For the last eight years, Adam Young has operated out of the basement of a house on a quiet, residential street in the tiny Midwestern town of Owatonna, Minnesota (pop. 25,000). There in his windowless underground bunker, which he has dubbed Sky Harbor Studios, the 29-year-old singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has built something of an empire, one that encompasses his work with his platinum-selling electro-pop alter ego Owl City, as well as composing songs for several major animated feature films; writing, producing, and engineering tracks for a wide variety of artists; and creating sound design for technology giant Apple.
The film, production, and sound design work have all sprung from the reputation and success Young has earned with Owl City, which he launched in 2007. His Owl City debut LP, Ocean Eyes, topped the Billboard Rock, Alternative, and Dance/Electronic charts and was certified platinum in the U.S., launching both an online savvy and radio-friendly career that the New York Times called “a textbook illustration of how the music business needs new and old forms of media to make an artist a star.” Its eye-popping ubiquity made Owl City an international phenomenon able to perform sold-out headlining shows in the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Young followed up Ocean Eyes with two subsequent Top 10 albums and a double platinum selling single that hit No. 1 in Canada, New Zealand, and South Korea and went Top 10 in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan.
Young’s winning melodies and ability to write songs that emotionally connect with millions of listeners soon caught the attention of music supervisors and film directors. In 2010, director Zack Snyder (Watchmen & 300) asked Young to write the theme song for his animated film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (“To The Sky”). In 2012, Young was asked to write an original composition for Disney Animation’s Oscar-winning film Wreck-It Ralph (“When Can I See You Again?”). In 2013, Young’s songs turned up in Dreamworks Animation’s The Croods (“Shine Your Way”) and Veggietales (“Light of Christmas”), as well as Sony Pictures’ Smurfs 2 (“Live It Up”). He has served as a writer, producer, engineer, mixer, and vocalist on several of these songs.
Young has also turned his multiple talents toward working with other artists, including writing and singing on tracks by music DJs, Armin Van Buuren and Paul Van Dyk, as well as British dance artist Chicane. He has also shown his versatility by performing various duties for artists spanning multiple genres, including rock (John Mayer, Dispatch, Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, Something Corporate, Relient K), indie-pop (He Is We, Lights, Breanne Düren), and hip-hop (Outasight).
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- At the beginning of 2016, Adam Young took a break from Owl City to focus on his first musical love, original film scores. Inspired from a young age by the talent and prowess of John Williams, James Horner and others, Adam released one score a month for the duration of 2016, drawing inspiration from important moments in world history and interpreting them through music. Adam plans to continue this project into the future, releasing additional scores through his website as time and inspiration allow. Below is a message from Adam Young about the project.
Not long ago, I found myself reminiscing the last half decade of my career. I recalled what it was like writing my first songs, recording my first album and touring in a 15-passenger van. Then I went back further and remembered being 16-years-old and what it felt like discovering something that would ultimately allow my dreams to become reality. It was then that I stumbled upon a world of music that did something to me no other type of music had ever done before — it inspired me.
The revelation of a person’s first love of music is different for everyone, but for me, it was film scores — original music written to accompany motion pictures. These types of atmospheres and anthems spoke my language and I remember experiencing a feeling of wide-eyed wonder while listening to my favorite composers. The talent and prowess of John Williams, Harry Gregson-Williams, James Horner, Thomas Newman and Alan Silvestri exposed me to a creative canon I’d never experienced before. I felt as though I’d stumbled into a universe that was made just for me. It spoke to my heart, moved me deeply, and gave me the confidence to drop everything and say, “That. I want to do that.”
And so, as a 16-year-old with little knowledge of composition or audio production, I followed my inspiration blindly and simply began to paint with music. I didn’t have a long-term goal, I just knew I’d unearthed a creative drive that would not rest until I gave it my all. So that’s exactly what I did. The years have flown by, and here I am today — the same 16-year-old at heart, filled with more motivation and creativity than ever. Along the road, I’ve experienced my share of highs and lows and I’ve learned the mainstream pop music industry can be a frustrating place for everyone. It has a way of coaching one to adopt a creative process that may or may not come naturally, depending on the individual. As I found myself looking back on my own story, I realized the ups and downs of the mainstream music space have, at times, given rise to a degree of personal frustration and stress that affects everyone in the industry. By pausing to muse on the way things are in such a place, I find myself greatly inspired to use such trials and tribulations as the means to ignore any such “rules” the industry embodies. I consider myself fortunate enough to see the big picture from several angles, and after stopping to study over it, I suddenly feel a deep indwelling desire to make music for the sake of creating nothing but pure, bold, trailblazing art. No speed limits, no safety nets, no rules.
And so, as I listen to the works of the composers I first fell in love with, I feel a great longing to create my own version of that same wonder and euphoria that moved me as a young impressionable musician. I want to create worlds of sound that tell stories and tales in ways that cannot be described with words. I want to explore a vast, wild universe of storytelling and create in others the same fascination and curiosity I felt.
Stories are infinite. They offer us the ability to retell them according to the way we imagine them. Thus, I want to create musical narratives that aid in the telling of stories that move Adam Young, according to his imagination. And I want to share them with you.
Starting February 1, for as long as I feel moved to do so, I will release a conceptual “film score” each month based on my interpretation of stories that mean something to me. They will live here, on ayoungscores.com, available for you to listen to or download for free, or consume via your preferred online platform (Apple Music, Spotify, etc.). Each score will be accompanied by a visual companion, created from scratch by a visual artist I admire (2016 will feature the work of the incredible James R. Eads). The visual piece will also be released in the form of a limited edition movie poster, signed and numbered by James and myself.
I hope you are as inspired by the music as I have been to create it.