Adam Young has stocked freezers at Hy-Vee, loaded packages for UPS, and built shipping containers for Coca-Cola. Somewhere along the way, he also became a rather unassuming musical sensation.
See, Young is better known as [artist id="3055386"]Owl City[/artist], the one-man band behind “Fireflies,” a gently burbling bit of electronic dream-pop that currently sits at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (and #2 on the Digital Songs chart), alongside the likes of Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and the Black Eyed Peas. Ocean Eyes,Owl City’s third proper album (and the first he hasn’t released on his own), makes its top-10 debut on the Billboard albums chart next week, landing at #8 with 28,000 sold. He is in the midst of a sold-out headlining tour, and later this year, he’ll take his show to China and Japan. Needless to say, all this is fairly mind-blowing for a kid from Owatonna, Minnesota.
“Yeah, it’s fairly unbelievable, not to mention breathtaking, dreamlike, surprising, mind-blowing, bizarre and phantasmagorical too. The past six months have been nothing but a colorful, brilliant blur,” Young told MTV News via e-mail (he doesn’t do on-camera interviews). “I’m so thankful for being allowed to do what I do. I’m a silly shy boy from the middle of nowhere. I have the worst sense of direction imaginable. I was afraid to eat lunch with the other kids in high school. I can’t even drive in big cities. I’m a totally nobody. I spill coffee all over myself. I am so undeserving.”
Young’s ascent is even more amazing considering that six months ago, he was living in his parents’ basement and working the late shift at a nearby Coca-Cola bottling plant. At the time, music was just a way to combat the monotony of his daily life — hazy, daydreamy stuff that mimicked the songs he heard in his head. Almost on a whim, he put a few demos — songs like “Hello Seattle” and “Rainbow Veins” — up on MySpace and somehow ended up with some 6 million plays. A deal with Universal followed soon after, and the rest, as they say, was history.
“I began writing due to boredom, for something fun to do. … Music became my best friend. I poured myself into it, and listening to the final results was something that was satisfying to me,” he wrote. “I heard a quote once by ['Lord of the Rings' author J.R.R.] Tolkien that went something like, ‘Nobody is writing the kinds of books I want to read … so I have to.’ The same went (and goes) for myself in terms of music. I write for my own ears. If people choose to listen, I’m thrilled and certainly honored, but there’s a lot of music I imagine in my head that virtually nobody today is creating, so in a sense, I feel the need to take a stab at it for fear of never hearing it again. It’s almost like a bizarre sense of duty. If I don’t get it out of my head, it’ll disappear and be lost forever.”
It’s been pretty hectic throughout his meteoric rise, Young has tried very hard to remain nearly anonymous — hence the Owl City moniker and the lack of on-camera interviews. Even when pressed about the one sticking point nearly every journalist mentions about his music — the rather uncanny resemblance it bears to Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello’s Postal Service — he doesn’t get ruffled. Rather, he prefers to deflect, to make it a non-issue. After all, answering annoying questions sure beats working in a Hy-Vee.
“Wait. Who?” he wrote. “I’ve never heard of the Postal Service.”