New York pop singer-songwriter duo Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, also known as A Great Big World, is best known for the 2013 single “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera. The song hit #1 on iTunes, #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is certified four times platinum. In March, Webster University Campus Activities announced the duo as the performers for Springfest 2015. The Journal caught up with Axel and Vaccarino to discuss their college years, their advice to music students and their excitement for playing at Webster on April 18.
Question (Q): You guys are Grammy award-winning artists. Why play at a college event like Springfest?
Ian Axel (IA): I feel like that’s a huge part of our audience. We don’t feel too far out of college. We feel connected still. And college shows are the most fun shows we have ever done.
Q: What were you guys like in college at New York University (NYU)?
IA: Chad was one of the only friends that I had. I didn’t need much; I was happy with just a couple friends and music. I was pretty independent.
Chad Vaccarino (CV): I was kind of a crazy partier until I met Ian junior year of college. Once I met him I kind of settled down. We started writing music and it felt like that was becoming the focus.
IA: Chad would throw epic parties at his apartment. I do remember that.
CV: We used to have pool parties where we set up little pools in the apartment.
Q: How did your education at NYU aid your success?
IA: I feel like just going to school in New York was a big part of the education. I mean the kids in our classes were all in the music program and we’re all in the music business, so we’ve seen them along the way. They helped us to give us an edge. Also internships were a big part of it. Those we our first jobs, and we still talk to our old employers and they’re super happy to see what we’re doing.
Q: Webster University has a big music program, and a lot of students are looking to make it in the music industry. What would your advice to them be?
CV: Don’t stop. Keep going. When we were at the lowest points in our careers, there were points when we wanted to stop and quit. But then there’s a light just around the corner. You have to go through it if you want to get there.
IA: Believe in yourself. That’s what we were doing, and somehow it worked.
Q: Are you surprised at the success of “Say Something”?
IA: Absolutely. No one thought that it would be a single or would work on the radio. It was so out of the norm. It was different than other songs on the radio at the time. We had no idea [how successful it would be]. No clue.
Q: Do you have a favorite song to perform that students should look forward to on Saturday?
CV: “This is the New Year” has always been my favorite, especially with the full band.
IA: “Say Something” is still amazing to see how that song has connected to people. It feels much bigger than us. It never gets old, playing it for people who know and connect to the song.
Q: Do you have any special surprises planned for the Springfest show?
CV: If we can get our hands on confetti, then everyone can look forward to that. We’re trying to make that happen.
IA: We’re just really excited to come. We’re looking forward to seeing everybody and meeting as many people as possible.
Springfest 2015 will take place on April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Grant Gymnasium. Tickets can be purchased at the University Center information desk and are free for Webster students, $10 for faculty, staff and alumni, and $20 for the general public.