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All Things Owl City

“Reality is a lovely place / but I wouldn’t want to live there…”

So goes a line from one of Owl City’s most recent songs, “The Real World,” from his new album, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

I think many of us can relate to that.

Owl City – aka Adam Young – has crafted his own little world around his music career, and it suits him just fine, having taken him from a basement studio in his parents’ house to stages around the world, and back to a new basement studio – albeit in his own house, now – where he continues to work on new music. Young – perhaps one of the rare musicians you’ll meet who really seems to have a grasp on the good fortune that his talent has led him to – is perfectly fine right where he is – in the very Midwestern town of Owatonna, Minnesota.

“(My) studio atmosphere hasn’t changed much,” he says. “It’s still an isolated yet very warm and inspiring environment – at least for me, anyway. The only place I’ve ever created music was in a dark basement at ungodly hours of the night, and I think the most convenient thing about the home studio is its privacy and accessibility.”

While he says he considered recording his latest album in L.A. or New York, he didn’t feel that the new landscape was something he really needed to create.

“Ultimately I knew it would be a big change for me,” he says, “and I’m a firm believer that an artist needs a comfortable creative atmosphere. I feel blessed to have my own private escape right in my own home, it definitely gives me a place to unwind and write music from my heart.”
Nicknamed ‘The Cave,’ Young’s home studio allows him to write, record, produce, and engineer his albums himself, with the assistance of Pro|Tools (a digital audio workstation computer program.) On his newest album, he brought in some new sounds – including a bit of unexpected rap (on “Alligator Sky”) – to help his unique blend of synthpop grow even more.

 

Listen to an excerpt of Owl City's 'Alligator Sky'

 

“I think what I liked best (about working on All Things Bright and Beautiful) was being able to expand my musical horizons and experiment with a larger variety of genres,” Young explains. “I wanted to pull in a few more influences on ATBAB, just for fun more than anything. I feel like artists shouldn’t repeat themselves too much, so I went somewhere different with the new record and it turned out great.”

Young explains the theme of the album as “basically a 12-song synapse shot of the past few years of my life, with each song representing a given picture of that story.”

“So it’s a little more true to life as a concept record,” he continues, “whereas Ocean Eyes (2009, Republic Records) was written from the imaginary only. And now that I’ve actually been outside of my home state, I’ve been able to see some of these places that I’ve always wanted to visit and I had to write about those experiences. It was cool to see all of these places that are so beautiful and it led me onto the next theme of the album. The record kind of wrote itself in that respect.”

The recording process itself, though, was somewhat “tricky,” he says, due to his heavy touring schedule.

“I basically had no time to collect myself after I got off the road to record my thoughts and record demos and all of that stuff,” he says. “It wasn’t easy making a lot of these really heavy decisions on the fly, but looking back on it I’m really proud of how things turned out.”

Another one of Young’s accomplishments in the past year was the release of his new Owl City: Live from Los Angeles documentary, during which plenty of telling moments reveal how the small-town boy – who had never even been on an airplane until two years ago – dealt with his newfound fame, from venues across the U.S. to Europe, Australia, and the Great Wall of China. He also had to get used to more media attention than would presumably be found following him around the supermarkets in Owatonna.

“It’s a bit funny,” he chuckles, “you are supposed to act normally and pretend like there aren’t all these people following you around with cameras. But I think you really get a good sense for what the Owl City live show is like and how it feels to be out on the road.”

So let’s tally up: a new home studio, a brand new fan and critically-acclaimed album, sold-out shows (literally) around the globe, a new concert film … is there anything else missing from Adam Young’s wish list?

We hear that it’s one Miss Taylor Swift, whom Young professed his admiration for online; she could do far worse than this sincere, talented suitor.

“She never actually did respond,” Young admits. “I was never really expecting to hear a response per se, but it was a fun thing to do. I think she’s such a sweet girl. One of my dreams has been to get her to do a song; I have kind of a cool idea for this sort of hybrid, countryish direction for a new song that would be perfect for her. I can’t even imagine how busy she is, so if it happens, it’s cool.”

“Fingers crossed,” he grins. – Kristi Kates
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Find out more about Owl City and Adam Young’s music at his official website.