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TimeLine: 1986-2008

1986-2000: The Early Years

July 5, 1986

  • Adam Randall Young is born in Ottumwa, Iowa to Randy and Joan Young. His birth came as a surprise on the night of July 4. Adam was born only a few hours into July 5.

  • Adam's song "The 5th of July" describes the night of his birth, and how his mother watched the last 4th of July fireworks from her hospital bed after he was born.

  • Adam, an only child, moved to Owatonna, Minnesota, where he was raised.

  • While little is known about Adam's childhood, he did have two dogs at different times. One was named Chance and the other was named Max.

  • Adam's dog Chance passed away, which he later states led to seeing his father cry for the first time.

  • Adam was also raised in the Christian faith and continues to pursue Christ in his music and writing today.

  • Adam: "My faith definitely plays a massive role in the way I write, the content within my music and what drives me to do what I do. My faith is such a large part of who I am, if I tried to keep it separate from me, it would be like cutting off a hand. I don't think I could write, or be motivated whatsoever without it. It's truly the reason I do what I do."

January 1993

  • 7-year old Adam sees the movie Alive, which greatly influences him.

  • Adam: "I saw the 1993 movie Alive when I was 7 years old, and the story the film is based upon left an enormous impression on me which inspired a sense of awe and fascination I still carry today."

2000-2001: High School & Flames Pond

  • Adam was not outgoing or popular in his junior high and high school years. In fact, it can be said that he was (and still is) very shy and introverted.

  • Adam: "I was a total nobody in high school... I remember going through entire days and never opening my mouth once to say a word to anybody. I went to the computer lab by myself during lunch instead of eating with everyone else."

  • At the age of 15, Adam developed an interest in music when he bought an album by The Album Leaf, entitled "One Day I'll Be On Time".

  • Adam: "I bought this record in 2001, and it changed everything for me. It was the first time I really loved music, the first time I embraced it completely. I played this record nonstop, thought about it all the time, studied it constantly. The influence it had on me was remarkable because I realized for the first time that music was something I wanted to do. I wasn't interested in much, I wasn't good at anything, but when I heard this album I remember thinking, finally... this is for me."

  • Other musical influences Adam garners include Blink-182, Jonathan Ford of Unwed Sailor and Thomas Newman. Around this time, Adam also finds enjoyment in, not necessarily influenced by, the music of DC Talk.

  • Adam spent many days after school skateboarding and playing video games with his friends Tony and Andy Johnson.

  • The three friends gained experience in short films, dating back to "Flames Pond", a home video made in 2001 in the backyards of Adam, Tony and Andy, as well as other local areas.

2001-2005: Introduction to Music & Windsor Airlift

  • The three friends found their way into the world of music in different and unique ways.

  • Adam begins writing music after a skateboarding accident. He then picks up the acoustic guitar, saying he could "never put it down." He also begins to dabble in sequencing early on, as well.

  • Adam: "I started writing in high school after I broke my wrist (which is ironic) due to a skateboard accident. Thankfully, it was my left wrist, so I could still use a computer mouse. I dabbled with programming and sequencing and eventually contracted a serious creative infection that still hasn't left me. To this day, I cannot stop writing/recording. I suppose that makes me a 'voracious inventor' or something like that. I find the creative process is unbelievably inspiring in and of itself."

  • Andy: "We started playing music together when I was in the sixth grade. We were really bad. I played drums, my older brother, Tony, played bass and Adam played guitar. Adam got in to music right around seventh grade. He had been playing for a few months. I owned a drum set and my dad had this old bass, so along with my brother we started a band for fun called Lambs & Flowers. We recorded directly to cassette and those songs are buried deep in the archive. We later changed our band name to Left Lane. (laughs) We recorded a bunch of songs on a $5 PC microphone and sold CDs to kids at school."

  • Tony: "Many people don't know this, but our first band name was actually Lambs & Flowers. We recorded parody cover songs, burned CDs, and sold them out of our lockers in middle school. Over the course of 6th and 7th grade we changed our name to Pump 'N Munch, then Left Lane, finally settling a year later with Windsor Airlift."

  • As Adam enters his sophomore year, he and the Johnson brothers start the band Windsor Airlift. The three find even ground writing punk-pop music, citing bands such as Relient K and Ace Troubleshooter as influences.


  • Around this time, as Adam enters high school, he is able to get his first job stocking shelves part-time at his local Hy-Vee grocery store. Between school and playing drums with Andy and Tony as Windsor Airlift, he works here for about a year.

  • Adam: "After an exhausting dose of perfect penmanship, I submitted my application, convinced my buddy Eric to put in a good word for me, and found myself grinning from ear-to-ear as my boss shook me firmly by the hand and said, "Welcome aboard, son."

  • Around this time, Adam also begins making music with his first digital audio program, FL Studio, with the money he saved from his time at Hy-Vee.

  • Having booked themselves months in advance, Windsor Airlift performs their first show in Owatonna, MN at Bethel Church.

April 25, 2003

  • Windsor Airlift release their first EP entitled The Basement EP. The band plays multiple shows around this time, including Sunshine Festival and Ironwood Springs.

Mid/Late 2003

  • After performing at Steele County's Battle of the Bands, Windsor Airlift makes a major change in genre direction, going from pop/punk to math rock, influenced largely by Unwed Sailor.

  • Windsor Airlift release their second EP entitled Selections for a Fallen Soldier. However, only 50 copies were made and it was never released again.

Early 2004

  • Windsor Airlift release their third EP entitled Selections for a Fallen Soldier, Vol. 2.

  • Around this time, Adam, Andy and Tony create an electronic project entitled The Atlantic. However, only one song is released and is abandoned for a time.

  • Adam releases a one-song electronic screamo project entitled Novel.

March 17, 2004

  • Windsor Airlift performs at Bethlehem Free Methodist Church in Austin, MN for their Meth Awareness Event.

  • Andy: "Tony introduced each of our songs and named it something having to do with math, joking he thought it was a "math awareness" event. During our last song he jumped through the drum set into Adam, leaving both of them sprawled out on the floor... "Up next we have Officer Amazi and her dog."

Mid-Late 2004

  • Around this time, Adam performs with various other acts in the Minnesota area, including a band by the name of Soul Awakening, which includes founding member Jake Vanderwaal, who is fond of Adam and other musical talents around Southern Minnesota, as well as founding member Wes Johnson, who also played in a local band by the name of Minor Attributes.

  • Jake Vanderwaal: "He's [Adam's] a musical genius. I wasn't surprised at all by him making it where he has. His first show wasn't even in Minnesota, it was in Chicago and he sold it out. That's insane."

  • Wes Johnson: "He [Adam] was the kind of guy who would talk with you just because you needed some friendly conversation, or maybe you happened to be sitting on the same bench as him."

  • Around this time, Windsor Airlift performs at the Weseca Veterans of Foreign Wars in Waseca, MN.

  • Windsor Airlift enter the Club 3 Degrees band tournament. However, after making the third round, the band decides that it is in their best interest to remove themselves from the tournament.

Early-Mid 2005

  • Windsor Airlift release their fourth EP entitled Hotels.

  • Adam also graduates high school around this time, which leads to starting his job working in a local Coca-Cola warehouse in Owatonna, MN. He also works a night shift at a local UPS warehouse loading trucks.

Summer 2005

  • Around this time, Adam is the drummer of a local heavy screamo band entitled Isle. Fellow touring member and friend, Michael DeMars, is also in the band.

  • Windsor Airlift also performs in downtown Owatonna, MN around this time. During the show, Adam gets dry socket while on stage.

Mid-Late 2005

  • Around this time, Adam begins attending Riverland Community College in Owatonna, MN.

  • Adam: "I took a swing at it for a year and a half. I went to a little community college in my hometown. I went for my general arts degree. I didn't really know what I wanted to do specifically, so I just started to go to school for nothing, just for the sake of going, with hopes that something would catch on. I was working a dead-end job at the time. It just wasn't working for me. I was spending more thought thinking about my music in between my job and school than I was paying attention to my schoolwork. So that kinda went down the drain. But I gave it a shot, so my mom is grateful for at least that."

Winter 2005

  • Windsor Airlift performs in Owatonna, MN at the Owatonna Country Club.

December 15, 2005

  • Adam, along with Andy and Tony Johnson, create the MySpace account and page for Windsor Airlift.

  • Introduction: "We love Jesus Christ. We love music. We love you."

2006: New Projects

February 19, 2006

  • Adam, Andy and Tony start a new project known as Basketball. The project consists largely of pseudo rap and makes use of the normal rag talk that goes along with the sport of basketball. Adam is in a wheelchair for part of the project's existence, possibly from an injury. The project's influences are House of Pain and Vanilla Ice.

  • Around this time, a handful of music videos are made for the band.

  • Andy: "It was a Saturday night and we didn't have anything going on so we decided to start a band called "Basketball." We recorded it that night, shot the video, edited it, and uploaded it to Google Video."

February 26, 2006

  • Adam starts a new project entitled Insect Airport. The project follows the genre of down-tempo and experimental, as well as electronic instrumental. Each track follows a theme by featuring names of fruit.

March 5, 2006

  • Adam and Andy create a short film entitled "Orange".

March 19, 2006

  • Adam, Andy and Tony start a new project known as The Perfect Theory. The project's MySpace page features the songs "Without You Baby" and "Prom Night".

Summer 2006

  • Around this time, Adam works as a truck driver for UPS. During his spare time, he sits in his basement writing songs for what later become the acoustic project known as Sky Sailing.

  • Adam: "These recordings are pretty sentimental to me because they were the first songs I'd put together, and specifically, the first songs I'd ever written lyrics for. I started out as an instrumentalist producing super ambient/experimental stuff. Sky Sailing was a whole new world at the time."

  • Around this time, Adam and Andy start a new project entitled El Uno Clarence, The One Clarence, which is largely heavy rock with drums.

  • Andy and Tony Johnson write "Do You Want to Date Me" for their project, The Perfect Theory.

  • Around this time, Adam, Tony, and Andy also create a short film while camping, entitled "Basketball: Extreme Croquet". The short film is initially made under the Basketball project's moniker, but is later changed after the project ends.

June 1, 2006

  • Adam and Andy start a new project entitled Riders of Rohan. The project follows the genre of experimental rock and had its name inspired by the popular book, The Lord of the Rings.

  • Introduction: "No one can resist the soothing vocals and rhythmic guitar of RIDERS OF ROHAN. This duo has surprised some and amazed all people of ages with their phenomenal musicianship. After recording in the summer of 2005, the band decided to go on a sabbatical and do their own thing. BASKETBALL, STAR WARZ, and THE PERFECT THEORY are just some of the side projects the guitarist/background vocalist has been working on. Look for them in their new up-and-coming album entitled STAY WITH ME FOREVER OR I AM WILL BE DIAGNOSED WITH DEPRESSION. Despite the long album name, the two musicians feel it will be a success."

June 2, 2006

  • Adam, along with Andy and Tony Johnson, start a new project entitled Chester McWiggins and the Kowboy Kidz. The one-song project pokes fun at stereotyped yokels and runs on puns about guns, county fairs, and taking care of horses. The genre includes bluegrass, country, and folk.

July 6, 2006

  • Adam starts a new project independently known as Seagull Orchestra.

    • Introduction by Adam: "Along the coast, deep in a quiet cove, an orchestra assembles high upon the cliffs to play music for all who call the ocean home. They are elegantly dressed; the males in exquisite, dark tuxedos and the females in pluming white dresses like silver waterfalls. At dusk, the musicians gather above the waves, tune their instruments and patiently wait for the conductor's cue. At his command, each section begins to play smoothly and softly... mellow layers of atmospheric harmony. As the symphony begins, stars and satellites buried deep in the sky become visible among the lazy colors of evening. Sunset silently transposes to moonrise and the orchestra sways passionately to their music, intently focused on the mood and presence of their collective masterpiece. They create audio landscapes, rich with feeling and emotion... subtle and endearing. As the night wears on, creatures begin gathering everywhere. Some float on the surface of the water, bobbing in the waves, listening closely to the dreamy sounds emerging from somewhere overhead. Some perch on scrubby trees that cover the cliffs and beaches, some gather on sailboats tied to docks and lifts abandoned by humans for the night. Others flying overhead on their way to places very distant, listen for several moments until the lovely musical sounds melt away into the deep, enveloping night. Several creatures sit and listen just below the musicians, others take the romantic hands of sweethearts and begin dancing to and fro, around and around saplings and shrubs, all the while being very careful not to snag a coat sleeve on a branch, a dress hem on an unearthed root. Time comfortably slips by and the orchestra beautifully scores every detail and fragment in and around the ocean realm. A city celestially sits on the horizon, serene and tranquil in full view, seemingly lit from within by some form of fluorescent beauty. Airports, freeways, warehouses, skyscrapers, waterfronts... the view is angelic. The moon rises above the coast and the wind rushes over the top of the water sending cool breezes fluttering through the trees. The soft sound of the surf floats up the jagged cliff face and meets the ears of every creature around. The minutes slide by like glistening drops of light. As the hours pass and morning begins its gentle descent, the conductor directs his players to slow, and softly fade. The stars flicker and go out one by one as the music gracefully falls, dies and at last comes to an end. Several minutes of silence follow as everyone waits and hangs in the moment... wishing it would never end. No one makes a sound. Lovers and darlings stand motionless in each others embrace, solemn and thoughtful. Then quietly, each member of the orchestra puts down his or her instrument and follows one another in an orderly, single file line. The first rays of morning are seconds away and the coast looks stunning, soaked in blues and reds. Without a sound, one after another the musicians stroll to the edge of the cliff, look out over the harbour and plunge over the side. They dive like swans and just before hitting the surface, they take flight and soar up and over the waves, across the beach, under the bridge and across the cove where they finally disappear over the hills." "Each musician involved in the musical construction of Seagull Orchestra recognizes the value of faith and morality. Each person acknowledges the sovereignty of the Lord, Jesus Christ over mankind and thus, chooses to follow Him wholeheartedly. All fully believe that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, no man goes unto the Father but by Him. We believe that Jesus Christ made the way to God for us by His death on the Cross. He purchased our salvation by the shedding of His blood and His death and resurrection made a new and everlasting covenant between God and humanity. We believe that the way to God is through personal faith in Jesus Christ. Intellectual acceptance of Christ is not enough. You must come to Him determined to turn from what displeases Him with a total trust in His saving power. Christ promises those who turn to Him: "Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed from death to life." (John 5:24) Seagull Orchestra in entirety is no more than several indifferent melodies offered up to Heaven. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you."

