A Great Big World
Photo: Andrew Zaeh / Press

A Great Big World — Particles

Ian Axel and Chad King, better known as A Great Big World, have released their long-awaited third album Particles.

The duo, which hails from New York City, boasts a sense of individuality with their thought-provoking lyrics that feel like a warm hug. The record has been four years in the making and the pair does not stray from being their most authentic selves. 

Between the heavily emotional “Save Me From Myself” (a personal favorite), which finds Axel opening up for the very first time about his intense battle with OCD, to heartbreak anthems and melancholic tracks “Here Without You” and “Darling It’s Over,” the incredibly gifted songwriters created a beautifully crafted, cohesive body of work that leaves listeners speechless.

Furthermore, with the pandemic still ongoing, this record couldn’t come at a better time. There’s a song for everyone to connect with in one way or another. The positivity that’s woven throughout their music consistently is always a huge plus. Their connection with fans is so incredibly special and, again, it comes down to the music. With Particles, it finds them at the top of their game that rightfully positions them a place bridging pop music and musical theater together. The year is 2021 — AGBW is here to stay and capture even more hearts with their precious tunes, no matter how emotional they are. Side note: have tissues nearby while listening to this album. It’s everything we needed and more.

EUPHORIA. chatted with the duo about making their new album, their songwriting process, and more. 

Your third album has been four years in the making. What was the process like creating it and the journey of getting it out? The industry truly is tricky. If you feel comfortable diving into the specifics?

Let’s just say the process took us through three record labels and a global pandemic. It was a lot of starts and stops, and re-recording, re-writing, and soul searching. The album went through multiple iterations before we landed here. We believe we honed in on a sound for this album and it’s all very cohesive. And now, for the first time since we started, we’re truly independent artists and it feels like a new beginning.

With releasing new music, there must be a part of you that’s nervous about the reaction. But when you’re putting out a record that’s personal to you, do you put more pressure on yourselves for everyone to like it? How does it feel to finally have this out in the world?

Since the creation of this record has been such a long, arduous process, there’s definitely a lot of buildup in our minds. I think the biggest feelings are relief mixed with joy mixed with anxiety over “now what happens?”

You made the decision to self-release your music going forward. This is such a huge step for you guys. I’m so proud of you for taking charge. How does it feel to have total control of your careers now?

It really does feel great, like we’re starting over in a way. It feels like it did when we met in college and were really hustling. It definitely puts some fire in our bellies. It’s scary for sure. But to know when we make a decision, it doesn’t need to go through all of the corporate red tape…it’s nice. And that we can 100% make our music the way we want to make it…it’s totally freeing.

How has your sound and songwriting process evolved with this record? How do you envision it evolving in the future?

Our sound on this record is more orchestral and somber than what we’ve released in the past. It’s just a snapshot of where we were emotionally while writing. We’re not sure how it will evolve, but we’re open to anything…as long as it stays true and honest with where we are at in that moment.

There were so many different variations of this album before it became what it is. Which scrapped song do you wish made the cut for this record and why? Will there ever be a chance to hear any of the scrapped songs?

There are so many songs that didn’t “make it,” but we still love them all. We’ve definitely talked about releasing some of these as bonus tracks along the way. I guess you’ll have to wait and find out!

Your live shows are always a blast, so when you’re writing, do you consider how the song will sound live, and what elements you can include to make it sound great in front of an audience, or do you just write the song however it comes to you and the live performance aspect comes later?

Recently, the live performance aspect definitely has been coming later. The sonic landscapes for these latest songs really came together in the studio…it was all inspired there. We’re just now figuring out how to perform them live! It’s interesting because when we first began writing together back in college, we would write songs and perform them dozens of times before going into the studio. Now we’ve been writing songs and recording them before we ever perform them live.

“Glowing” is the perfect album opener! Was it made to feel like that?

We feel like the song really sets the stage sonically and emotionally for what’s about to come. It’s grand, and sweeping, and filled with hope. We really wanted to make a statement like that up top, especially as the record does take a darker turn in moments.

Ian, you open up for the very first time musically about your battle with OCD on the track “Save Me From Myself.” I’m so proud of you for putting this one on the record, because for you, of course, it’s about your own personal struggle but it’s open-ended in the sense that one can relate to it with their own mental health struggles especially now with the pandemic. It’s going to help and comfort so many people going through similar situations. What are some tips you can give on how you’ve handled your OCD and mental health in general?

Ah, thank you! Therapy. Lots and lots of therapy! OCD is such a lonely illness in a lot of ways because people are ashamed to talk about it. There are definitely options…whether it’s medicine, or cognitive behavioral therapy, or sometimes it just helps to talk with others who are going through it. I’ve been doing it all and learning to accept it as a part of me…both good and bad. Part of my process has been writing about it, which we did for the first time with this song. I’m really interested in continuing to explore it in this way.

When all the pressures of the music industry become too much, what centers you and brings you back to your passion for singing/songwriting?

Axel: For me, it’s spending time with my family. Maybe going on a roadtrip somewhere or getting away for a few days with them. They always group and re-center me.

King: I’ve been meditating every day for two and a half years. It is a moment each day when I can stop my mind from racing and it centers me like nothing else.

What kind of role do you see your fans playing in your life and in your music?

Our fans are a huge, huge part of why we do what we do. We write music at first because it’s therapy for us. But then getting to share our music with others, playing shows and meeting our fans is everything. Turns out human connection is pretty darn important. Music is one of those things that brings us back together. It’s so special.