Owl City is the solo project of Owatonna native Adam Young, who started making synth pop as a result of his insomnia. His music, which sounds like a light-hearted version of the Postal Service, gained early popularity on MySpace. Universal signed Owl City earlier this year, and released the musician’s third record, Ocean Eyes, in July. Young is touring this fall, and he’s performing at the Cabooze Saturday night with Kate Havnevik and Unicorn Kid.
What was growing up in Owatonna like?
Quiet, friendly, sunny, welcoming, comfortable, neighborly, woodsy, hospitable, snug, cheery, pleasant, cozy, relaxed, laid-back, secure, safe, content, toasty, happy, sneaky.
Why is nature a key motif in your music?
I find an endless amount of inspiration in nature, particularly the ocean, and that’s mainly what fuels my motivation for creating art. There are so many things we don’t know regarding nature and many of its phenomena, and I enjoy thinking about the unknowns rather than what is entirely familiar to me.
Many have attributed Owl City’s early success to MySpace. Why is that?
MySpace did a lot of the promoting work for me and I’m positive that Owl City wouldn’t be blessed with the success it’s had without the Internet and networking sites such as MySpace. I owe a lot to what Al Gore allegedly invented because music is so accessible these days. When people come across something they enjoy, it’s really easy to spread the word-like creamy peanut butter over a white piece of bread. It’s amazing, honestly.
You sometimes sing about urban design. Did Louis Sullivan’s bank in Owatonna have an impact on that?
No. The Death Star did.
How did you get hooked up with Matt Thiessen of Relient K?
Matt and I hung out, went canoeing, ate at Applebee’s, drove around Tennessee in his car, etc. I’ve been a Relient K fan for years, so needless to say it was incredibly surreal to work on music with him. He’s an incredibly talented artist and the nicest guy in the world. He has an unbelievable talent for coming up with puns too.
You were already on tour twice this year with Relient K?
Yes. It was cozy.
You cite your Christian faith as the main influence on your music, yet you don’t consider Owl City Christian rock. It seems to me it would be difficult to stay out of the category, especially while touring with bands like Relient K that identify as Christian rock. Thoughts?
I am a Christian, although my music, by whatever “classification” exists, is not. My faith is an immense part of who I am and why I create art, but I dislike the idea of music, stylistically speaking, being labeled as “Christian.” I think the lyrics should speak for themselves. I’m certainly not against the idea of Owl City being labeled anything other than what it is. I just prefer to stay out of trying to present the music in a certain way to people. I don’t want to suggest anything to listeners. I want them to formulate their own opinions and perspectives.
You will be hitting the road this September again. Are the September and October dates part of the same tour? I noticed that the opening bands change.
Same tour. Different coasts, therefore different supporting artists. Gonna be a blast.
Any details on the shows you’ll be doing overseas later this year?
Yeah. I just got my passport in the mail the other day. The picture of me looks super stupid. I am okay with this.
You note that insomnia’s another key element behind your music. Do you have insomnia on the road, too?
Yes, I do. My insomnia is worse on the road than at home, but I don’t mind it as much as one might expect. So much time is wasted sleeping; being awake allows me more time to enjoy what’s going on around me.
Does your love of daydreaming have anything to do with the insomnia?
It’s when I’m unable to fall asleep that I am most inspired to create. I think of it as a blessing.
Is there anything in the works for your other projects, Windsor Airlift or Insect Airport?
I’m in an ambient project called Port Blue. I’d absolutely love to write and release a new experimental record one of these days.
On Owl City’s MySpace blog you included a few entries called “10 Words that Don’t Exist, But Should.” Make up any new words lately you’d like to share?
Agonosis (ah uh no sis) – n. The syndrome of tuning into ABC’s Wide World of Sports every Saturday just to watch the skier totally hurt himself.
Owl City is coined “happy music for happy people.” What about sad songs for sad people? People love sad songs, and there’s plenty of sadness in the world to go around. What are your thoughts?
I’d rather be happy than sad. I’d rather eat donuts than rocks. Those are my thoughts.
Crystal Erickson (email@example.com, Twitter @CrystalErickson) is a freelance writer and photographer, with preoccupations in hip-hop, art, and bicycle anarchy.
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