Universal Music Group
Now, Young is back with 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' -- the follow-up to his debut record, 'Ocean Eyes' -- out on June 14. AOL Music had the chance to talk to Young about how he's grown up on his sophomore album, his fascination with the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and if anything every happened after he serenaded Taylor Swift on Valentine's Day.
Earlier this year, you sent Taylor Swift a musical Valentine. Did she ever reply to you?
I'm definitely a shy guy. So that was the one moment where I could get up the nerve and get the courage to talk to her. But she never actually did respond. I was never really expecting to hear a response per se, but it was a fun thing to do. I think she's such a sweet girl. And when I heard the original version of ['Enchanted'], I added up the letters and it spelled my name and I was freaking out. So it was the one place where I figure I should respond and make it very respectful and make it for Valentine's Day.
What makes your perfect girl?
I never really dated in high school. I was always the quiet lone-wolf guy, and most of the girls, at least in my high school, were into the guys in the football team and whatnot. So I think the perfect girl who would sit well with me is just somebody who understands that quiet, mysterious guys have their own qualities. I've been around many girls who have been super outgoing. And a lot of times, they would say to me, "Why are you so quiet? What's wrong with you?" And I'm like, "I don't know. That's just the way I am." So if I found the perfect girl she would totally get that and say, "You're quiet, and that's the way I love you."
Are there any other girls you're crushing on that could possibly expect a video serenade in the future?
Not really. If I really sit down and think about it, I don't think so. I think [Taylor Swift] is the only one. I first met her in New York, and there's just something about her that it's so hard for me to find the words because she's so gorgeous and so exquisite and so eloquent it was so hard to come up with the right words. And now that I step back and look around at who else is out there, she's really the only one who comes to mind.
You say you're a shy guy but you don't show it when you're onstage. So how do you throw away the shyness?
It's a tough thing, even now. From day one when we played our first show, I could barely make myself go onstage because I was so nervous and so apprehensive backstage behind the curtain. And now, it's gotten a little bit better but there are still the butterflies there. And I think I learned to embrace those butterflies in a way because I feel like if those went away completely, I think playing shows wouldn't be fun. There's something fun about going onstage and leaving behind the introverted shy kid just because there's something about the music that, to me, is a refuge in a way. I can sort of hide behind the music. There's this kind of weird comfort thing. When I'm onstage, it's just me, the songs and the rest of the band and everyone else is there but it's less scary when you start the first song. I can't explain it, but it's definitely getting easier.
How is 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' different from 'Ocean Eyes?'
I think this record is a bit more resolved. It's a bit more conclusive. If you play it from top to bottom, each song stands up on its own. Even just beyond lyrically, there was a lot of time spent in stitching everything together so that the whole thing stands up as its own. So it was a big job for one guy to try not over think, but I'm definitely happy with how it turned out.
The album has a similar whimsical melodic feel to 'Ocean Eyes.' Is that the style of music that you most enjoy making?
It is in the same vein as 'Ocean Eyes.' I think my heart really lies in this sort of electronic world of programming and sequencing. But I wanted to pull in a lot of other threads and different flavors on this new record with some live drums and some more guitar stuff, like acoustic guitar, just to add a different sparkle. But I've never been a guitar band really so it was just another way to be experimental and just have fun. So much of what I do is based around layering and layering all these ideas. And the final piece kind of emerges. So it was fun to surround myself with all kinds of instruments and just experiment that way even though, at the heart of this record, it's still an electronic vibe.
'Alligator Sky' is a song that seems to have some of the different flavors you were talking about. What's the story behind the song?
I wanted to take a few left turns on the record just to sort of separate the sound from the last record and really come up with a couple different rabbit holes and a couple of different sore thumbs just to stand out. So much what I've tried to do with the new record was not to think of a sophomore release based on a freshman record that was more successful than any of us thought it would be. So ['Alligator Sky'] was where I wanted to pull this sort of hip-hop vibe. I'm a big fan of the way hip-hop music is put together and everything that goes into it -- being so beat-heavy and just focusing on the rhythm side of it, sometimes more than melody. But I wanted to marry those two ideas and just focus on the rhythm side of it then have this rapper do verses just as a new look to it.
There's also a track called 'January 28, 1986' that is a short interlude about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. What inspired you to include it?
It was a fun thing to do as a concept. I knew I wanted a little bit of an intermission, kind of a little break in the middle of the record. We used to play that little clip of Regan addressing the country when the Challenger disaster happened in '86 live on tour then play some kind of ethereal, ambient music behind it. I was actually born in that year, and my mom used to talk about being pregnant and watching that thing on TV and what a huge blow it was to everybody. So growing up that was a part of who I was, indirectly. On the record, I wanted to pay respect to that -- just imagine what it would be like going into the next song, 'Galaxies,' what it would be like if I were one of those guys on the Challenger. Then it exploded, and I was taken from this life into eternity. So it was fun to imagine beyond the confines of what actually happened and how disastrous that was.
'Fireflies' was a huge song for you. How did you react to how popular it became?
It was so unexpected. When I finished it for the record, it was never like, "That's the song, and that's going to connect most with people." It was just one of the 12 songs. So when people started to connect with it, it was so out of the box and so unseen to anybody and to me most of all. So when it came time to tour the record and support it, we toured the world and wound up at a sold-out club in China in the middle of somewhere I never thought I would be able to see. And this sold-out room of kids who knew all the words to this song I'd written so far away in my parents' basement. I'm standing on stage and thinking, "How is this even real?" I'm so undeserving. I did nothing to deserve such a huge blessing.
Is there a standout track on this album that you feel could possibly mirror 'Fireflies?'
I think the last record taught me to not have any preconceived notions about it. But there is a song called 'Deer in the Headlights.' I think that could be a fun one. But everyone is going with 'Alligator Sky' with first single so we'll see what happens.
Watch Owl City's 'Fireflies' video.