Owl City's reclusive Adam Young opens up

The electro-synth-pop musician talks inspiration

Additionally, "Good Time" features about 50 other locals in the form of the Minneapolis Youth Chorus giddily singing backing vocals. In mid-March, Young and the kids gathered at the Terrarium Studio in Minneapolis to record. According to chorus director Patrice Arasim, this wasn't a tough assignment for a group of kids in grades four through nine who have experience singing in different languages and over an orchestra. "We just had to learn how to rock 'n' roll and shout-sing it," she says. "It's just a simple little phrase, you know? That took us about 15 minutes to learn it, and a couple of hours to go to the studio and record it. He was so with the kids and in the moment. When they were singing, I could see his jaw drop."

"I was really, really, really excited," adds choir member Audrey Darst-Kereakos, who was already an Owl City fan. "Oh my god, I didn't know it was going to be this huge of a song, and now it's like a worldwide summer anthem for 2012. All my friends are always bragging that I'm in that song."

Forget bragging, Owl City's label, Universal Republic, is probably content to breathe a sigh of relief. Owl City's 2009 breakout, Ocean Eyes (with "Fireflies"), has topped a million in sales, but 2011's follow-up, All Things Bright and Beautiful, has yet to crest 150,000. Thus, this year's The Midsummer Station is ratcheted up with the aforementioned Jepsen collaboration, a duet with Blink-182's Mark Hoppus called "Dementia," and "Shooting Star," a co-write with Norwegian production juggernaut Stargate, who have helped create hits for Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Beyonce.

The “Good Time” singer visits First Avenue for the first time ever on October 4
courtesy of the artist
The “Good Time” singer visits First Avenue for the first time ever on October 4

There's another kind of song on the album, called "Silhouette," and it might be Owl City's candy-coated "Purple Rain." Young calls the piano-based track the most personal song he's ever written. "I've never really experienced a lot of stuff worth singing about," he says. "So I kind of had to dig back over the course of my life. It's mainly about one relationship that kind of hit rock bottom. It kind of tore me up. I tend to write songs purely from imagination. This is definitely kind of a departure. We play it live and it's tough to get through the song without choking up because it's so personal. I'm singing about real things, which is kind of new to me."

Minnesota music fans will be surprised that another thing is completely new to Adam Young: First Avenue. When Owl City performs a headlining show there in October, it'll be the very first time he enters the storied venue, and aside from a brief stint living in Dinkytown, he rarely visits the Twin Cities. Although he was still an anxious perfectionist on stage in front of 110,000 people at the Jisan Valley Rock Fest in Korea, he's more comfortable with a guitar in his hands than he ever is in the audience at a show.

"I don't need to be in a social situation for very long to get what I need from it," he explains. "Every human being needs to have interaction, but I can get it like, lightning quick. When I'm home [in Owatonna], 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."

We're in Young's growling, spotless Mustang now. (It's an automatic.) Earlier, he told me that this is one of his favorite things to do — just drive around aimlessly.

"I'm probably 15, 16 years old. I'm still a boy," he freely admits. "The bummer, if you could call it a bummer, the negative thing about having the amount of success I've been blessed to have, I don't have to pay my own bills, I don't have to worry about cell phones, or do anything that real life requires of everyone else. So that's why I kind of cheated the system. What if I have to do that someday and I don't know how to do it?"

The recorder isn't running now, but that's intentional. Young says he's put only about 1,000 miles on the car, and mentions that he's nervous about a couple of TV appearances he's doing in the coming days. I briefly ponder asking him if he's gotten what he needed from our interaction yet, but stay silent.

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