March 26, 2010 in Features

Young soars with Owl City

Synthpop star had unlikely start on MySpace
By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy of Pamela Littky photo

Adam Young, who performs nearly all the instruments for Owl City’s recordings, brings the whole band for the sold-out show on Monday. Courtesy of Pamela Littky
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

If you go

Owl City, with Lights and Paper Route

When: Monday, 6:40 p.m.

Where: The Knitting Factory Concert House, 911 W. Sprague Ave.

Tickets: Sold out

Synthpop sensation Adam Young has taken his music from his basement in the middle-of-nowhere America around the world at digital speed.

With his Owl City music project, Young found a way to escape his insomnia by dreaming without going to sleep.

Living in Owatonna, Minn. – a town comprised of almost enough people to fill the Gorge Amphitheatre – he was working at a Coca-Cola warehouse when he wasn’t making music while living in his parents’ basement.

“My parents were away for the weekend, and wanting to be loud and make some noise I began writing versions of what became my first, self-released CD, ‘Of June,’ ” Young says in his press bio.

He put the songs on MySpace, Owl City went viral and Universal Republic came knocking.

Six million profile views and 25 million plays later, Young finds himself with a gold album, a double platinum single and sold-out tours across the U.S., China and Japan.

His 2009 full-length major label debut, “Ocean Eyes,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The single “Fireflies” is the 24th most-downloaded song of all time on iTunes, according to a list released at the end of February.

While Young plays nearly all of the instruments for Owl City’s recordings, mainly on synths, laptop and guitar, the live show features a full band.

At Owl City’s sold-out show in October at The Service Station in Spokane during his last national tour, Young was accompanied by a drummer, a violinist, a cellist, a keyboardist/vocalist and an off-stage guitarist.

He has a similar lineup for his current tour. Breanna Duren, who sings on several of Owl City’s recordings, is also part of the touring band.

Relient K’s Matt Thiessen has toured with Owl City and appears on many recordings (he sings backup vocals on “Fireflies”). Thiessen has said in interviews that he and Young have started a side project called Goodbye Dubai.

Meanwhile, Owl City is scheduled to release a new album in the fall.

Despite Owl City’s overwhelming MySpace popularity, substantial commercial success and generally positive critical response, there is an ongoing debate throughout the blogosphere regarding comparisons between Owl City and Postal Service, the short-lived side project of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.

Many critics have gone so far as accusing Young of flat-out ripping off Postal Service. He has addressed the issue in several interviews, admitting similarities between the two but denying that he copied Postal Service.

Owl City has partnered with American Red Cross for Haiti, encouraging fans to make donations through the “text Owl to 90999” campaign.

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