Owl City's Adam Young
Owl City, an electronic music project that was started up by Adam Young, has been in the mainstream for over four years. Young, a Minnesota native, had begun composing music in his parent’s basement and later uploaded his work onto his MySpace page. His songs would receive attention from a lot of users that would give him good feedback. After making many songs available on iTunes, Young would release his first EP Of June in 2007, followed by his second release “Maybe I’m Dreaming” the year after. Despite not being a national star yet, Owl City would soon catch the attention of Universal Republic Presidents Avery and Monte Lipman. After signing a deal with Universal Republic in 2009, Young released Ocean Eyes, the first full-length album and major label debut. The album was an instant success as it peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200 charts, along with the help of singles such as Fireflies, Umbrella Beach, Vanilla Twilight. Young has also toured with popular bands such as The Scene Aesthetic, John Mayer, Lights, and Maroon 5. Young has also started other musical projects such as Sky Sailing, which deals with a more acoustic and piano sound to his work, and Windsor Airlift, a more ambient rock sound that features members Andy and Anthony Johnson.
In our latest interview with the electro pop wonder, Young talks to fans about topics such as the progress of making his latest album, what helps him stand out as an artist, his favorite tracks, how he got started in music, his reaction to the success of “Fireflies,” the meaning of the name Owl City, and much more!
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Largely, it was really written from the imagination. I guess that kind of goes for all of my songs kind of across the board. Just writing from the imagination rather than pulling from any specific personal relationships or scenarios that have true hard reality in my own life. Ultimately, I just kind of sat down and let my imagination go nuts. Most of the songs sort of wrote themselves. A lot of them have pretty quirky qualities to them but, ultimately, I knew wanted this very uplifting optimistic record with kind of a mature melancholy underlying current running through it. I'm happy how it turned out!
I guess from day one, I loved the idea of imagining what the rest of the world was like beyond my little hometown in southern Minnesota. I'm an only child and I'm a pretty introverted guy and my parents and I never really did the crazy extravagant family vacation thing. So I never had really been anywhere when I started writing music. Initially I was like, "I've never been to Seattle, I should write a song about it!" Even though the result was probably not that accurate in terms of description, I just loved the idea of that place as I saw it in my own head. For some reason that just kind of struck a chord with me and I couldn't stop writing about those kinds of places or doing things I knew I would never do. So then fast forward two years after that, I remember standing on the Great Wall of China calling my parents being like, "You'll never guess where I am!" and they were like, "It's 2 in the morning! Why are you calling here?" It's a very surreal story. I'm just trying to chase after this crazy roller-coaster, because it's all been so amazing.
I think probably track one, it's called "The Real World." It pretty much sums up the record. It has this cheeky punch line that is "reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there." That to me, albeit corny, really kind of sums up my own very kind of respectful/quirky way of seeing real life as it is. Almost saying, "I love you real life, but the reality in my own head is way more fun and way more exciting and dreamy than, certainly, this real life is." It's just kind of a fun song about day dreams. The idea of going to and returning from those day dreams and how beautiful that can be.
I feel like everyone's uncle played guitar back in the '70s. Mine did and he gave me his old acoustic guitar when I was about 15 years old. I picked it up and I couldn't put it back down. I just started writing music and I remember thinking if I get some recording software I could record some guitar tracks and if I get a bass guitar I could record those and put them in. Then if I get a drum set and just teach myself as and build all these different layers. I could just go anywhere suddenly and do anything all in music! That's pretty much how it started, and I just started these sort of electronic pop hybrid songs and found their way to MySpace at the time when it was really booming. I kind of happened to be at the right place at the right time. Suddenly, record labels were calling and the track was on the radio. It just was this crazy whirlwind for this shy kid from nowhere in Minnesota. It was an incredible thing.
Yeah! It was so out of the box, off the radar for me. It was something I never even imagined! Even having a song on the radio for me was so for out of my dreams. When my manager called me one day and said, " 'Fireflies' has gone to number one in 24 countries around the world," I still don't even know what that means! [laughs] It's so big and so incredible. I'm just so blessed to be able to do what I do. It's very humbling, believe it or not.
I remember sitting around early on in the conception of this project imagining myself scrolling through a list of band names online like on iTunes or something, and I had all of these ideas kicking around in a big text file on my laptop, and Owl City was one of them. And I remember thinking, 'Well if I was scrolling through this list of names and saw that name on it, I may not necessarily love it right away, but the imagery of that name would make me drop everything and click on that name right away and listen to the music, because what could it sound like and what could it be?' It's just two disconnected words really sewn together that kind of sparked my imagination to create.
That was a fun thing to do for Valentines Day. I remember when Taylor's record came out I was definitely up until midnight. I bought it the night it came out.
Yeah, I did! She always has that kind of sneaky way of hiding messages in her lyrics. So when I added up the first four letters of my name I was like, 'Whoa this really is about me!' It was a huge honor for me, so I knew I had to kind of reply. I'm not really eloquent in anything except for speaking via lyrics in a song, so I thought well I should probably take her song and cover it and turn a few words around, so it's like I'm singing back to her and replying to her. It was just a fun thing to do.
I really haven't heard back from her since then. [laughs] It's okay, I'm sure she's really busy!
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