More than three million copies of “Say Something”, a song written by A Great Big World’s Ian Axel, left, and Chad Vaccarino, had sold as of March 5. The duo will play the Rialto this weekend.

Joseph Llanes

Six months ago, A Great Big World made its great big Tucson debut as the opening act for The Fray during a My 92.9 promotional concert at Hotel Congress.

On Saturday, the New York pop duo, made up of Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, will return, this time as headliners at the Rialto Theatre.

The upgrade in venue can be attributed in part to their song “Say Something” which was featured on their 2013 album, “Is There Anybody Out There.” The sad and longing track reached new heights of popularity when it was re-recorded with pop diva Christina Aguilera late last year.

More than three million copies of “Say Something” had sold as of March 5.

“We wrote it about five years ago,” Axel said during a phone interview with both musicians last week. “Chad and I were both heartbroken at the time, coming out of different relationships. We came together and wrote that song. It was our therapy.”

Axel and Vaccarino have been making music together since their first interactions as students at New York University in 2006.

How did you two meet? Vaccarino: “We were in the same music publishing class. Ian knew I had been writing music. He stalked me in a practice room one day and made me listen to him playing the piano.”

Ian, why Chad? Axel: “I was drawn to him. Sometimes you meet people and you think you’ve known them your whole life. That was the case with Chad. I felt like it needed to happen.”

Chad, what were your first impressions of Ian’s idea to team up? Vaccarino: “When he first started playing the piano, I kind of freaked out. He had a way with it. It was an extension of him. He played like no one else has ever played.”

Do you two still enjoy working with one another? Axel: “It is so easy. He is my other half at a soulful level.”

Before ‘Say Something,’ you had ‘This is the New Year’ which was featured on an episode of ‘Glee’ in 2013. How did that come about? Vaccarino: “It was a twist of fate experience. We had a fan at Universal Publishing. He said he loved the song and asked if he could send it to his friend at ‘Glee.’ We didn’t even have a deal with Universal at that point. We were blown away that he would even offer to do that.”

After five years of holding on to ‘Say Something,’ are you happy that it has become your No. 1 hit? Axel: “It is extraordinary. The timing is interesting. If all this happened when we first wrote the song, I don’t think I could have handled it.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430