Owl City burst into the world of pop in 2009 with hit single Fireflies. The song reached number one in eight countries, going Platinum four times in the UK alone.
The man behind the project, Adam Young also attracted attention when he released a cover of Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone on his blog.
The 26 year old occupies the unique space of being fully recognised and adored in the world of mainstream music, whilst maintaining his Christian faith. We chatted to him on the phone from New York to find out more.
What made you cover In Christ Alone?
I’m a fan of the song - we would sing it in church growing up. There's something about that melody, the way the chords work and the message behind the lyrics. It's very strong and brings a tear to my eye. It meant a lot to me. I knew that I wanted to record my own version for myself and for fun. It’s such an easy song to sing and mean it for yourself. It’s powerful, so I put it up on my blog without even thinking about it.
What was the feedback from fans like?
Honestly most of the feedback I had was very positive. There were certainly a few people that said: ‘I hope you don’t go on to make worship music from now on’, and that wasn’t my goal. But it’s a great thing to be able to do and who knows what that song could do? Maybe the Lord will choose to use that to speak to people? I’m leaving that to him.
Despite being in the public eye, you’ve stayed out of trouble and stayed true to your Christian faith. In a tough environment how have you been able to do this?
It comes down to the people who surround me. You spend six months of the year on the road in between buses, airports and hotel rooms. I try to make sure the people I tour with are in the same mould as far as how we view morality and our high set of standards. I try to make sure those folks are very much in line with that or aren’t opposed to that in any way.
I’m an only child and my parents have always been very supportive. They say ‘there’s a lot of things we don’t understand about the music industry but we know it can be a dark place and we just want to encourage you any way we can.’ Those two things have been my way of staying grounded.
What does ‘success’ mean to you?
If you create something and it’s sincere and you’re not writing a song to get airplay solely based on ‘I have to write a song this way because I know it will get played on the radio’. If you finish a piece of music and you’re so thrilled about it and nobody can convince you to change it, that’s where you know you’ve captured a level of success that the industry doesn’t know how to measure.
So much of the way the industry is run is based on ‘we have to make this kind of sound because we know it’s going to do well or is hot on the radio right now’. If a song is finished and means something to you, whether it goes to number one or doesn’t get released at all there’s something special about that.
Your last big single was Galaxies which could be viewed as a song about God sustaining the universe. New single Good Time has a much less serious message doesn’t it?
There’s nothing terribly deep about it. The intention was to come up with a track that felt good musically and lyrically. You hear the first chorus and you know all the words already. There’s something really cool about the magic behind the simplicity of a song like that.
How are you feeling about your new album The Midsummer Station?
I’m more excited about this new album than any other album I’ve ever put out. I’ve always wanted to make a dance inspired album, I listen to a lot of dance music.
Most of my records are quirky electronica but this one is a lot of four on the floor, 128bpm, loops and characteristic of dance production techniques across the board. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time.
You often write and sing with Relient K's Matt Theissen. How did this come about?
Four years ago my manager said 'who is on your dream list of people you’d like to collaborate with?' Matt was one of the names on the list so my manager sent him one of my albums and said 'if you feel inspired maybe you can get in the studio and work together?' He was gracious enough to listen to whatever my manager said and we got together to hang out. I grew up listening to Matt’s music so it was such a cool thing to become friends.
He and I record demos before we record the final song. A lot of the time he’ll sing the verses and I’ll sing the choruses and so often we can’t tell each other’s voices apart ourselves, it’s so weird!
You told Radio One that you’d like to do a screamo album. How serious were you?
[Laughs] Maybe 20% serious. It would be kinda fun. It would go over a lot of people’s heads given my track record, but I think it would be fun for what its worth.
Back in high school I listened to a lot of hardcore and screamo. I still do listen to some of that stuff these days but for whatever reason the pop music thing caught my ear.
What’s your favourite Christian book?
It’s probably Desiring God by John Piper. He’s a very famous pastor. I go to his church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live about 45 minutes away and whenever I’m home I try and go to his church. It’s a great book, it changed my life.
What has God been teaching you recently?
It’s a pretty endless list of things. A lot of it is dependence on him. I’ve been praying a lot for wisdom and direction. You can get lost in a whirlwind of success especially now with a top 10 single. There’s always that temptation of seeing that as something that I did. He’s been teaching me humility.
At the end of the day Good Time is just a song and it’s not going to be on top [of the charts] forever by any means. Just enjoy the moment for what it is and don’t lose your footing. He’s given me a real peace about that which is great.
August 29th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes