all the Tim Burton songs like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Batman” and “Beetlejuice.”
How long does it take you to write a song?
Chad: That depends on the song. “Say Something” took us three weeks to write. “Hold Each Other” took three hours. “Rock Star” we had the hook of that song five years ago. Finally we were like, “OK, let’s do something with this.”
Ian: Some songs take 3 hours.
What was your reaction when you were nominated for a Grammy for “Say Something”?
Ian: That day was stressful because we knew there was a shot. Like we knew we had a chance. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but it was hard not to get our hopes up and they were announcing the nominations gradually throughout the day. They didn’t do it all at one time. It was the end of the day and there was one more award that we were eligible for and that’s it. And I remember [the band] Zed put up a video announcing it. And he said our name and we were heading to a meeting and I was freaking out, and I ran into a cab and I called you and we met up at the meeting and we couldn’t focus about the meeting because our minds were like . . . it’s like the biggest thing.
How long have you known each other, and do you get sick of spending time with each other?
Chad: We’ve known each other for about 11 years. We used to get sick of each other a lot because we lived with each other, too, and then we toured together like 24/7, but not anymore.
Ian: So now space is actually helping our relationship.
Did you ever expect to become as popular as you are now?
Ian: No. You dream. I guess part of the answer is no and then part of the answer is yes. Because when you dream you have to believe. You have to. You can’t have any doubts, like, somewhere really deep down even if you don’t tell your friends, you know what’s going to happen.
Are there any new and upcoming songs?
Chad: Well, we wrote a Broadway musical that we’re redoing and we are near the finish line. We have all this music no one has heard that we’re super excited about. We’re both most proud of the music and the musical.
Ian: Also we have a new single that Chad is singing called “Won’t Stop Running.” We’re making a music video of it now, and we just performed it on TV this morning.