Only children are often misunderstood. We can be insular and secretive, selfish and anti-social. But we also have a great personal understanding and self-knowledge, gained from many hours hanging out with just ourselves. It's in these moments of unintentional solitude that we busy ourselves with our brains, escaping reality and discovering new talents by accident. New talents that we then must decide to show to the world when we're ready. For Owl City's Adam Young, his personal discovery when leaving reality for a few moments has paid off big time.
Young grew up an only child in Minnesota, in a family he describes as "really poor." "I was kind of a nobody in high school, didn't have any friends, didn't belong to anything," he says. "I spent all my time on my own, and just started to mess around with computers and software, and sequencing and sampling, all kinds of nerdy music stuff without actually physically playing an instrument," he says. Boredom led to experimentation in his parents' basement, and helped launch a lonely kid with no musical training to stardom.
It's this time in his parents' basement that helped Young deal with feeling stuck in life. "I was inspired by the idea of creating something to allow me to escape from the everyday reality that I didn't really like, working at a job I hated, and going to school. I was a really bad student and just couldn't make myself do anything," he says. Young posted his musical creations on MySpace and YouTube, and from their his career took off.
Until recently, Young's musical endeavors have been a one-man job. His fourth studio record The Midsummer Station, released last August, marked the first time Young had worked on his music with others. He was hesitant at first, saying he felt "a little bit out of my zone." "I didn't really love the idea right off the bat, but I made myself do it and it was really rewarding," he says. The collaborative experience went over so well that Young is game to work with others in the future. And adding more eyes and ears to the creative process resulted in a record that is more mature and sonically diverse than Young's previous, solo efforts.
The Midsummer Station also brought along the opportunities for front-of-house collaboration, as both Canadian It-girl Carly Rae Jepsen and pop-punk goofball Mark Hoppus lent their vocals to a couple tracks. Young's duet with Jepsen, "Good Time," which appeared on both of their albums released last year, was an anthemic summer jam right out of the gate. While Young and Jepsen didn't meet in person until they shot the song's music video, as Jepsen recorded her vocals in Canada and Young worked out of his home studio in Minnesota, Young has nothing but good things to say about the petite Jepsen. "She's really down to Earth and just fun to be around," he says.
Mark Hoppus, one-third of seminal pop-punk jokesters Blink-182, met with Young in New York to record "Dementia." "I've been a big fan of his for a lot of years, so it was pretty cool for me to meet him and hang out with him and get to know him a little bit," Young says. When asked if Hoppus is still as much of a silly goose as he seems, Young replied: "He definitely lived up to his persona. I don't think I'd laughed that much in a studio session until then."
Currently on tour with soul-pop playboys Maroon 5, Young and his Owl City will grace the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena this Friday night. This is not the first time he's opened for Maroon 5, and while it's hard to see the overlap between their sets of fans, Young says his sets have gone over well with the crowd. "When you're opening for somebody else, the majority of the crowd aren't your fans, so you have to stay on your A-game and do your thing, and try not to be anything you're not," he says. "It's a better match than you'd think, right off the bat." And no matter your opinion of Owl City, there's no denying that Young knows his way around a pop song. These songs were made for arenas.