Early years (2007–2009)
Suffering from insomnia while working loading Coca-Cola trucks in his hometown Owatonna, Minnesota, Young turned to composing music. He began uploading songs recorded in his parents’ basement to Myspace.He started to receive favorable attention for his music and then helped cultivate this nascent fanbase by being an open and accessible web presence, responding to any messages he received and constantly posting blogs. His manager Steve Burksy later highlighted the significance of Young’s engaging online manner in building his following saying: “People feel like they know him, like they’ve got a direct connection to him because of how he approaches his connection with them online.”Through a deal with the digital aggregator CD Baby, he then started making the songs available for sale through iTunes. In 2007, Owl City released an EP titled Of June, followed by the 2008 release of the album Maybe I’m Dreaming. Of Junereached No. 15 on the Billboard Electronic Albums chart, and Maybe I’m Dreaming peaked on the same chart at No. 13.
The viral phenomenon that was building through Myspace caught the attention of Universal Republic presidents Avery and Monte Lipman who approached Young with a view to signing the artist. Republic recommended Young partner up with 27-year-old manager Steve Bursky of Foundations Artist Management and the two began working together in late 2008. When later asked by HitQuarters why the label chose him for a major label act given his relative inexperience, Burksy said:
“I think they saw Owl City as representing the future of our business. This idea of a kid in a tiny town in rural U.S. being able to make songs in his basement that sound like Top 40 radio could never have happened ten years ago. By hiring a young management company who understands the business circa 2011 over a seasoned industry vet, who might not understand the online spaces well, showed a lot of understanding of where this kid was going to end up having success.”
Owl City’s label deal with Universal Republic was finally confirmed in February 2009. According to Bursky there was initially some disagreement about the direction Owl City should follow, telling HitQuarters: “They were ready to send him into the studio with big producers and polish him up to try to become this thing that he wasn’t. But we put our foot down and said, ‘Look, the reason you signed this kid is because it’s working. Whatever it is about him – his music, his interaction with his fans, his brilliance in the online space – these things are connecting with people, and as soon as you change that you lose what’s special about this artist.’ To their credit, they really listened and they got it.”
Ocean Eyes (2009–2010)
Ocean Eyes, Owl City’s third full-length album and major label debut, was released on iTunes on July 14, 2009, with the physical release following on July 28, 2009. The album debuted at No. 27 on the Billboard 200. Owl City has released three official singles from this album: “Umbrella Beach“, “Vanilla Twilight” and “Fireflies“. “Fireflies” topped the US and Canadian charts. Ocean Eyes reached the top ten on the US album charts, topped the US electronic charts, and also reached Amazon MP3’s top 10 most downloaded album list. By April 2010, it was certified Platinum in the United States. On January 24, 2010, Owl City reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Top 40 Singles chart with “Fireflies”. The song “Tidal Wave” also received significant airplay on Christian music radio stations. On January 2, 2011, it was revealed “Fireflies” was the 20th most downloaded song of all time in the UK.
Young is joined by Breanne Düren on several tracks; the most noted being “The Saltwater Room“. Owl City’s live band consists of Breanne Düren (background vocals/keyboards), Casey Brown (drums), Laura Musten (violin), Hannah Schroeder (cello), and Daniel Jorgensen (vibes).[not in citation given]
Relient K vocalist Matt Thiessen has toured and collaborated with Owl City on several tracks, including “Fireflies”, where Matt can be heard providing the backup vocals. Young also produced Relient K’s song “Terminals”.
“Fireflies” was released as a free download on the game Tap Tap Revenge 3 by Tapulous. Prior to the July 14, 2009 internet release ofOcean Eyes, and the “Fireflies” single, Steve Hoover was hired as a director for a music video for “Fireflies”. The video was to have had an exclusive premiere on MySpace, but had been leaked onto YouTube and Dailymotion hours earlier. “Fireflies” became a big sleeper hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States for the week ending November 7, 2009.
Owl City is featured on Soundtrack 90210 with a song titled “Sunburn”, which was released on October 13, 2009. Owl City has toured withThe Scene Aesthetic, Lights, John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Brooke Waggoner. He was also guest featured in the soundtrack to Tim Burton‘sAlice in Wonderland with a song entitled “The Technicolor Phase” that had already been featured in his debut album.
In 2010, Young revealed a new musical project known as Sky Sailing, which moved away from his usual electronica genre of music and introduced acoustic guitar and piano accompaniments into his work. The unrefined tracks were recorded in the summer of 2007 before he began making music as Owl City. His first album under this new project is entitled An Airplane Carried Me to Bed, and was released July 13, 2010 via iTunes.
In May 2010, Adam Young collaborated with high-profile British electronic composer, producer, musician, and songwriter Nick Bracegirdle. Under his Chicane alias, Bracegirdle released the single “Middledistancerunner” on August 1, 2010 featuring Adam Young on vocals. This is the first single from the fourth Chicane album Giants. He also worked with famed Dutch producer Armin van Buuren, appearing on a track called ‘Youtopia’ from the van Buuren album Mirage on September 10, 2010.
On September 21, 2010 “To the Sky” was officially released via iTunes on the soundtrack for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole.
