In the state of Minnesota lies a small town called Owatonna with roughly twenty-two thousand inhabitants. Within that city is a quiet road with a modest house. In that house there’s an unkempt basement with no windows. Within those confines you’ll find Adam Young of Owl City hard at work on his electronic and melodically infectious music of simple and singular beauty. Inside this “cave,” as Adam likes to describe it, he has begun to quickly win over a large audience thirsty for something genuine, something sublime. The proof is in the music as Owl City’s first official CD – Ocean Eyes – was released July 21st, 2009 and debuted at #27 on the Billboard Top 200, #2 on Billboard’s Electronic Albums chart and #3 on the Digital Albums Chart.
Being an only child in a small town, and having no musicians in his immediate family, Adam is hard pressed to say how it all started. Explaining that he always had a “push” to be creative, Adam picked up his first guitar in junior high school. Growing up in a “sheltered bubble” and being one of the more shy kids around the neighborhood, Adam seemed compelled to lend his time and creative ideas to music. “I’ve always been the shy guy, I don’t see that changing, but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable than I anticipated. I can hide behind the music.”
While his music continues to win followers all over the world, Adam does indeed hide behind his music, not going by his real name (See: Badly Drawn Boy and Dashboard Confessional); but going by the moniker Owl City. Adam was searching more for a mood when coming up with a title for his sound, rather than something easily identifiable. He goes on to explain that most of the artists that catch his eye have something unique about their name, something that lingers.
So one has to ask: how did this Owl City phenomenon begin? How does a young artist writing songs underneath his garage, acoustic foam and books everywhere, reach an audience of millions? “I’m still trying to figure it out,” Adam laughs. “Back in June of 2007 it kind of started on a whim. My parents were away for the weekend, and wanting to be loud and make some noise and whatever, I began writing versions of what became my first, self released digital EP – Of June. I put it up on MySpace the following month and didn’t tell anyone.”
Word of mouth began to spread for Adam’s music, with demands coming from various parts of the country for an album. Maybe I’m Dreaming, released digitally in March of 2008, was Owl City’s full-length debut. The album was a clear representation of Owl City’s progression as an artist. Adam became a phenomenon on MySpace and in just over a year had more than 7 million profile views and 40 million plays; outstanding for such a short span of time. It was clear that Owl City was making a colossal impact on the music scene.
What might be swirling through his head after such a quick and sudden start at stardom? “The biggest thing I was concerned-slash-worried about was the live performance – never having played a show as ‘Owl City.’ There was a lot of apprehension.” Adam’s concern, about being a one-man wizard on the keyboard, “hunched over a computer,” was put to the test at his first gig in early 2009. Most, if not all, of his fears were quickly put to rest as Adam played to a sold out show in Minneapolis. “It was surreal,” Adam says “to have people buying your t-shirts, singing the words – louder than I was; it felt so good.” And Adam will be hearing a lot more people singing his words as he tours with his full band throughout North America, China and Japan with gigs lined up through this fall and beyond.
Ocean Eyes is capturing the hearts and ears of many. Loaded with amazing loops, catchy pick-ups, and lyrics that soothe the mind and touch the heart, Adam Young has once again created a lush listening experience. Owl City’s trademark desire to escape in dreams, oceans and sky abound on this, his first official CD, in songs such as “Cave In” and “Umbrella Beach.” Adam also continues to display a terrific wit uncommon in most electronic based music in such songs as the clap infused, bouncy “Dental Care” (a humorous metaphor on smiling) and “Fireflies.” Given the official compact disc treatment, previously released fan favorite “Hello Seattle” gives the great Northwest its’ due with an ode to highlands, parking lots, Puget Sound and albatross. With glorious vocal harmonies (“The Saltwater Room”) and touching odes to love lost (“Vanilla Twilight”) Adam has dug more deeply on Ocean Eyes lyrically and musically than ever before.
Owl City’s future is as exciting, expansive and mellifluous as its music. Adam’s main focus will be to continue playing out live and satisfying a fan base that is growing and always eagerly anticipating new material. “I’ve loved every minute of it so far, and I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen next.” So are we.