The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Owl City

Musician Adam Young discusses relating to the Hulk, writing a song for Wreck-It Ralph and much more!

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Adam Young (photo by Pamela Littky)

By Blake Garris

In the midst of a stadium tour with Maroon 5 and Neon Trees, Adam Young, multi-instrumentalist and the brains behind the band Owl City, took time out to talk with Marvel.

A big fan of the Hulk, Young spoke with us about his recently released album “Midsummer Station,” the process behind creating the song “When Can I See You Again?” for the Disney film “Wreck-It Ralph” and much more.

Marvel.com: To begin, how did fans react to your new record?

Adam Young: So far so good. I think at first they were a little bit unsure of it because it’s a little more literal than what I usually write lyrically. I think that comes from taking 50% of what makes one person himself and pouring 100% of himself into something and dividing that up into two or three different people writing the lyrics. The song has to mean a lot to three people versus just one, so things are a little bit less weird lyrically on this new record, and that was intentional. I think some of the fans were a little bit miffed by that, but that’s part of it. I think on top of figuring out how to work with other people, I really got a lot of respect for the power of a simple melody.

It’s kind of mindless, but just the power of that melody or the simplicity of something can really connect, really move people. That became this lyrical snowball thing; I just loved chasing the idea. You know, how do you write a song about having a good time that hasn’t been done a million times already, and the way that you’re so excited about it? You feel like you’re creating something new. That’s what it’s all about.

Adam Young (photo by Matt Vogel)

Marvel.com: How’s the tour with Maroon 5 been going?

Adam Young: Really good. We had to cancel three or four shows because of my voice, but it’s been so cool for me. I feel really lucky to be able to be out here on the road with Neon Trees and Maroon 5. I feel like I get backstage passes to watch these two amazing bands every night, and all I have to do is play a few of my own songs. I feel like I should be some other guy instead of me. So, yeah, I’m super humbled and they’re great guys to be around and watch play. The best of the best. It’s really cool for me.

Marvel.com: Can you describe what the experience was like writing the single “When Can I See You Again” for “Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph?”

Adam Young: That was really kind of dream-come-true territory for me. I grew up with Disney Animation films since as far back as I can remember and Disney actually came to me and said, “We’re creating this new animation film about video game characters, and our main character goes from video game to video game. Now, what you do musically is very electronic and kind of quirky and all that stuff. Just curious if you’d be interested in taking a stab at writing an end credit sequence? Here’s the vibe and here’s the last five minutes of the film so you kind of know how it ends and what that thread should be.” I said, “Yeah, I’d love to take a stab at it.” And I sat down with my good buddy Matt Thiessen from the band Relient K, and we came up with the song. They loved it! It was really, really cool. I didn’t expect it to really happen, but it came through and it was great.

The Midsummer Station album cover

Marvel.com: And you decided not to release that as a single, right?

Adam Young: Yeah. We debated about it, but I think the general consensus between the management, the label and everybody was to just kind of hang on to that. I feel like it’s such a special thing in the film, it’d feel kind of weird to kind of use it for something else just to try to turn heads or whatever. So yeah, it kind of feels like a secret thing. It’s cool to have in the film.

Marvel.com: Do you have to change your brain pattern in how you approach the songwriting process for something like that?

Adam Young: Yeah, it’s a little different of a process, but it’s really cool because you have some more guidelines. You kind of have to do your homework a little bit, and I like that. I think it’s compelling when you have these sets of images and sequences that you need to connect and tie together with sound. Sometimes you can get kind of lost in the clouds if you don’t have any limits and you can write about anything and the song can be three minutes or 10 minutes. Sometimes I kind of let my imagination tear me away and spend too much time messing around, so it’s cool to have a concise direction to follow, so that’s good for me.

Marvel.com: We heard you’re a big fan of the Hulk.

The Hulk

Adam Young: I just love that his character is his own character. I love that he’s a cool guy, but if you set him off, he’s a monster. I can kind of relate to that because I’m such a shy, introverted guy. I live by myself in a small town out in the country [in] Minnesota. All of my friends moved away so it’s like, no one to talk to. I just do my own thing; I’ve always done my own thing, but one or two times where I’ve gotten really mad and I just turn into this animal. Hulk has always been like that; yeah, I get that. I’m not busting out of my shirt, but I get what that’s like.

Marvel.com: What about the X-Men?

Adam Young: Yeah, the X-Men [are] cool. I love the Wolverine film. I’m into that stuff. It’s cool to me. I’m a big fan from the outside for sure.

Marvel.com: Do you have anything else upcoming that we haven’t mentioned?

Adam Young: I’m still kind of trying to think about a new record. I know it’s a ways off, but that’s kind of what keeps me going. My mind is always working. The great thing about touring is you see so many different places, and you’re always waiting for something, so I’m always in the back lounge on the tour bus with my headphones on, on my laptop or on the plane mixing something together. Just trying to keep my mind open and take things a day at a time. Hopefully a new record towards the end of the year possibly, and hopefully some more headline shows this year, hopefully this summer. Some international touring I hope as well and yeah just keeping things going!

For more information on Owl City you can visit Adam’s website, http://www.owlcitymusic.com/, or follow him on Twitter at @owlcity.

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