On October 25, 2010, Young released a cover version of the praise and worship song “In Christ Alone” as a streaming mp3 on his website.
On November 13, 2010, a new album was also released for one of his other musical projects, “Windsor Airlift“, called “Flight” on iTunes.
On November 23, 2010, a new Christmas single called “Peppermint Winter” was released. A preview had been released the previous week onFacebook.
All Things Bright and Beautiful (2010–2011)
Production on Young’s third studio album began around mid-2010, with Young being announced as the executive producer of the album.
On October 18, 2010 Young wrote an entry on his blog regarding his third studio album, saying that the album was nearing completion.
In February 2011, the title of the album was announced to be All Things Bright and Beautiful and that the album would be released on May 17. However, on April 6, Young released a statement on his website, along with lengthy previews of four of his songs (Dreams Don’t Turn to Dust, Alligator Sky Featuring Shawn Chrystopher, Galaxies, and Deer in the Headlights), that the release date for All Things Bright and Beautiful would be pushed back to June 14.
In Late March and Early April, tickets went on sale for The All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour, and All Things Bright and Beautiful became available for preorder.
On April 19, Galaxies was released as the second single from the album.
On May 6, the music video for Alligator Sky was released. Young discussed the concept in a making-of video posted on Owl City’s VEVOaccount, “The concept is basically about these two guys who are leaving Earth. Rather than it being this very dark post-apocalyptic vibe, it’s very optimistic, and so it’s like people are excited to leave earth.”
On June 14, All Things Bright and Beautiful was released on iTunes. Although only a few days prior on May 20, almost all of the album leaked onto the internet.
On June 30, the music video for ‘Deer in the Headlights’ was released. It features Young driving through the night in the DMC DeLoreanfeatured in the Back to the Future trilogy and Canadian musician Lights makes a cameo appearance in the video.
On July 19, “Lonely Lullaby” was released as a single on iTunes, which was previously available only to Owl City Galaxy members.
Young was interviewed in the August issue of Cliché Magazine. He also appeared on the cover of the magazine and the issue also featured some of Young’s very own art work.
On July 21, at the Club Nokia concert in Los Angeles, Young announced that the concert was being filming for a Live DVD to be released by the holiday season.
On November 28, the music video for “Youtopia”, by Armin van Buuren Featuring Adam Young, was released on YouTube.Fourth Studio Album (2011-Present)
In Young’s final tour dates of 2011, he said that he had begun the recording process of his fourth studio album. He also performed a new song entitled “I Hope You Think of Me”.
On January 2, 2012, Young wrote an entry on his blog regarding his fourth studio album. Young said that he would be collaborating with more producers and songwriters, also saying that his new record “Marks a flying leap in this direction”. Young expects the album to be released around late Summer to Fall 2012.
Musical styles and influences
Owl City’s music is described as indietronica and synthpop and is often described as belonging under the “electronic music” label. Young has stated that he is inspired by disco and European electronic music, as well as instrumental genres such as drone, ambient, and post-rock. He cites his biggest influences as Johnathon Ford of Unwed Sailor and Thomas Newman. Young also incorporates a large amount of his Christian faith into his music, since he is a vocal Christian. Young’s faith is evident on the new album, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, especially in “Galaxies”. Explaining why the faith-filled song was added to the mix, he said, “I feel like if I were ever to hide the fact that that’s what’s so important to me, it would be a crime, that I should probably be put in jail for that.”
Owl City also has been compared to The Postal Service, often critically, for his combination of fuzzy synths, ironic lyrics and use of female guest singers. Pitchfork.com goes far enough to say that “The surprise No. 1 single in the country, Owl City’s ‘Fireflies,’ jacks the Postal Service in such a bald-faced, obvious manner that getting into specifics feels redundant at best and tacky at worst.” In response to the suggestion that his work is derivative, Adam Young suggested in a 2009 interview with The New York Times that Ocean Eyes is perhaps the “next chapter” after American band The Postal Service: “The Postal Service released a record in 2003, and that was it. There was really nothing to compare it to until some one else came along and wrote the next chapter. Maybe that’s this record. Maybe that’s this band.”
Young also produces music under a wide variety of other projects, which include Port Blue, Dolphin Park, Windsor Airlift, Insect Airport, Seagull Orchestra, Novel, Aquarium, Sky Sailing, and Swimming with Dolphins. Most of these projects were started before Owl City propelled Young to fame. Many of these projects were formed alongside some friends, including Austin Tofte of Swimming with Dolphins.
Young was featured on the track “All About Us” by He Is We released on August 29, 2011, on iTunes. He was also featured on the track “First Noel” on TobyMac‘s album Christmas in Diverse City released October 4, 2011.
- Current members
- Adam Young – lead vocals, programming, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, guitars, bass guitar, drums, percussion, vibraphone, accordion
- Current touring members
While Young writes, composes, records, and produces all of Owl City’s music, during live performances he is accompanied by a group of supporting musicians:
- Breanne Düren – keyboards, backing vocals
- Daniel Jorgensen – guitar, vibraphone
- Laura Musten – violin
- Hannah Schroeder – cello
- Casey Brown – drums
- Steve Goold – drums 2012