Adam Young performing in 2009
|Origin||Owatonna, Minnesota, United States|
|Genres||Electronica, synthpop, indietronica, pop|
|Labels||Universal Republic, Republic|
|Associated acts||Port Blue, Sky Sailing, Lights, Breanne Düren|
|Members||Adam Young |
|Past members||Former touring members|
Owl City is an American electronica musical project by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Young formed in 2007 in Owatonna, Minnesota. Young created the project while experimenting with music in his parents' basement. Owl City developed a following on the social networking site Myspace, like many musicians who achieved success in the late 2000s, before signing with Universal Republic in 2008.
After two independent releases, Owl City gained mainstream popularity with the 2009 major label debut album Ocean Eyes, which included the quadruple-platinum hit single "Fireflies". The album was certified Platinum in the United States in April 2010.
In 2011, Owl City released its third studio album, All Things Bright and Beautiful. This was followed by The Midsummer Station in August 2012. Owl City has also recorded songs for films including; Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Croods.
Early years (2007–2009)
Suffering from insomnia while working loading Coca-Cola trucks in his hometown Owatonna, Minnesota, Young turned to composing music, recording with a C-1 Behringer Microphone. Among the software that he began with was Reason from Propellerhead. 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 Bursky 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 June reached 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, Bursky 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 first 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 was joined by Breanne Düren on several tracks; the most notable example of which is "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). 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 of Ocean 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 with The Scene Aesthetic, Lights, John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Brooke Waggoner. He was also guest featured in the soundtrack to Tim Burton's Alice 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 2006 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, 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. In September, "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.
In November 2010, a new album called Flight was released on iTunes for one of his other musical projects, Windsor Airlift. A new Christmas single called "Peppermint Winter" was also released during that month.
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, 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.
"Alligator Sky" was released as the lead single from the album on iTunes. Later that month and in 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. The song, "Galaxies" would be released as the second single from the album.
The music video for "Alligator Sky" would released on May 6. Young discussed the concept in a making-of video posted on Owl City's VEVO account, "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."
"Deer in the Headlights", the third single from the album, was released on iTunes on May 23. In June of that year, 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. The music video for "Deer in the Headlights" was released. It features Young driving through the night in the DMC DeLorean featured from the Back to the Future trilogy. Canadian musician Lights also makes a cameo appearance during the video.
"Lonely Lullaby" was released as a single on iTunes, which was previously available only to Owl City Galaxy members, on July 19. 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 artwork. Later during the month of July at the Club Nokia concert in Los Angeles, Young announced that the concert was being filmed for a Live DVD. The recording was eventually released on iTunes in November 2011.
The Midsummer Station (2011–present)
In Young's final tour dates of 2011, he 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 full-length album. Young said that he would be collaborating with more producers and songwriters, saying that his new record "Marks a flying leap in this direction". Young expected the album to be released around late Summer to Fall 2012. In an interview with Billboard, Young revealed that the new album is around 80–85% complete, and that Dr. Luke, JR Rotem, Norwegian production team Stargate, Brian Kennedy and Emily Wright are involved with the production of the album. He was also unsure whether "I Hope You Think of Me" would make the final tracklisting.
Young, along with Jewel and Jay Sean, released a song in promotion of the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign by ConAgra Foods entitled "Here's Hope". On April 17, 2012, "Dementia", a song by Young which was intended to be included on his upcoming album leaked onto the internet. The song features additional vocals by Mark Hoppus of Blink-182.
Young announced via Twitter that a new EP entitled "Shooting Star" was to be released on May 15. The EP features four songs off his upcoming album. Young stated that he released the EP because he wanted to give his fans a clear taste of what his upcoming album would sound like. On May 24, 2012, Young announced on Twitter that his fourth studio album would be titled The Midsummer Station and that it would be released on August 14, 2012 worldwide, apart from in the United Kingdom where it would be released on September 17, 2012. On June 21, 2012, Young announced that the release date of the album would be pushed back to August 21, 2012, but the UK release date would remain the same. On July 12, 2012, Young announced via Twitter that the UK release date would be pushed forward to August 20, 2012.
Young announced via Twitter that he would be collaborating with Carly Rae Jepsen on a new song, claiming that it would be released on June 26, 2012. On June 20, 2012, he released the single, "Good Time", via his SoundCloud account. The song was released on iTunes on June 26, 2012. It received generally positive reviews from critics, including Billboard: "It only makes sense that he's joined by Jepsen...[on] a track that could become a radio staple for the rest of the summer," and Entertainment Weekly: "'Good Time' goes down easier than a frozen margarita at a beachfront tiki bar." "Good Time" was written by Matt Thiessen, Brian Lee and Young himself.
On August 8 Young announced through his email newsletter that he will be holding a "Release Day Listening Party" on August 21. and will be doing multiple TV performances including The Today Show on August 22.
On August 18, Young released a small clip of a studio version of "I Hope You Think of Me". The following day, August 19, Young also released two demo songs: "Beautiful Mystery" and "Paper Tigers".
On November 6, the EP Good Time (Remixes) was released, featuring many remixes including one from Young himself.
In mid-2012 it was announced that Universal Republic Records was going defunct, all the artists on the label including Owl City were moved to Republic Records making the label itself revived. All future Owl City material will be released through Republic Records label.
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 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 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, Young suggested in a 2009 interview with The New York Times that Ocean Eyes is perhaps the "next chapter" after 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."
- Current members
- Adam Young – lead vocals, programming, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, guitars, bass guitar, drums, percussion, vibraphone
- Current touring members
- Breanne Düren – keyboards, backing vocals
- Daniel Jorgensen – guitar, vibraphone, bass
- Jasper Nephew – guitar
- Steve Goold – drums
- Former touring members
- Casey Brown – drums
- Laura Musten – violin
- Hannah Schroeder – cello
- Matt Decker - Drums
- Austin Tofte - Keys, Vocals
- Maybe I'm Dreaming (2008)
- Ocean Eyes (2009)
- All Things Bright and Beautiful (2011)
- The Midsummer Station (2012)
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