Shy guy finds fame in ‘Fireflies’ 

Adam Young says stardom was the last thing on his mind when he formed his one-man band Owl City three years ago.

By day, he punched the clock at Coca-Cola in tiny Owatonna, Minn. By night, the multi-instrumentalist began concocting quirky pop ditties in his parents’ windowless basement.

He posted his work on MySpace, not expecting much of a reaction. Seven million profile views and 40 million song plays later, and he was snapped up by Universal Republic, who rolled the dice on his recent “Ocean Eyes” album.

Wise choice: Its bubbly single “Fireflies” has reached No. 1 in 22 countries, and necessitated a world tour that brings Young to the Fillmore for two shows.

There’s no denying the whimsical allure of “Fireflies” or its kooky cellar-filmed video. Noodling on retro electronics and singing in a fluffy pneumatic wheeze, Young echoes pop peers like pre-Eels E and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.

Now that royalties are rolling in, he’s even moved out on his own, he says, into “a big cozy house on a quiet street, not too far from my parents’ basement where all this stuff started. And what sold me on the house was, underneath the garage, completely underground, was this all-enclosed cement room. So that’s the only place I am, whenever I’m not in the kitchen.”

What about basements does this artist find so appealing?

“I’m kind of a shy, introverted guy,” he says. “So it’s almost comforting when I go down there to work at night, and I know everyone around is sleeping. I know no one will bother me, and there’s just something about being in this cozy little cave-safe place where all the creative juices flow. It’s what I’ve grown to need for a songwriting scenario.”

Want to picture it? Watch the “Fireflies” clip, he says. “My real basement is kind of similar, except there’s not as many toys as there is music junk, like keyboards, amps and guitar pedals everywhere.”

Material came easy. Performing it onstage was what proved difficult. “It’s still pretty scary for me, singing in front of people,” says Young, 23. “And demographic-wise, at our shows, there are a lot of girls, and that makes me even more nervous.”

Anchoring him is his non-industry girlfriend, currently attending college in Los Angeles.

He says he still hasn’t come to grips with Owl City fame: “I can fly 16 hours around the world, and there’s a roomful of people there, waiting, that know all the words. That’s really surreal for me.”

Owl City

The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday
Tickets: $20

Comes from underground
Adam Young, aka Owl City, made his first recordings in the basement of his parents’ home in Minnesota.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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