Adam Young sings about insomnia, young love and the sea in his electronica music project Owl City.
What was once something he did in his parent’s basement in Owatonna, Minn. is now an act signed to a major label on a headlining tour which is selling out around the country. After the tour he will take the show to China and Japan in November, part of which is with the band Mae.
Owl City was first launched in 2007. After two successful self-released CDs, the Internet sensation was signed to Universal/Island Def Jam in 2009 and soon after released “Ocean Eyes” which topped the iTunes charts. The 23-year-old devout Christian has his music rotated on KISS stations, MTV and VH1.
The Ottumwa-born’s first trip to Iowa as Owl City will be Thursday in Des Moines — the concert sold out the House of Bricks in September before it was moved to People’s Court, which sold out as well. When tickets went back on sale, 150 were nabbed in the first three hours.
Kingkade: What were you up to in life before Owl City started to take off?
Young: To be honest, life was pretty bland, even mundane. The world looked very black and white through my eyes and there wasn’t much color to be seen. I was working a job I hated, going to school for nothing and spending every waking moment daydreaming about creating music for a living. Being an artist has always been my dream so, needless to say, I couldn’t be more thrilled at what’s happening with Owl City. I’m so incredibly blessed to be allowed this opportunity in my life. I couldn’t be more thankful to God.
K: The Internet has played a large role in your music’s success, and I’ve noticed how you post your own bulletins, tweets and even repost fans’ tweets to you on your Web site. Is staying connected virtually something that is important to you?
Y: Very much so. I think spreading the music any other way would be almost cheating. To me, the more organic way of spreading word about the project, the better and the internet certainly plays in incredible part in the way things work. I feel like I’m a baby being spoon fed when I come across bands that try to “con” their way into success. I love the idea of people discovering fresh and exciting art. I think the discovery as well as the way it’s stumbled across is almost as important as the very “tangible” thing itself — in this case, the band itself.
K: With your music being so big on the Internet, how do you handle the criticism floating out there amongst blogs?
Y: The Internet can be a tricky thing to be influenced by at times because points of view are so anonymous and it’s easy for anyone to voice what he/she is thinking regardless of how rational or irrational that response may be. At the end of the day, I try to stay away from reading criticism via online blogs and the like, no matter how positive or constructive, because I think not knowing truly preserves my artistic integrity, which is already becoming blurred, for better or for worse.
K: Someone who would read your own blogs can tell you have a talent for essay writing, is that something you’ve done all your life?
Y: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but only about things that inspired me to think and dream. These are the things that make things worth writing about. Imagination – I using words like a painter uses colors.
Y: Matt has always been someone I’ve admired. I’ve been a Relient K fan since high school so when the opportunity came along to collaborate with him, I was thrilled. He got a hold of some of my earlier recorded music, we hung out, hit it off and became good friends.
K: Now that Owl City has stepped up to a new level, how do you feel about switching from recording everything in your parents’ basement to working in a professional studio?
Y: I still create every aspect of music in my basement. It’s no longer my parents’ lovely basement, but it’s a basement nonetheless. I don’t love the idea of going into a professional studio and “clocking in” so to speak. The idea of going into a recording studio with an album’s worth of songs prepared and ready to track is a bit scary to me because having the freedom to dream and experiment without any time limits in that kind of an environment is really a big part of the way I create the end result. I’d feel like I was under a microscope, cramped for space, under pressure.
K: I saw the full band performance on YouTube, is that going to remain for all shows now? Was it something that you had wanted to do for a while?
Y: I always envisioned having a live band when it was time to perform live. I wouldn’t want to tour without them. They’re the most wonderful group of friends/musicians anyone could ask for.
K: Iowa is only a couple hours from your hometown, have you been here before?
Y: Most definitely — I was born in Ottumwa. My parents were born and raised there and I have nothing but appreciation for the place.
K: Were you sad to see Camp Snoopy go in the Mall of America?
Y: I cried myself to sleep for months.
K: And the question you’ll probably never be able to avoid; What does the name Owl City mean? Where does it come from?
Y: Once when I was 8 or 9 years old, I was driving an RC car outside around my grandparent’s farm house … as the sun was setting and an enormous hoot owl swooped down from the sky and snatched the car up in its talons and flew away. The RC car was never seen again. I was a pretty unhappy little brat.
5 p.m. Thursday
People’s Court, 216 Court Ave., Des Moines
$60 to $99 on eBay and Facebook