ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ian Axel and Chad King from the pop/rock duo A Great Big World will hold an acoustic concert on March 26 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Mich. They are best known for the hits “Say Something” and “Hold Each Other.” Musician Allie Moss will serve as the opener for that show.
I spoke with Ian and Chad during an exclusive phone interview last week. First, I asked how they got started in the music business.
“I met Ian at NYU, we both were studying the music business,” Chad King explained. “I thought I was going to be a CEO, like a label executive. It wasn’t until when I met Ian that I was convinced that maybe I could be a writer and possibly an artist with him and do this as a career. We met in a music publishing class, ironically. Ian, sort of, wanted me to hear him play and force his friendship on me. I was like fine, I’ll hear you play. When I did hear him, I freaked out and wanted to be friends with him.”
How did the collaboration with Christina Aguilera come about for the song “Say Something”?
“We actually got an e-mail from ‘So You Think You Can Dance?‘ wanting to use the song back in 2013. Christina heard it based on the buzz of that show and maybe it was sent to her. Then, she reached out to us out of the blue. Here we are a pretty unknown band and someone like Christina asked if we’d be open to have her singing on the song. It was just so unreal. We were in L.A. a week later recording a new version of the song with her. The rest is history. It happened so fast. It was really a whirlwind.”
Let’s talk about one of your biggest hits, “Hold Each Other.” What’s the story behind that song?
“‘Hold Each Other’ was written as a song between a guy and a girl from that perspective. When it came time to divide up the parts, as to who would be singing the song, well Chad, ‘How are you going to sing this song honestly because you’re gay?’ Then, we decided to change one of the perspectives from a guy speaking to another guy. At first, I freaked out and said, ‘I can’t do this. You just don’t hear this on the radio. It’s just not what you hear right now.’ In that moment, me and Ian said, ‘I need to do this. We need to run towards this. This is really important. It just gave me the chills because he [Chad] was singing his truths. We did it. It’s still one of our favorite songs to perform.”
How excited are you guys for this new acoustic tour. You’ll be stopping at The Ark in downtown Ann Arbor on March 26.
“We’re excited. We basically decided to do this tour as a little thank you for our fans for being patient as we’re writing new music and also sticking with us for a while. A lot of these markets that we’re playing are markets that we’ve been playing since we first started performing. I don’t think Ann Arbor is one of them, but we’re still excited to come there. We’re doing something special. It’s an acoustic tour. We haven’t done an acoustic tour since we first started. We’re just going back to me, Chad and the piano. It’s going to be a really intimate, raw performance. It’s scary, but exciting.”
Alternative/pop singer-songwriter Allie Moss will serve as the opener at the acoustic concert.
“She’s a dear friend and a really amazing artist. We have some surprises in store. It’s going to feel good to reconnect with our fans.”
Will this be your first time performing in the Great Lakes State?
“It’s not our first time coming to Michigan. I actually can’t remember the last time we played in Michigan. A lot of it is a blur. But growing up I was a huge Detroit Pistons fan and a huge Grant Hill fan.”
What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
“We’re both into meditation and fitness,” Ian Axel answered. “I go to the gym. Chad does more kind of yoga. I’m married and we’re having a kid soon. We have a dog. I like to spend as much time with my family as possible. That’s probably my favorite thing to do. Whenever I’m not doing music, I’m pretty much relaxing and home with them.”
Chad King added: “I would say my health is my biggest focus outside of music. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007. Since then, I love to absorb and read as much as possible on everything I can do to treat this thing holistically. I find joy in that outside of music.”
Please tell me more about your latest single, “When I Was A Boy.”
“‘When I Was A Boy’ is a Jeff Lynne cover. We’re huge fans of Jeff Lynne and ELO. The song’s message really resonates with us…just hangin’ on to that inner child as you get older. It’s the theme of a lot of the music that we write. We wanted to cover it and put it out. Again, it’s just like another thank you to go along with this tour as we’re working on new music for our next record.”
Ian and Chad said they are working on a new Broadway play as well.
“We’ve been working on it for about four and a half years now. We had our first workshop in December with actors just kind of seeing what the show sounds like in its current form. We have a bunch of rewriting to do so we’ll probably have a second workshop later in the year. Hopefully, we’ll have a bigger production next year. Our angle is Broadway but we’re kind of taking it one step at a time. It’s basically our music on steroids.”
Before we wrap up, what goals do you both have for the next five years?
“I’d like to have put out a lot more music, I’d like our musical that we’re working on now to come out,” Ian Axel explained. “I really want to write a Pixar animated movie musical. That’s a huge dream of mine.”
Chad King added: “I would echo all of that. I’d like to be in a place where it makes sense for both of us to be bi-coastal. So we’re in L.A. half of the time and New York half of the time. Right now, it sort of doesn’t make sense. In five years, I’d like to get to a place where that’s possible.”