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Artist Interview

Owl City Reveals "All Things Bright and Beautiful"

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer “Fireflies” peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, a coveted top-ranking music list on which it held a spot for 31 weeks. The talent behind that mainstream breakout hit is Owl City – the one man, synthpop band of Minnesotan Adam Young.

Just two years ago, this 24-year-old introverted artist was loading Coca-Cola trucks for work and making music in his parent's basement. Now, he's garnered an international fan base with his upbeat songs.

Owl City usually sticks to email interviews, but was gracious to pick up the phone for a chat with about his new album, All Things Bright and Beautiful. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

On the immense success of his debut album, Ocean Eyes

It was one of those things where it was the farthest thing in my head that something that I put out would connect with so many people in so many ways. Even now, it's hard to really grasp it, because I’m so far out of the loop in terms of being like a media consumer. I'm from a very small town, and I didn't even know who David Letterman was two years ago.

When my manager called and said, “Yeah, what you did went to like No. 1 on Billboard…,” I had to hang up and go to bed because I really didn't get it. I don't really now, and I guess I'm OK with that.

Needless to say, everything that happened was so far out of my imagination. Two years ago, I was working in a warehouse and loading trucks. That's what I did. That's who I was, and that's what I was planning on. So, this whole thing has been a crazy ride.

Owl City’s hope for All Things Bright and Beautiful

Ultimately my prayer is just that the Lord would really use whatever I create. My prayer is that God would send me the songs He wants me to record so that I can sing back to Him… Once He has them, that He would use them to whatever capacity. I feel like anything beyond that… if I try to influence that in any other way, it's none of my business.

Hearing “Fireflies” as a stranger’s ringtone…
I remember one time we were in Cologne, Germany, and at the very top of this Gothic cathedral, one of the wonders of the world, and someone's phone went off, and there was the song. Our vibraphone player grew up in Austria, so he speaks German, and he said in German to this girl, “If I tell you something will you promise not to scream?” She said, “Yeah, I guess.” And so he said, “The person that wrote that song is right there. He's the goofy guy in the silly hoodie.” She didn't believe us, but anyway it was the craziest thing to hear a song that I've written in mom's basement and all of a sudden here I am in Germany. It was insane.

On the origins of the new single, “Alligator Sky,” and its optimistic look at the end of the world...
I was watching that movie, Wall-E and I was like, cool. Everyone is super into this whole the earth is dead and it's probably pretty accurate. Everyone's writing books and shooting films and singing songs about the end of the world and how it’s imminent and how it's coming, and it's depressing.

What would it be like if it were exciting to leave? What would everyone be thinking if they were excited to leave Earth because there was something brighter and more beautiful waiting somewhere else?

The song itself is a quirky song… doesn't really add up. To say there’s a million cool, scary, exciting, frightening things coming your way, and rather than hide behind whatever it is that we all hide behind, rather than avoid whatever is headed your way, it’s better, I think, to get up every morning and face whatever is headed your way with a sort of optimistic, brightened outlook. I feel like that can light up your whole world if you see it that way.

Adam Young’s Christian faith…

For me, there was no epiphany. There was no car crash or death of a loved one or anything like that. I kind of just went through the motions, so to speak. I feel like it's a pretty common story.

I was blessed by two very, very wonderful parents. I'm an only child, so whenever doors were open at church growing up, the three of us were there. I had a very, very good upbringing and am so, so thankful, so inspired for the day when I have my own kids to try to bring them up as good as my parents and do as good of a job as my parents did.

On how music helps him escape his shyness…

I'm really, really, really painfully shy, and so that won't get me anywhere. The only thing that I've been remotely good at is music. That was a dead-end, because I'm from nowhere, and I don't have any friends. I got a horrible job doing the warehouse thing and started to go to school at Willow Community college for nothing. Didn't really know what I wanted to do and just felt kind of lost. That's where God stepped in and said, “You don't have to be afraid to trust me, because I've got you.” [I] started to write music as my escape... I didn't care about record labels. I didn't care about recognition by any means. Music was my way of dealing with life, and I feel like as an artist that's the best way to deal with life.

God’s really, really used this crazy story, this Owl City thing, this crazy ride, to really get a better grip on me and me on Him. I just feel like He's really used it to really strengthen my faith and certainly the relationships between myself and my loved ones has really grown. We've all been really tested by this, but in a good way. In fact, it’s made my relationship with God stronger.

Therefore, I feel like I’m really called to be in this position even though it does not make sense and even though I'm the last guy who should be sitting… like right now I'm sitting in a tour bus in Milwaukee. I feel like I shouldn't be here because by all accounts doesn't add up, but all the more reason to really just hit my knees every day and praise the Lord and say, “Look this is your thing. You're in control, and I've got nothing to offer. I've got nothing to my name.” My prayer is just that He would use me, that I would be usable by every and all means.

Why it was important to put the faith-filled song “Galaxies” on All Things Bright and Beautiful

For five minutes I was like, “I don't know if I should be this bold, if I should put this on a record that’s released under a mainstream artist.” And I was like, “Whoa!” I have no business thinking thoughts like that. I felt like slapping myself.

Ultimately, I just wanted to make sure that this new record, and that song in particular, was really making sure that I was right with God foremost and that it just came from a very heartfelt place. I wanted to make sure that this new record was full of dangerous territory, I guess from the perspective of the record label and management company and whatever, because that's who I am. I feel like if I were ever to hide the fact that that’s what’s so important to me, it would be a crime, that I should probably be put in jail for that. So yeah, I just wanted to make sure that was just straight from the heart and there again, pray that the Lord would just give me the songs, and I would sing it back to Him.

The industry’s reaction to his professed faith…
I haven't heard a thing, a negative thing yet, and I guess it wouldn't bother me if I did. It's just the way that it is. No one said, “I love the new album except for all the Jesus stuff.” I haven't heard anything like that.

It's not really been my goal to go out and preach, but it's never been my goal to hide anything either. As far as what degree I sort of feel like I should push the limits or not, I try not to think about that. I try to just make sure that things are very, very, very organic and very honoring to the Lord … just making sure that it is very, very, very heartfelt.

The first thing Adam Young’s going to do when he gets to Heaven…

Oh man, I don't know. If there's water around, I'll probably go swimming; because I have this thing about swimming. I'm from the Midwest, so I'm like the farthest place from any water anywhere, although in Minnesota is a lot of lakes, but there's really scary fish in those lakes. So I'd probably go swimming, but after that I’d probably go say hey to everyone. I'm kind of curious as to whether I'll be shy in Heaven or not. If I am shy still, I’ll probably just go to my room and make some music.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.

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All Things Bright and Beautiful by Owl CityAll Things Bright and Beautiful
's review

(5 Spins)

The synthpop singer/songwriter behind "Fireflies" is set to make another music wave with his new album, All Things Bright and Beautiful. Aptly named, Owl City's refreshing record is filled with summery, bright tunes that create beautiful imagery and are backed by great dance beats... Read more