Owl City

  • Electronic synthpop music project created in 2007 by singer, songwriter and musician Adam Young, from Owatonna Minnesota.
  • Young graduated from high school, tried working at UPS, then tried taking classes at a community college, but he got thrown out of school because he wouldn’t do the work. He got a job at a Coca-Cola warehouse and while working, he composed melodies in his head. After work, he couldn’t sleep, so he would record the music in the basement of his parents’ home, using a keyboard and music software on his computer. Starting in 2007, at the age of 20, he set up an account on MySpace, and uploaded the recordings. People listened to his free music, and sent messages to him – he always responded, and he constantly posted blogs about his music, which slowly created more interest in his music.
  • He referred to his music project as Owl City. He chose the name Owl City after reading the short story by Ambrose Bierce called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and later watching a 1962 film about the story. The film changed his perspective in life – he identified closely with the main character, who is hanged from a bridge for being a supporter of the Confederate Army.
  • In August 2007, Young uploaded an EP of 7 songs to MySpace. Titled Of June, it reached #15 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart. It included the song Hello Seattle, that went viral on MySpace. He followed this with a debut album, also uploaded to MySpace, called Maybe I’m Dreaming. It also charted, reaching #16. It is remarkable that these recordings charted so well, given that there was no record label to promote them, and literally no production in the recording of the music. They simply were songs written and recorded with his keyboard and computer in the basement of Mom and Dad’s house.
  • The success of these records caught the attention of a record label. Young was 22 years old, with no experience in music management. He found a lawyer, and after learning the basics, Owl City was signed to a contract in 2009. By this time, his MySpace account had over 5 million page views, and more than 150,000 song downloads. The record label initially wanted him to work with experienced producers in a studio, but he insisted that he be allowed to work on his own, and the label agreed.
  • He released his first album with the record label in July 2009. Ocean Eyes peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold over 1 million copies in the U.S., driven by the success of its first single, Fireflies. Fireflies, “a little song about bugs and not being able to fall asleep at night,” reached #1 on the Hot 100 chart, and also reached #1 in 25 other countries. The song has been downloaded over 7 million times in the U.S.
  • Owl City’s next album, All Things Bright and Beautiful, was released in 2011. The album was not as successful as Ocean Eyes – while the album peaked at #6 on the album chart, sales were one-tenth of his first album, and none of the singles charted on the Hot 100 chart.
  • He had better success with his next record – The Midsummer Station, released in 2012. The album sold modestly, but one single on the record – Good Time, sung with Carly Rae Jepsen, was a major hit, peaking at #8, and selling over 2 million downloads in the U.S.
  • In 2014, a 4 song EP called Ultraviolet was released, and an album, Mobile Orchestra, was released in 2015. Singles from these records did not chart. Owl City’s most recent album is Cinematic, just released on June 1, 2018. Several of the songs were pre-released in late 2017 and early 2018 in 3 separate EP releases. The songs have the familiar Owl City sound, in the spirit of Fireflies and Good Time – catchy computer-produced pop songs about feeling good and lots of optimism.
  • While nearly everything Owl City records is performed by Young exclusively, he can’t do it all when he performs in concert. He toured extensively from 2009 to 2015, and he has a group of supporting musicians with him for live performances – keyboardist, bass guitarist, bass guitarist and drummer. His next tour starts in September 2018.
  • Owl City probably will not win many awards for his music – but I greatly enjoy it, because it just feels good. Toe tapping, finger snapping, full of hooks – if you feeling negative, just start streaming Owl City music, and you’ll feel better. Here is the video for Fireflies – if you are nostalgic for toys from the 60s, 70s and 80s, you’ll want to watch it. Watch them come alive when he hits the “Magic” button on his 70s vintage Lowrey spinet organ.

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