When my cooler-than-me next door neighbor introduced me to Owl City, I wasn’t so sure what I thought of the Minnesota native and his song about fireflies. But the more-and-more radio stations and Hot Topics played Adam Young’s single, I began to get “hip with it,” and enjoyed his – what I call – “green sound.” (Green Sound: Lyrics embedded with images of nature infused with airy, hypnotic music.)
Undoubtedly Owl City’s second album, All Things Bright and Beautiful, captures exactly what the title promises, even through the most tragic of songs (“Hospital Flowers”). Regardless of this “grave emergency,” the music is light and crisp which instills a sense of hope – but it also captures the beauty in what others might consider a gruesome and unpleasant scene. Other songs which seem to promise bloodcurdling images such as, “Alligator Sky,” paradoxically promotes scenes of clouds and rockets.
While I am a city gal and will probably always enjoy living closer to a Starbucks than a river, through Adam Young’s vision, I have learned to appreciate nature and things which otherwise terrify me on a daily basis. (Sorry creepy-crawlies, we’ll never be BFFs, but at least I don’t have the heart to squish you!)
Despite Owl City’s busy headlining touring schedule through the end of July, I was able to snag a few words with Adam and learn more about his vision of the world, but also? I learned that I’m not the only one who once dreamed of becoming a marine biologist but easily realized those dreams were already at the bottom of the ocean because of my awesome grades in mathematics.
Ashley Jean: With “Fireflies” being a quadruple platinum single, did you go into the studio to write All Things Bright and Beautiful, with the hopes of gaining a similar success?
Adam: Ironically the only creative atmosphere I’ve ever known has been alone in a dark basement studio so I didn’t want to mess with that because I never want making music to feel like work. I’m not the greatest mixer/engineer in the world and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a music genius but that’s not what’s important to me. The music comes first and “single success” doesn’t really mean anything to me.
Ashley Jean: Your lyrics are filled with incredible imagery. “Alligator Sky” packs an intense image in just two just words! Bearing that in mind, what’s the most beautiful image you’ve had the opportunity to witness while touring?
Adam: Ironically, there’s not very many things that are visually beautiful about touring. It’s nearly the opposite. There’s never time to sight see or explore the countryside on the road so usually all I see is the inside of the filthy green room, the tour bus and a slew of hotel rooms. Vacations are what seeing beautiful things are for! We did tour Hawaii and the view from the airplane above Waikiki was marvelous.
Ashley Jean: Still on the topic of lyrics, it sounds as though you’re really attuned to nature. But say that you’re out camping–what creeps you out most about living outdoors? (Don’t say snakes, that’s too easy!)
Adam: Not much creeps me out about nature because there’s nothing inherently “evil” about the country as opposed to the city. I don’t feel safe or comfortable AT ALL in big cities – I don’t really see big cities as places I want to explore because there’s so much I dislike about them. They make me feel dirty and cheap. The country is so pure and untainted and innocent. I prefer that.
Ashley Jean: If you were not a musician, do you think you could see yourself as something else like, a nature guide?
Adam: Maybe? I mean if not, what else could you imagine yourself to be? I’d love to be an oceanographer but I was terribly at math and science in school so that rules that out! I’m not really good at anything in this life except for music – and I’m still working on that.
Ashley Jean: In “Dear in Headlights” you express the daily pressures and anxieties of being the “perfect guy.” But I’m curious: what is your idea of the perfect–or rather, imperfect–girl?
Adam: That’s truly up to the listener! I don’t harbor a personal image of the perfect or imperfect female because that feels like wasting time. The song pokes fun at the idea of being in love for all the wrong reasons – something I’ve been guilty of and something I feel like everyone goes through at one point or another. Loneliness plays the biggest part in that.
Ashley Jean: I heard that you are a little shy when it comes to being on stage, but you’ve embarked on another headlining tour! It looks like you’re playing pretty substantial venues too, such as Club Nokia in Los Angeles. How have you been getting along every night? Any tricks to temporarily relive the shyness?
Adam: I’m an extreme introvert so crowds of people aren’t my thing but there’s something about the music that makes it easy for me. The moment I step onstage and the first song begins, all the butterflies go away and it’s the most natural thing in the world. I can’t explain it but I love that about the power of music.
Ashley Jean: Finally, can you pick 5 songs which you think would make great campfire sing-a-longs?
“Napalm Love,” Air
“Telefon Tel Aviv,” TTV
“Biological Didn’t Bother,” Shaquille O’Neal
“Love Love Love,” Avalanche City
“Cafeteria Bananas,” Hella
Originally published on July 12, 2011