#Face2FaceTime with Grammy-Winning Duo A Great Big World

How video games, OCD and 'Paris Is Burning' inspired their upcoming album

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Photo by Joseph Llanes

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On “Hooray For You,” the penultimate track on A Great Big World’s upcoming third studio album, the Grammy-winning pop duo injects this compelling quote from the 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning.

“I always had hopes of being a big star. As you get older, you aim a little lower, and I just say you still might make an impression. Everybody wants to leave something behind them, some impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think you left a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues and enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.”

The all-too-real Dorian Corey quote leads seamlessly into “When I Am King,” the album’s final song that AGBW’s Chad King says is “about the bitter pill to swallow when you’re seeing others’ success and you feel like, ‘What about me?’”

“It’s a very common feeling and it sucks to have those feelings of bitterness, but we were going through it,” bandmate Ian Axel admitted in a #Face2FaceTime interview with ONE37pm. Going through it, in part, meant coming down from the extreme highs they felt during 2013-2015 when the duo’s “Say Something” ballad with Christina Aguilera achieved commercial and critical success, winning the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and steadily reaching six times platinum.

“I’ve got my Grammy on top of a ladder bookshelf in my living room ... by a bunch of Harry Potter books,” Axel revealed. “It’s so crazy having it in the house. I see it. I’m afraid to touch it. It intimidates me. I still can’t believe that happened.” King also keeps his award on a bookshelf.

"Hooray For You" and "When I Am King" both come out later this year. So far in 2018, Axel and King, who met as music business students at New York University before graduating together in 2007, have released two singles: the nostalgia-inducing “Younger” and the heartwarming “You.”

In the video above, A Great Big World describes the inspirations behind both songs.

“Younger” gives several nods to the Mario Bros. video game franchise by name-dropping Mario in the lyrics, infusing the song’s intro with classic game noises and turning the single’s music video into an 8-bit style work of art starring the duo as pixelated characters eating the lyrics. “One of the first things I think of about my childhood is all of the video games I played,” Axel said. “I was a big gamer and I still kind of am. I’m trying to balance that part of my life and not go crazy with it.”

The lyrics in “Younger” also reference Maroon 5’s 2002 debut album Songs About Jane. King said that record inspired him to pursue being a musician. After hearing it, he remembered thinking, “I want to do that. I want to do what Adam Levine is doing. The songs are so catchy and beautiful. The songwriting is so great.”

For the duo’s latest single, “You,” Axel drew inspiration from his infant son. He began writing the ode to his baby before his birth and completed it after his wife, Lina, gave birth in 2017. “It’s just the idea of the people who come into your life that you haven’t met yet that are going to rock it and change your life forever,” Axel said with a smile. “Having a kid was one of the most profound things that ever happened to me. It was a love letter to him, before I met him and after I met him. And it became a love letter to my wife as well.”

Another standout yet-to-be-released track from the album is “Save Me From Myself,” which addresses Axel’s ongoing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety issues and OCD my whole life,” he revealed. “I finally wrote about it … for the first time. It felt pretty scary to talk about it. I’ve dealt with OCD with therapy and medication and sleeping. Getting more sleep helps it. Exercising helps it. But being a musician and being a new dad you don’t get a lot of that stuff, so it’s just balancing and focusing on the really amazing things in my life. It’s hard. It’s going to be a lifetime. It’s one of the cards I got. It’s one of the things I’m dealing with.

“I have bad days. I have good days. It’s a ride.”

Watch ONE37pm’s full interview with A Great Big World below, for more sneak peek details about the upcoming self-titled album.

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