Interview: Owl City

Owl City - Photo courtesy of Owl City

Owl City – Photo courtesy of Owl City

One would think that self-professed shy guy, Adam Young, would have overcome his introvertedness when he – almost overnight – transformed from an unknown 20-something living in a quiet Minnesota town, into a commercial success.

But much in the same way tigers can’t ditch their stripes and leopards can’t lose their spots, Young remains quite reserved. It’s only via his indie pop music project, Owl City, that he finds a way to overcome his reticent nature.

One quick look at the lyrical content and it’s clear that Young has the tendency in his songs to wear his heart on his sleeve, with topics ranging from the sugary, ephemeral stuff of hopes and dreams to the darkness and disappointments in his life.

Additionally, over the years he has become more confident in the music he writes, which is largely in part to his initial grassroots support; the kind of traction Young’s music gained – simply due to his open, bordering on vulnerable, presence – is not anything record labels would want to tamper with.

As a result, Young, whose fourth studio album, “The Midsummer Station,” comes out in three weeks, has had relatively free reign on musical decisions.

“I don’t feel a ton of pressure to create in any certain way,” he said. “I just write songs, and they turn out the way they do, for better or for worse, and hope that people enjoy it.”

In fact, the greatest amount of pressure has come from within, as Young has learned to temper his creative approach.

“I do feel like a song can never be fully complete and you can always add on to it until the end of time [so] I had to teach myself to be better at feeling finished with a song,” he said, noting, however, that on the new album, he noticed a lot less of that occurring. “When I listen back I always feel like I could have changed this or tweaked that, but with this record is definitely a lot more polished than the previous ones. It’s bigger, deeper and more dynamic, and I think people will see that.”

Owl City is currently on a world tour, soon reaching the end of its European leg. A North American branch starts up days after “The Midsummer Station” drops, with Europe having to wait until October before another go-around.

For his live show, Young tours with four musicians, friends, and collaborators: Breanne Düren, who has sung on his past recordings, plays keyboards and sings, while Daniel Jorgensen and Jasper Nephew play guitar. Rounding out the group is Steve Goold on the drums.

And as for the live show experience, Young doesn’t play as much as an active role in planning what happens, instead preferring to allow his lighting director call the shots.

“I like to let people’s imaginations run wild in terms of creative vision,” he said. “For the most part, I just send my [lighting director] the new recordings and let him interpret the mood [or] feeling he gets from the music into a physical light setup.”

This leaves Young to focus on the music, which he has a constantly fluctuating, circular relationship with, regardless of whether he’s touring or at home.

“The hardest part and the most rewarding are sometimes the same thing,” he said. “I enjoy being alone, so I value the time I get to be home by myself. But after a while, I get the itch to go back on the road, [as] it is rewarding to play my music for fans around the world.”

Owl City plays tonight at Lido in Berlin. The show begins at 19.30.

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