A Conversation With Adam Young, aka Owl City

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I really love music. I have special playlists for long runs and cooking, for cleaning and relaxing. Whatever the occasion, I like to have a soundtrack of sorts playing in the background, like my life is connected with a scene in a movie.

Cinematic, Owl City’s latest album, shares my affinity for these movie-like moments. And I got the chance to chat with Adam Young (aka Owl City himself) about this very thing.

Let’s start with the album cover. The montage of images is, as Young says, a “nostalgia overload” representing Young’s most cherished memories. It exudes a 1980s feel—and that was the goal. Young says that he was able to find a licensed artist who has done work reminiscent of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. And at first glance you may not understand exactly what Young’s trying to say on the cover, but that’s okay because, he says the album is “like my personal diary.” A personal diary he’s now willing to share.

The entire 15-track effort is laced with memories that hit home for Young. Take, for example, “The 5th of July” where he had a chance to talk with all those present on the day of his birth—all those who “played a huge role in my life.” “Fiji Water” is based on the first time Young flew in to talk with a record label. He says “it was just a whirlwind of pure energy … there has not been anything quite like that” since it happened. Even more recently, Young says he’s been learning how to do life at his own pace. In his song “Winners Never Quit,” he tackles the pressure he’s felt (much of it, he says, being self-imposed) to race through certain moments of his life, and as time has gone on he’s started to appreciate the importance of setting his own pace and being comfortable in his own skin

That’s an important lesson to learn. But certainly not an easy one, especially when it’s mixed with Young’s own personal Christian faith and the entertainment industry. Young says cultivating faith in the world of entertainment can be tricky, “especially with working with other folks that don’t share your same moral compass.” For a natural people-pleaser, as Young describes himself, that sort of pressure can be difficult. But he’s learned to ask God for guidance, and that posture has, in turn “taught me to rely on my faith.”

And that’s what it’s all about—those little moments filled with opportunity, memory and the potential for faith. Sometimes they’re big. Sometimes they’re small. And, most often, they’re a compilation of all the mundane to make one beautiful scene. Young calls them “movie magic moments.” And his advice to us is to “just pay attention and try not to overlook” the everyday moments of our lives.

In a technologically driven world this can be challenging, but it’s so important, Young believes. Learning how to slow down so that we recognize our own lives are worth watching and living—our own lives are movies and soundtracks in the making.