Owl City: Adam Young contemplates All Things Bright And Beautiful

Friday 19th August 2011

Tony Cummings reports on hitmaking purveyor of synth pop OWL CITY and his new album

Owl City
Owl City

The release of 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' continues one of the most unexpected success stories of recent years. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Young, now known to millions as Owl City, has demonstrated again that his wistful, melodic brand of synth pop connects with a mass audience even if he continues to be vilified by the cool music critics. For a young man who once spent most of his time creating music in the solitude of his parents' basement the two years since the release of his quadruple-Platinum 'Ocean Eyes' has been jam packed with people, places and things. Adam spoke to Christianity Today about his gruelling world tour and the creation of his new album.

"The past 12 months have certainly been a whirlwind and I could probably count the number of off-days I've had on one hand. But when your career revolves entirely around your passion, it's not a bad way to work by any means. The day after I returned home from the 'Ocean Eyes' world tour, I started pre-production on 'All Things Bright And Beautiful'. The day after I turned it in to the record label, I was out the door preparing for the upcoming six months of touring. Life is a roller coaster indeed! But at the end of the day, I always find myself on my knees thanking the Lord for allowing me to do what I'm most passionate about. There's no end to my sincere appreciation for the blessings I've been given."

Adam told the andpop website that he wanted his music to portray the "pure and perfect dreams" his "imagination so effortlessly captures." But translating what's in one's mind isn't the easiest of tasks. "I wanted the record to feel extremely innocent because of my innate fascination with all things that are pure and beautifully innocent. Nature might be the most perfect form of innocence I can think of and that's ultimately why the album is very 'forest/countryside' themed."

As a multi-instrumentalist and producer, Young spent a lot of time polishing his "craft as an engineer" before worrying about writing lyrics or arranging songs.
Said Young, "Rather than turn knobs without knowing what they do, this time around I made sure I really knew the gear I had in the studio before diving into the songwriting part of the process. The record is a notch up for me with respect to production. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'm very excited about the next chapter in this wild and crazy story known as Owl City."

Owl City: Adam Young contemplates All Things Bright And Beautiful

So why did the songsmith give his album the same title as the children's hymn written by Cecil F Alexander? "The Anglican hymn as well as the James Herriot book were a big part of growing up for me. I was raised singing the hymn in church, and my mother was a huge fan of Herriot's literary works and always had them around the house. The title was floating around in my head for who knows how long before I put two and two together and said, 'That's it. That's what the new record has to be called.'"

How did Adam feel 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' differed from his multi-million seller? "A lot of inspiration found its way into this new record specifically regarding vocals. I spent the last 12 months onstage singing my lungs out in front of two thousand people every evening, and I grew pretty comfortable with the dynamic energy of that kind of atmosphere. I'd say the biggest step up in 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' has to do with the lead vocal. It's more powerful, it's more aggressive when necessary, it's far less processed and Auto-Tuned; it's just more gutsy and bold. I'm not really a singer by nature, so that was a big step for me. Beyond that, the album feels a lot more conclusive; I believe it sounds more 'finished' than 'Ocean Eyes' does. The album was written, recorded, produced and engineered all in one room by one person, and thus I think it has a 'watertight' quality to it that makes for a very definitive final product. My fingerprints are all over it!"

One of the most arresting tracks on 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' is the hit single "Alligator Sky" which features a rap from Shawn Chrystopher. Adam told jesusfreakhideout, "I really love what hip-hop has made, being really beat-heavy with lots of drum loops and stuff. So that was initial intent, to experiment and actually find and feature a rapper on a couple of verses. And early on, when we decided to kinda go with that for the first single, we thought it would be a fair shot to have kind of a rapless version for alternative radio and different places that don't play rap. So that was kind of the challenge, and it was fun."

Christianity Today asked Adam to explain the lyric of his song "The Real World" with its memorable line "Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there." "I find it fascinating how some people think of daydreaming or 'escapism' as a reckless way of turning one's back on responsibility, but for me, it couldn't be more opposite. The idea of going to/returning from a place in my head where everything is beautiful and absolutely perfect has an uncanny way of influencing almost EVERYTHING I do, whether it be creating music or writing lyrics or even living life day to day. I love imagining what the world would be like if things were in fact perfect because it makes me WANT to do whatever I can to fulfil that dream in and around my own life. The line 'Reality is a lovely place but I wouldn't want to live there' is a fun way of saying I appreciate life exactly as it is, and although I can't change the world by any means, I can touch it. It's merely my way of dealing with things by proclaiming I can't keep the dark days from happening or the frustrations from occurring, but I can fix my eyes on that one blue patch of sky and thus keep my eyes focused on what truly matters."

Owl City: Adam Young contemplates All Things Bright And Beautiful

The most personal song on 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' is the powerful "Deer In The Headlights". Commented Adam, "I enjoy writing largely from the imagination, and usually that produces rather abstract imagery. But with 'Deer In The Headlights' I wrote a personal song that plays close to the chest in a way that no other song I've written ever has. I was ending a serious relationship at the time, and I was harrowed by the fact that so many people (specifically me) have a funny tendency to desire romance merely for the sake of avoiding loneliness, which ultimately means it's not about LOVE at all! Sometimes it's easy to be 'blinded by the light' and forget all about what true romance is designed by God to be. When all you focus on are the warm fuzzies, a relationship can become dangerous and disastrous very quickly. So the song plays closely to the fact that I needed to pull myself out of the lights and remember what's more important than the romantic butterflies."

The most explicitly Christian song of his album is "Galaxies". Said Adam, "The song is a vivid portrayal to the idea that even amidst tragedy, victory can be achieved through Christ and through him alone. The song is loosely based around the space shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred in 1986 and what I might've thought or felt if I were the flight commander on that ship, suddenly taken from reality into eternity in a split second." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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