Electro-Pop Act Owl City Takes Off With 'Fireflies'

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Pamela Littky

For Adam Young, public response to Owl City-his electronica alter ego-has been anything but expected. "So far," says the shy 23-year-old from Owatonna, Minn., "everything has been shocking to me."

Released July 14 exclusively through iTunes, Owl City's Universal Republic debut album, "Ocean Eyes," snared first-week sales of 20,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set also bowed on several Billboard charts, including the Billboard 200 (No. 27), Electronic Albums (No. 2) and Digital Albums (No. 3).

According to Universal Republic, Owl City's current single, "Fireflies," racked up an impressive 650,000 downloads as an iTunes Single of the Week' prompting the label to bump up the "Ocean Eyes" physical release date to July 28 from Sept. 1. Thus far, the set has sold 26,000 digital copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Meanwhile, another album track, "Vanilla Twilight," advances 40-30 this week on the Heatseekers chart.

Not bad for someone who started making music as a way to pass time in his parents' basement. Creating music on his laptop, Young cultivated an online fan base after posting a seven-song EP, "Of June," on his MySpace page in June 2007. The overwhelming response to the EP spawned Young's self-released full-length Owl City album, "Maybe I'm Dreaming," in March 2008.

Universal Republic approached Young last summer on the basis of his online buzz. Written and produced by Young, "Ocean Eyes" recalls the emotionally tinged electronica pioneered by the Postal Service.

Owl City played its first live gigs in February in Minneapolis and Chicago. Young's manager Steve Brusky of Foundations Artist Management says the sold-out shows proved fans were active, "buying tickets, T-shirts and records. That was a really early indicator that [Owl City's music] was translating in the marketplace."

Next up for Owl City is a fall headlining tour that kicks off Sept. 9 and runs through October before heading to Japan in November. Earlier this summer, Owl City launched its first headlining tour and opened several dates for Relient K.

Young says he's still getting accustomed to playing in front of live audiences. "Playing live has definitely been a learning process," he says. "It's crazy, breathtaking-and inspiring."