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Owl City, whose single ‘Fireflies’ has already sold nearly 2 million copies, topped the Billboard chart - twice - and the iTunes chart in 5 countries, is still relatively unknown in the UK, but having just made the BBC Sound of 2010’s long list and with tickets for his UK tour selling fast, it won’t be long before the UK joins the rest of the world in tumbling head over heels for Owl City.
‘Most of my inspiration comes from daydreaming, as I haven't really gone anywhere or done anything. I find a lot of inspiration in imagining what the world would be like if things were different -- better.’
It’s hard to imagine how much better things could get for Adam Young right now. When the shy 23-year-old first uploaded a few synth-pop songs on to his MySpace profile in 2007, his Owl City project was just one of thousands of unknown acts in the web’s worldwide hive of musical activity. Two-and-a-half years and one EP, two albums and over 50 million MySpace hits later, Owl City’s ‘Fireflies’ single hit the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard charts in early November 2009. It is the fastest-selling electronic/alternative track of all-time. Its parent album, the self-produced ‘Ocean Eyes’, has nestled happily in the U.S. Top Ten since its release in July, and, after confessing that playing his first shows left him with ‘white knuckles’, Adam is now confidently playing sold-out shows to a crowd who, as The NME observed, ‘impressively, know every single word to every single song’ and that ‘squeals and shrieks with the kind of delight usually reserved for buffed-up boy bands’. The shy boy’s dreamy DIY imaginings have become a bonafide pop phenomenon.
But even a cursory listen to the gorgeous synthetic gems on ‘Ocean Eyes’ reveals why Owl City has struck such a universal chord. Young has fashioned an elegant and seemingly effortless connection between fashionably arty, retro-nouveau electro pop and the kind of fresh-faced, sweetly melancholic hit factory songwriting that you can imagine being sung by X Factor contestants a few years down the line. Owl City pop has a purity of purpose – an innocence – that breathes fresh air into the electro-pop revival.
The key, perhaps, lies in Young’s emergence from a non-musical family in Owatonna, Minnesota - a small-town which has no music scene to speak of. Owl City music sounds like a sparkling wintry day in a place full of nature, rather than electronic music’s usual urban nocturnal vibe. It also makes an escapist magic out of an experience shared by all kids raised in small towns – the retreat to the lonely bedroom where one creates a world of adventure to combat the quiet and boredom that surrounds you. As Young sings with such happy anticipation on Fireflies: ‘A fox trot above my head/A sock hop beneath my bed/A disco ball is just hanging by a thread.’ The eternal nightclub of the mind perfectly defined.
So Young is now looking forward to bringing his live show to The UK in February. The tour ties in with the unleashing of the Fireflies phenom on unsuspecting Brits on 22nd February, and the release of the Ocean Eyes album on March 1st – a blissful first-day-of-Spring treat to pull us all out of our winter funk.
‘I can't believe how fast things have taken off,’ Young marvels. ‘It seems like it was only yesterday I put a few songs from my first EP online and watched things begin to happen on their own. I never thought music could spread like mine did through the internet. I guess it's just another testament to the power of technology and communication. I do know one thing though: I just wanted to keep creating. It's a lot of fun and it's the only thing in the world I'm good at. So it'd be a real shame to stop.’ That it would. And this would be the bit where we implore you to watch Owl City make like a bird and fly.