Owl City's "Good Time" collaboration with the Minneapolis Youth Chorus -- behind-the-scenes
Photo by Erik Hess
It's known Owl City's Adam Young hooked up with "Call Me Maybe" singer Carly Rae Jepsen to record the summer hit "Good Time." But there are about 50 other Minnesota-based artists who also perform on the song, which appears on The Midsummer Station, released last week. Back on March 13, Young and his associates met with the Minneapolis Youth Chorus at Terrarium Studios, and laid down the backing track of joyous children singing in the song's refrain.
The MYC is in its sixth year and is a free program for kids enrolled in 4th to 9th grades who can get through the rigorous audition. Gimme Noise spoke to Young, the Minnesota Chorale's executive director Bob Peskin, the chorus' director Pat Arasim, and chorus member Audrey Darst-Kereakos (and her mother Wendy) about a recording session that turned into one of the most popular songs of 2012.
Adam Young: It was my manager's idea. He said "What about having a kids chorus on the last two choruses [for 'Good Time']?" I said "Yeah, that's it." I hadn't even thought of it. He hooked it up and he called around and whatever and got us a session up there in Minneapolis.
Bob Peskin: Very much unsolicited. We got a call in the office one day from, I guess, the producer of the album saying that they were looking to bring in a children's chorus to help out with the refrain on this song. He was interested in working in a children's choir from the region. It was never really clear to me how they found out about us. I gotta say, we're classical musicians here and very few of us had heard of this particular artist, but as soon as we announced it to the kids -- that they'd be doing a recording session with Owl City -- they were screaming. It was like the Beatles had come to town and said "Hey, you wanna sit in with us on a few songs?"
Pat Arasim: These are kids who have had to learn to sing a piece of music over an orchestra and sing difficult pieces in different languages. This was exciting because of who Owl City is, but not necessarily because the music was challenging.
Courtesy of MYC
Wendy Darst-Kereakos: My daughter's 13 years old, and I don't have to worry. It's nice to have an artist who has a positive message. Katy Perry's marketing herself to young girls, and "Last Friday Night" is about blacking out. He's able to be successful not doing that. A lot of kids don't like the Bieber. Adam's independent and not a manufactured product. It's not like they did a focus group and came up with him.
Audrey Darst-Kereakos: Pat broke the news to us during rehearsal one day. I was really excited. I was really, really, really excited. She taught us the part ahead of time. We rehearsed it, and we already knew it.
Pat Arasim: It was fun for the kids because they had heard the "Fireflies." I didn't get much instruction. I got a vocal of him singing it, and as I listened to it, I transcribed it onto sheet music. Then I went onto YouTube and found the "Fireflies" and heard that digitized sound. I knew he was going to be mixing in a lot of stuff with it. So we took it from there. The phrase had two different endings and we just had to learn how to rock 'n' roll and shout-sing it. 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.
Adam Young: Yeah. Their director, that's why we got out of there so quick, had run through the chorus a couple of times before they came in, so they knew the part pretty well.
Wendy Darst-Kereakos: Adam Young was really nice to the kids and appreciative. He was very kind to them. He was not condescending to them in any way. The grown-ups were not in there when they were recording. They each received a small amount for doing the session.
Pat Arasim: Oh my gosh. He could not have been nicer. So totally not "I'm a rock star." To the kids' credit, they were very impressed with the kids in the studio. When it became time to start, they were just like pros. They organized, and got ready to sing. We had about 20 takes of the singing, and another 10-12 of the shouting in a really hot studio. They just had to sing it off of my beat because there was no monitor for them to hear it off of. He was so with the kids and in the moment, and thrilled for them. When they started singing, I could see his jaw drop. They make a big sound, a big, glorious sound, and I knew he was very happy.
Now I'm really obsessed. It was really awesome to meet him. He's really nice. He seemed really happy that he has such huge fans of his music, and read his blog. I got to chat with him. It was cool. I talked to him about how I really like singing, and it's what I want to do when I'm older.
Adam Young: They knew the band. So they all wanted stuff to sign. I showed up, and they showed up, and we literally knocked it out in like 15 minutes and they left. It was really cool.
Bob Peskin: The group had recorded an album with the Sweet Colleens a couple years back. That was much more extensive. They were familiar with what it was like to be in a recording studio. They were very happy with the results. They said, you've laid down your tracks, you're done, and we'll contact you when it's released.
Audrey Darst-Kereakos: Oh my god, I didn't know it was going to be this huge of a song, and now it's like a world-wide summer anthem for 2012. I'm in one of my idol's songs. All my friends are always bragging now that I'm in that song.
Adam Young: It was a really special moment.
Bonus, here are photos of Adam with a bunch of the members of the chorus:
With Evie Bair
With Kaj Johnson
With Rachel Bentfield
Courtesy of Mark Jensen
With Kayla Wig
With Max Moen
With Noah Lee
With Sarah Dosser
With Stella Davis
Photo by Erik Hess; design by Mike Kooiman
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