A Great Big World Studio Session: Watch 'Say Something' Performance and Q&A

A Great Big World photographed in New York City on January 3, 2014

Kate Glicksberg

After delivering a pair of performances, the duo opens up about their unexpected smash and what they learned from Christina Aguilera.

"We didn't expect it to be this big -- it's bigger than us now," says A Great Big World's Ian Axel of the duo's harrowing single, "Say Something."

"There was never a thought in either of our minds that this was going to be a single," adds his musical partner, Chad Vaccarino.

A few months ago, A Great Big World was a duo of NYU buddies with a Kickstarter-funded debut EP and aspirations of impacting the pop world. "Say Something" delivered on those hopes, and then some: after appearing on "So You Think You Can Dance" last September, the ballad attracted the attention of Christina Aguilera, who re-recorded the track with A Great Big World and performed "Say Something" with the duo on "The Voice."

More high-profile television opportunities -- a performance on the American Music Awards, and at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show -- followed. Suddenly, the A Great Big World guys were the authors of a Top 5 hit on the Hot 100 chart, as "Say Something" has sold 1.9 million downloads to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"We didn't think that our introduction to the world we would a heart-wrenching ballad," A Great Big World told Billboard during a recent visit to our New York studio for a performance of "Say Something" as well as new song "Rockstar." Axel and Vaccarino discussed the meaning of their hit single's music video, working with Aguilera on the re-recording and reading YouTube comments of listeners "spilling their guts" about how they personally relate to the song's thematic swoop.

Hear A Great Big World's Pop Shop Podcast Interview

However, Axel and Vaccarino are quick to point out that "Say Something" is not indicative of the entirety of "Is There Anybody Out There?," the group's debut album, due out Jan. 21 on Black Magnetic/Epic Records, to which the duo was signed by Antonio "L.A." Reid. Aside from its breakout single, A Great Big World's first full-length is fiercely upbeat, with standout like "Land of Opportunity" and "Rockstar" demonstrating the duo's multi-faceted songwriting approach.

"All of our music is upbeat, and fun, and positive," says Axel with a smile. "Except for one or two songs."

Watch A Great Big World perform one of their uptempo tracks, "Rockstar," below:

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