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A Great Big World Q&A On Making You Cry, Working With Neil Patrick Harris

By | 2014-03-12T09:00:00-04:00 March 12th, 2014|Michigan, News|

YouÕre still crying, arenÕt you? And thatÕs OK. We all are.
ThatÕs just the kind of reaction ÒSay Something,Ó the sleeper hit by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera, rouses every time itÕs on, and I do mean every time. Because itÕs on a lot. Peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, the brutally honest, heart-wrecking weepie became a surprise smash, leading the way for Ian Axel and Chad VaccarinoÕs debut, “Is There Anybody Out There?”
The New York duo recently chatted about making you cry, nabbing Neil Patrick Harris for a musical theyÕre writing and being more gay than straight … for now anyway.

ThereÕs probably not a single person who hasnÕt heard ÒSay Something.Ó On that song, you pretty much opened your diary up to the world. WhatÕs it like sharing a song thatÕs so personal to you with so many people?
Ian: You know, to think thereÕs not a person in the world who hasnÕt heard the song, thatÕs crazy. ThatÕs just crazy. That just hit me.
When we wrote this song we were both going through a really dark place. We wrote it four years ago, and IÕm speaking for Chad too, and though itÕs still a part of us, weÕre in a completely new place emotionally and spiritually. It almost feels like the song moved through us from some greater place and helped us, and now it doesnÕt feel like ours anymore. It feels like it does belong to everyone. It feels bigger than us, so I feel slightly removed. ItÕs hard to process what itÕs like sharing your diary with the world, and I donÕt know if itÕs a defense mechanism, but I almost feel like IÕm removed from it. ItÕs hard to explain.
Chad: We write as therapy for ourselves. That song in particular was definitely, for me, a moment of closure in my personal life and, yeah, I like that the song ends unsettled. I actually found a new perspective and I did find resolution for what I was going through, so itÕs amazing that other people are relating to it.
Ian: I feel like itÕs a long-winded answer, but itÕs an important question that you asked. ItÕs just magical, everything thatÕs happening. It really is. ThereÕs no other word for it.

And you got Christina Aguilera on the track. What was it like meeting her? Not just recording with her, but getting to know her. Was she more or less the diva that you expected? Do you call her Xtina?
Chad: (Both laugh) We call her Christina, but IÕm pretty sure Ian and I talked about that before going into the studio with her — whether we should call her Christina or Xtina. We didnÕt know!
Ian: Or, when we wrote an email to her, do we address it to Xtina? (Laughs) We were scared to meet her because we had no idea what to expect, but sheÕs totally chilled out and she invited us over her house a couple of times and we played paintball with her in her backyard. We just shot the shit. SheÕs an amazing human being and you really get to know that when sheÕs in that relaxed off-mode. ItÕs been really cool to see both sides.

How aware are you of a gay following?
Chad: We definitely have their support and I feel like itÕs growing.
Ian: We have a song called ÒEveryone Is GayÓ and when we play that at shows it really seems to be resonating in a positive way, so whether our audience is gay, straight, bi, the people that come to our show are open-minded and have huge hearts.

That track in particular sounds very Broadway. What inspired the actual music on that song?
Ian: When we got asked to write that song (for, we sat down at the piano and thatÕs really the first thing that came out. I feel like weÕre both influenced by musical theater and thereÕs a couple of songs on the album that are more theatrical than others, but it was our original intention to write a musical together and we just ended up singing the song.
Chad: That song in particular was definitely an effort to finally write a song that we wouldÕve loved to have heard when we were kids, when we were growing up. I was bullied in middle school and I wouldÕve loved to have heard someone tell me that itÕs OK and your confusion is absolutely OK and you donÕt need to define yourself and label yourself right now. We were coming from that perspective when we were writing it, and weÕre hoping that it does resonate with kids and everyone. We wanted to have fun, but we wanted it to be a sort of anthem.

Chad, you recently told Entertainment Weekly, ÒWhy do you have to label yourself at all? WeÕre all somewhere in the middle and weÕre all on this spectrum of sexuality.Ó Does that mean you fall in the middle of the Kinsey scale?
Chad: Yeah. I mean, I donÕt know if IÕm in the middle. (Laughs) I feel like IÕm more gay than I am straight, and IÕve been with girls in my life and IÕve been with guys. IÕm drawn to a human being, so itÕs hard. YouÕre so used to defining yourself and labeling yourself, and you kind of want to because itÕs easier — it gives you a path or a direction — but you donÕt need to. I think we both believe that you love who you love.

Tell me something about the musical youÕre working on.
Chad: (Laughs) Well, weÕre working on a musical and, um, Neil Patrick Harris — and uh, thatÕs it.
Ian: Yeah, no, no, no!
Chad: ItÕs a heartwarming comedy and itÕs our music on steroids. Also: Sorry, I just wanted to say that I mentioned Neil Patrick Harris as a dream actor/singer in this musical. ThatÕs who weÕre aiming for.

The first time I heard ÒSay Something,Ó and even the third and fourth time, I bawled my eyes out. While writing or performing the song, have you just lost it?
Ian: Absolutely. We cried like babies. At least I did. I donÕt think I ever cried more (than I did while) writing this song. IÕm not a religious person but it was like a religious experience and it changed my perspective on everything. It felt like I was praying writing that song.
Chad: Yeah, like I said before, it feels like I didnÕt actually know I was heartbroken until halfway through the songwriting process of that and I gained a new perspective on a toxic relationship I was in, and by the end of writing that song I finally found closure.

How does it make you feel knowing youÕve broken so many hearts with that song but also mended many of them too?
Chad: I know that Ian is gonna disagree with me, but it really hurts me knowing that people relate to the song in a similar way. I know that pain and Ian knows that pain and it hurts and it sucks, and to know that other people are going through that, itÕs amazing because weÕre not alone but itÕs also painful to know that other people are hurting.
Ian: You need to feel the pain to heal. ItÕs just part of the process, and the fact that people can feel what we felt, I mean, weÕre all in this thing together.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.