Owl City gives flight to shy 'MySpace generation'

Saturday 22 May 2010 00:00

Global pop stars are typically not introverted types, but US platinum-selling artist Owl City is emblematic of a new generation of shy artists thrust onto the world stage via the Internet.

The 23-year-old American, real name Adam Young, was signed by label giant Universal Republic in 2009 despite having never once played live, after executives heard his home-made electronic folk-tinged songs on MySpace, the social networking and music website.

One year on, the singer's second album "Ocean Eyes" has gone platinum in his homeland and his single "Fireflies" has been a worldwide hit, topping the charts in the United States, Europe and beyond.

Young, who swung through London on his European tour, said his rise to success could not have come about without the file-sharing platforms provided by the Internet.

"It's really started a new breed," he told AFP.

"I've heard people say that I've been the vanguard of that and I definitely wouldn't be where I am without MySpace.

"I'm a shy guy, pretty introverted and playing live for the first time was terrifying. I'd never even sung in front of my parents and my friends," he added.

Music history is rich with introspective artists, but before the days of the Internet, these songwriters would at some point have to summon the confidence to perform on stage if their songs were to be heard.

Over the last decade, the price of professional-quality music-making computer packages has plunged, which, combined with the proliferation of file-sharing platforms, has opened the door for a different kind of artist.

The bedroom musician can now reach a global audience.

"I started sequencing and found it so interesting I couldn't really stop and here I am today," Young said of his early days.

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"I just did it on a whim and put it up online and people connected with it in such a positive way that it spurred it on."

Young's frequent allusions to nature and mysticism would appear to sit at odds with his love of synthesised instruments.

However, the end result combats the theory that electronic instruments produce cold and inhuman music.

"You start with something that is really sterile and everything is quantised (computerised) but if you spend time to go in there and add an organic touch it can become really optimistic and surreal," said Young.

Universal Republic snapped up the singer after he released the EP "Of June", in 2007, and the album "Maybe I'm Dreaming" in 2008 while unsigned.

"It was really out of the blue," Young said. "I was so out of the loop in terms of the industry."

"I was a bit scared because I thought they were going to ask me to do a showcase, to which I would've said: 'Sorry, I can't do it because I don't know how to play live!'"

The Minnesotan's unashamedly twee melodies and wholesome image may not be to everyone's taste, but it has found a ready audience on both sides of the Atlantic.

The songwriter's public affirmation of his religion is unusual in indie circles and, though some may be put off, displays an honesty and unconformity which eclipses the cliched efforts of many of the self-styled "rebels" who occupy the modern pop world.

"It's always something that was dear to me," Young said of his Christian faith.

"It's not 'the' reason why I started writing but if I were to not credit it I feel like it wouldn't be the real me," he added.

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