He Built This City
By Evan O’Brien and Brett Weatherston
Adam Young is a musician from the small town of Owatonna, Minnesota. Owl City is a project that was created from Young's musical experiments in his parents' basement, which developed a substantial viral following from exposure on Myspace, before eventually opening the door to a deal with Universal Republic Records. After two independent albums, Owl City gained immense mainstream popularity with the 2009 major label debut album Ocean Eyes, which spawned the hit single "Fireflies.” Korg was lucky enough to get a chance to talk with Adam; here is what went down…
KORG: Thanks for talking with us, Adam. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you begin your journey as an artist/musician?
Adam Young: I started programming loops and sequences as a junior in high school and once I started, I literally couldn't stop. I'd started playing guitar a few years before but felt limited beyond writing simple acoustic songs in my bedroom. When I got my first sequencer/DAW, it opened up an entirely new world and I still can't get enough of it. I've become a huge gearhead and I'm always first in line when it comes to new audio gear. I believe a musician is, figuratively speaking, only as good as his tools…and in my opinion, surrounding yourself with the right set of tools increases your chances of success in the long run.
KORG: Ocean Eyes was a huge success for you. Did you begin the recording process with any particular plan in mind for the record?
AY: The success of the record jumped out of nowhere and bit me on the nose. It was never something I expected to happen, nor wanted to happen, quite frankly. What little I knew about the music industry at the time was fuel on the fire - convincing me that whatever it was that I was set out to do, should be done entirely on my own. Obviously I've had a crash course in the industry over the last three years and I've learned more about it than I could ever put down in a book. The thing that still hits me is how the whole thing came together...as if it were meant to be...and for a “nobody” from a small town in Minnesota, I still get goose bumps just thinking about it. There's nothing in this world I'd rather be doing than creating music.
KORG: You also recently released your Sky Sailing recordings. Do you see yourself doing more under that moniker?
AY: If the time is right, absolutely! I've got an endless amount of ideas for the project (as I do for many other projects) but it really boils down to having the time to tackle the concepts in my head. I really wish I had all the time in the world to devote to every project and collaboration but unfortunately, that's not the case. Ideally, I'd love to put out another record under the moniker within a year or two.
KORG: Are there any performances on the road or recent recordings you've done that stick out in your mind? Why?
AY: I played the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden for the first time last year and both were unforgettable. I keep waking up in the middle of the night and suddenly "remembering" what it is I'm doing, what type of "job" I'm allowed to do - and it blows me away. I'm the most normal, average guy in the world, but being allowed to do what I do makes me more thankful for the time that's been given to me than I know how to describe. I really am undeserving but I try to take every moment in with a grateful spirit.
KORG: Let's talk about gear…what drew you to the RADIAS?
AY: I'm the guy who reads gear reviews and forum posts and stuff online rather than getting the sales pitch in person. I like to dig around and see what people are candidly saying about gear rather than getting preached at. I've been a microKORG user since the beginning and I've fallen in love with that little synth so much, the moment I wanted to looking into a bigger, more powerful synth, my eye landed on the RADIAS. After reading a ton of reviews online, I got my hands on one and was really blown away by it. I love how everything is programmable. The moment I switched it on, it was as if everything was right where it needed to be. For example, I was browsing through the list of preset patches and landed on a sound, and I thought "Wow that would sound great with a bit of delay," or whatever the case was…the effects were right there in front of me without having to go search through a ton of menus, etc. I really like how everything is right there in front of your eyes, ready to edit. I'm the kind of guy who is always going back and tweaking patches and sounds and re-saving them, so the programmability of the RADIAS blew me away right out of the box. Plus, it sounds amazing! I love everything about it.
[Note: Adam also obtained a Korg SV-1 recently.]
KORG: How do you incorporate the RADIAS into your performances and/or recordings?
AY: I used the RADIAS quite a bit on the upcoming Owl City record entitled All Things Bright and Beautiful. The RADIAS was always my go-to synth whenever I'd be in a session and needed a synth-specific sound. I had it set up right next to my Pro Tools rig, so I could grab the knobs and get a sound fast, if I found I needed another synth layer during the mixing process. It's so easy to be creative with the RADIAS and that's what I really love about it.
KORG: Anything else you'd like us to mention?
AY: I'm a huge fan of the Korg Legacy Collection synth plug-ins also. The PolySix was a heavy hitter on the new Owl City record as well. Whenever I'm inspired, Korg is the first place I turn to - be it hardware synths or plug-ins. Korg allows me to be creative and ultimately achieve the sounds that I envision in my head and beyond.
Thanks again, Adam. We look forward to hearing All Things Bright and Beautiful.
Visit www.owlcitymusic.com for more about Adam and Owl City!