Thanks to a computer, a MySpace account, and a case of insomnia that led to some late-night musical invention, Adam Young put himself on the fast track to musical fame with his one-man music project Owl City. The ten million fireflies came later.
Young, then a truck loader at a Coca-Cola warehouse in Minnesota making music in his parents’ basement, earned the attention of hundreds of thousands of friends on the social media network with his poppy electronica tunes in 2007. He was quickly brought on by Universal Republic in 2008. In 2009, he released “Ocean Eyes,” the album featuring his multi-platinum single “Fireflies.” The hit, with its catchy synth lines and whimsical lyrics about dancing with lightning bugs and not being able to fall asleep, earned Owl City international acclaim.
Young, as part of the third leg of a world tour to promote the “Ocean Eyes” follow-up album “All Things Bright and Beautiful” released earlier this year, will be performing at the 9:30 club this Wednesday. The News-Press spoke to Young before the show about his quick rise to fame and the musical project that led him there.
LP: Looking back, was there any particular moment when you felt you had achieved stardom for your music?
AY: We got on an airplane and took off across the world and showed up in Hong Kong and we were working a sold-out show full of kids and they knew every word to every song. Never ever could I have imagined myself being somewhere doing this – whatever this is – wherever this takes me. It’s humbling in a really healthy way.
LP: What was the first song you recorded that you heard on the radio, and what was listening to it like?
AY: I was driving my girlfriend’s red convertible around Azusa, California when I heard “Fireflies” for the first time on KROC. It was a totally surreal moment and I just remember smiling like a dork.
LP: How is Adam Young, as a musician, different from Owl City?
AY: Music is something that is fused to who I am. It allows me to breathe deeply, it lets me feel, imagine, aspire and dream in the most beautiful ways imaginable. Owl City is one of my musical projects and it’s always been in me to make Owl City a vehicle that sends a hopeful message. As a listener, I’m drawn to things that are really uplifting.
LP: You record as acts with different names when the music doesn’t seem to fit beneath the “Owl City” name. Where would you define the bounds of the Owl City sound?
AY: The true projects I put energy into are Owl City, Sky Sailing and Port Blue. As a writer, I’ve wanted to explore countless genres over the course of my career, and having separate entities allows me to do that, rather than try to force all content into one mold. All of these projects are distinct in their aesthetic, direction, message, and certainly by general mechanics to ultimately consistently embody their own identities. In terms of all things Owl City, I started writing electronica music just on a whim. I hadn’t really delved into the world of programming and sequencing, and the endless roads that you can take via electronic music, so I thought it would be fun to take a stab at it. I put that stuff out there on MySpace and didn’t really do much with it, just let people discover it. The response that came in was incredible.
LP: Has your music changed from recording tracks for a MySpace audience to putting together albums for a large record-buying audience?
AY: In a manner of speaking, my music has an extraordinary way of writing itself, I never try to consciously think about what specific line or lyric will resonate with what audience. I merely try to push all that aside and write sincerely from the heart. In that way, I believe it keeps my music very pure and uncontaminated by whatever preconceived notions I might start injecting into the writing process. I just sit down to write a song as if it’s the first and last piece of art I’ll ever have the privilege of working on. And a privilege it is.
• For more information about Owl City visit owlcitymusic.com.