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Owl City is an electronica/pop project of Adam Young. The Minnesota native began recording his tunes in his parents' basement in between shifts working at a warehouse. Initial interest in his music was generated by visitors to his MySpace site, where his songs racked up millions of page views before he signed to Universal Republic. Young told Rolling Stone that his mundane job loading up trucks helped him develop his dreamy, atmospheric sound: "About two years ago I was working at a Coca-Cola warehouse all day," Young said. "It allowed me to sort of dream up these projects. One wound up being Owl City. I thought through how I wanted it to sound, how I wanted the records to look, everything. Sometimes working in a monotonous environment can really free up your imagination."
Recording in a windowless basement also helped said Young. He explained: "A lot of it has to do with me being by myself while creating it; no producers, no engineers. And that approach allows me to think more freely, I think." He added that he used simple decorations to inspire his creativity. "I have a lot of landscape paintings to look at; lots of ethereal, dreamy nature photography. Having that stuff around really creeps in subconsciously to impact the music."
Young has claimed that he started out making music in his parents' basement because of problems sleeping, and this song reflects on his insomnia. Young described it to Female First
as, "a little song about bugs and not being able to fall asleep at night."
Adam Young told the story behind the song to AntiMusic
: "It was 2AM and I was sitting on the floor in my parent's basement with a MicroKorg on my lap. I built this synthy legato, 'ping' sound routed through a lowpass filter and ran it through a bunch of guitar pedals. I come up with a little cascading part that wound up as the intro and verses of a song called 'Fireflies.'
I have insomnia and I've always had a tough time falling asleep for as long as I can remember. I wanted to sing about my inability to sleep in a whimsical way that portrayed the condition as lighthearted and almost more of a 'blessing' than a curse. It's ironic that when sleep and I cannot bring ourselves to meet is often when inspiration strikes hardest. I'd just been on vacation to Iowa the week before I wrote the song and was amazed at how many fireflies came out at dusk. I didn't really have to think about making a connection between insomnia and lighting bugs, it just sort of happened and the song basically wrote itself. It was a lot of fun."
Relient K lead singer Matt Thiessen supplies guest vocals on this song. In our interview with Adam Young
, he explained, "Matt and I worked on 'Fireflies' and he sort of co-produced it with me. He has a brilliant mind and that guy should have way more credit to his name than he's been given over the years. It's funny how Matt and I sound really similar, sometimes I can't even tell us apart when he's singing harmony on the record. He's an amazing guy and I'm lucky to know him."
This song got a lot of exposure when it was an iTunes' free single of the week on July 14th, 2009. The song helped Young establish a substantial fan base, especially in the Christian community, but he didn't follow up the song with similar hits, which doesn't bother him. "I don't really care if people only know me for 'Fireflies,'" Young told us. "I just do my own thing."
This was the first Hot 100 #1 about an animal by an artist with an animal in its name since the Chipmunks' "The Chipmunk Song
" in 1958.
This was the seventh American #1 of 2009 to also subsequently top the UK charts.
asked Young what inspired this song. He replied: "This one time I went to Taco Bell and got a grilled stuffed burrito and some cheesy fiesta potatoes. It was awesome. Then I went home and wrote Fireflies."
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