Owl City's Adam Young on EDM, religion, and his Ford Mustang
|Photo by Erik Hess; design by Mike Kooiman|
Cover Story: Owl City's reclusive Adam Young opens up
Carly Rae Jepsen on meeting Owl City's Adam Young and "Good Time"
Owl City's "Good Time" collaboration with the Minneapolis Youth Chorus -- behind-the-scenes
The basement bleeps and bloops of Owl City have been one of Minnesota's best-known imports since the single "Fireflies" became a chart smash back in the summer of 2009. Principal songwriter Adam Young only spends a fraction of his life in the small town of Owatonna where he grew up and still has a home, so it was a coup that City Pages got to meet up with him for a couple hours there earlier this month for a cover story.
Owl City just released The Midsummer Station, which features collaborations with Carly Rae Jepsen, Blink-182's Mark Hoppus, and the Minneapolis Youth Choir -- and it's got a pop sheen on it that surpasses all previous work. In these outtakes from a revealing conversation at the Owatonna Starbucks (and a phone call before a performance in London), Young spoke about his connections to the world of dance music, Twin Peaks, his sleeplessness, his beliefs, and coming home.
Gimme Noise: How much do you find a kinship with the EDM scene? Where do you think your music fits in?
Adam Young: It's definitely a big influence, and it always has been for me, honestly. I grew up listening to, particularly, European trance music like Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren and all this big seeping progressive trance stuff. You know, eight or nine-minute long mixes. It's stuff I've listened to since 9th grade. So I've always been a real big fan of that. I've been like the one kid in high school who listens to dance music and everyone else is into like Nickelback or whatever.
It's really exciting for me to sit back and watch the trends -- especially Top 40 music. Now obviously it's all beat heavy. It's pretty inspiring to me. As far as its influence over my own music, it's like 65 to 70 percent dance music. I'm so into it. The experience just going to a show: You watch a DJ mix, which is obviously very different than me performing with five other members on stage.
GN: After hearing The Midsummer Station, it's natural to wonder, what is your favorite season?
AY: Well, nine months of the year there's snow on the ground in Minnesota. So I think my favorite is right when the snow starts to melt, so this spring. Like spring in general, is pretty short in the Midwest, but I love spring. Yeah, you can just go outside and not get frostbite within five minutes. It's just green and it's growing and it's like the long wait after the dead of winter. Yeah. It's kind of inspiring for me and just in life itself.
|Photo by Erik Hess|
GN: How does it feel to be divided between your younger fans and the much older people you work with?
AY: I never wrote music for anybody but myself. That sounds sort of selfish, but early on, music was my escape. Music was my way out of my job I hated and my very short community college career which ended badly. So music was my way out of that, that was my escape and ironically, the music would turn around and pull me out of where I was from. So I never wrote music for the 15 to 25-year-old-girls who seem to really connect with it. On the other side of it, I'm not sure what it is about 40-50 year old producer/co-writer guys who love this music and want to help me do what I do better. So I'm kind of in the middle of it all, but at the end of the day, I'm still kind of just doing what I've always done, which is just make songs that get stuck in my own head and just catchy melodies.
GN: What do you get most excited for when you get a break in your tour to head home for a while?
AY: Owatonna is very small compared to New York or wherever. I like the traffic. I like the fact that I don't have to wait for traffic. [laughs] Wherever it is, I can just do everything within a two mile radius; get food, get groceries, see my parents. I don't have to be anywhere. That's my favorite thing. I can close the door, I can stay inside my house and not leave if I don't want to. And usually I don't leave [laughs].
GN: I just got a mental picture of you driving a car. When you are at home, do you drive?
AY: Yeah when I'm at home, I love that. The thing about touring is that you can't drive anywhere by yourself because you're on a tour bus. So yeah, when I'm at home, I'm always driving around aimlessly a lot of times, but it's a good thing. It's a new Mustang. I have thing about Mustangs. I'm all for the drive.
GN: A convertable?
AY: No. I'm like a total bro. It's black and it's got white stripes and I've done stuff to it in the shop. I gave it more horsepower, it's like 400-whatever horsepower. [laughs]From Owatonna:
GN: What happens to you when you are on stage and you start to feel uncomfortable?
AY: I don't know, I just kind of deal with it. My capacity to deal with uncomfortableness has grown, and I think that's a big thing. It's like that's so awkward, but I just act and just have to get through. The song is going to end eventually, you're going to be fine, it'll feel like forever. Like if something goes wrong on stage, somebody screws up or guitars aren't working, you just have to keep strumming even though no sound isn't coming out. You just have to keep looking like you're having fun.
GN: It's a very welcoming audience compared to what some performers expect. Like the people are on your side, but then do you feel like you have to live up to their raised expectations?
AY: Yeah. I mean they'll cheer no matter what. There's people out there that'll be like "that's alright". They're pretty forgiving. But it's still between me and myself. It's like "Aw I can't believe I've played this stupid part a million times and I screwed it up every time. Like what's wrong with me?" That's what ticks me off.