For his latest album as Owl City, Adam Young learned to play nice with others.
The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Minnesota has spent most of his still-young career as a one-man band -- and done well by that. Two of his previous three Owl City albums debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200, with 2009's "Ocean Eyes" going platinum, and he had a chart-topping, quadruple platinum hit that same year with "Fireflies."
But for this year's "The Midsummer Station" Young, 26, expanded his creative universe, bringing in songwriting and production collaborators such as the Norwegian duo Stargate, Brazilian artists Kool Kojak and Relient K frontman Matthew Thiessen. Young even enlisted some duet partners, including Carly Rae Jepsen for the summer smash "Good Time" and blink-182's Mark Hoppus on "Dementia."
"The Midsummer Station" bowed at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 in August, but Young says that embracing the outside input helped him feel like Owl City's fourth album was already a winner.
"I feel that as an artist you should never really look back or repeat yourself," Young explains. "So this was sort of taking a flying leap on that way. I was a little bit scared at first because of all the co-writing and allowing other people to co-pilot this project, but listening back, as I live with it, I'm really excited about it.
"It was great for me to learn to be compromising in a healthy way that I think is inherent to collaborating with other people. For a guy who's done his own thing forever, it was a great thing to learn to say, 'I love this idea, but can we try something else?' or 'Here's my idea; it's clearly not as good as your idea, so let's go with yours,' just making sure it's about the music.
"It was all just so positive. It was really fun to be able to bounce ideas off somebody else, and there was always this great magic in the room when there was somebody else right there with you to work on things."
Young also considers "The Midsummer Station" to be "kind of a left turn" because of the direction the music wound up taking with these collaborators.
"I always wanted to make electronic pop music," he notes. "I sort of felt my own definition of what a pop song was kind of evolve over the last four years. It's furthering what I do, but with a different lens -- and that's the way music should work, everything always changing and growing and evolving."
The Top 5 "Good Time" is certainly as pop as it comes. Young hooked up with Jepsen -- prior to her own "Call Me Maybe's" success -- via his manager, who also knew Jepsen's. The two could not get into the studio together, but Young sent Jepsen a track to sing over and says her first pass through the song "was perfect." And, Young acknowledges, that helped give him an inkling of how well the song might do.
"It felt pretty special," he recalls. "A lot of times I feel like I'm a little too zoomed into the project to be able to tell what's more special than what isn't. I spend all this time down at a micro level, working on these songs. But everyone was saying, 'Yeah, 'Good Time,' this is probably the one,' so I had a good feeling about it."
Young actually did get to hang out with Hoppus for "Dementia," which he says was a bit intimidating because he's such a big fan of blink-182. "They say never meet your idols, but Mark proved that wrong because he's so genuine and down to earth and was so interested in what I do," Young says. "Of course, he's a guy with such a legacy. He doesn't owe me anything, but he was very kind and it was great."
While he's touring, Young is looking ahead -- both to "The Midsummer Station's" next single (most likely "Shooting Star," which has already appeared on Billboard's Christian charts) and what he'll do next, musically. He has "a handful of ideas" for Owl City, and there's also the specter of his other musical projects, including Sky Sailing, Swimming With Dolphins and Port Blue -- though those take a decided back seat.
"Owl City is keeping me so busy, it's hard to do much else," Young says. "So the other projects are kind of waiting for me whenever I feel like coming back to them. The beauty of working as a solo artist under all these different monikers is you can always go back and kind of pick up where you left off, so I definitely might revisit those soon, but I don't know how soon."
Owl City and Matthew Koma perform Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 day of show. Call 248-858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.
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