August 20, 2006

  • Seagull Orchestra releases an EP entitled The Floating Observatory. The EP features an early version of the Sky Sailing song entitled "Sailboats".

Late 2006

  • Windsor Airlift release their fifth EP entitled Ocean City Park.

  • Around this time, Adam begins a number of other projects, some of which involve Andy and Tony. These projects include: Brother Reed, You Have Messed Up My Afro, Nuclear Suplex, and The Sports. Each project varies from garage rock and instrumental to experimental, funk, and comedic.

November 12, 2006

  • Adam and Andy create a new ambient instrumental project entitled Dolphin Park. The project only contains a handful of tracks.

  • Introduction: "Andy lives in Iowa. Adam lives in Minnesota. We create music over space and airwave."

November 19, 2006

  • Adam starts a new project entitled Keehar. The project follows the genre of experimental and instrumental rock and had its name inspired by the black-headed gull from one of Adam's favorite books entitled Watership Down.

November 23, 2006

  • Adam starts a new project known as Port Blue on MySpace.

  • Introduction by Adam: "'Port Blue' is music that can be heard playing in elevators, hotel lobbies, airports, museums and restaurants inside my head. It is the soundtrack to my dreams. If I wrote music for movies, this is what my film scores would sound like. Much of the aesthetic of Port Blue is not what lies in the recordings but rather what is extracted from them...Dreamscapes. No vocals. In my opinion, there is a huge lack of imaginative, unconventional music being created by artists today and what little there is, goes widely unappreciated by the masses. 'Port Blue' is my attempt at re-creating the music I want to hear and the emotions I want to feel. I hope you enjoy my art as much as I enjoyed creating it. If by chance you ever feel as though you've come to know these songs, please consider yourself a friend because in a manner of speaking, you know me. This music is my heart and soul. This is who I am."

  • Adam releases pre-production recordings of what will become the EP entitled The Albatross, as well as the first album under the Port Blue moniker, entitled Arctic.

December 2006

  • Windsor Airlift performs in Beltrami County, Minnesota at the Evangelical Free Church of Bemidji.

2007: Owl City

Early-Mid 2007

  • Around this time, Adam works as a metal worker in his hometown of Minnesota, as well as loading trucks for Coca-Cola, making music in his spare time.

  • Adam: "After work I would race back home, not even eat or take a shower, and just go back to the computer for fear of losing whatever inspiration I had."

  • Adam also begins recording demos of various songs for his Sky Sailing project over the course of the year.

  • While working on his music in his basement, Adam would have trouble hearing over the sound of his family's furnace and water heater.

  • Joan Young: "In the basement there's a furnace and a water heater. Those would interfere with his recording. At night, he would just shut them off, and his dad and I would wake up freezing."

March 31, 2007

  • Adam, along with Andy and Tony Johnson, write two songs for a side project known as The Grizzly.

  • The two songs featured in the project are "Yo Griz" and "CocaCola". The ladder track features an audio clip from the movie Good Burger.

June 14, 2007

  • Adam starts a new project on his MySpace page known as Owl City.

  • Introduction by Adam: "Hello, my name is Adam. Music is my muse. I have trouble sleeping. These songs are all I have to show for my sleepless nights. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them. It means the world to know someone is listening. Thank you.

  • Adam also begins writing and recording songs for his first EP under the new moniker, entitled Of June, over the course of the month.

  • Adam: "My parents were away for the weekend, and wanting to be loud and make some noise I began writing versions of what became my first, self-released CD, 'Of June'.

  • Andy: "I always knew he was good. During 2006 and 2007, he was pumping out an innumerable amount of music, most of which has never been heard by more than a handful of people. It was all instrumental music, a lot of trance and electronica. My brother and I were telling him to record an EP of some of the electronic 'Postal Service' style he was doing, but with vocals. Some time went by and he emailed us a link to a new MySpace page with like four songs he recorded over the weekend. The first song I heard was 'Hello Seattle'. The project was Owl City. My brother and I knew immediately it was good, and there really wasn't anything else being produced at the time that sounded quite like it. He uploaded the songs to CD Baby, made some homemade CDs and the rest is pretty much history."

July 15, 2007

  • Windsor Airlift opens for Unwed Sailor in Des Moines, IA at Vaudeville Mews.

August 27, 2007

  • Owl City's first EP entitled Of June is released on MySpace. Despite being self-released, the EP reaches number 15 on the Billboard Electronic Albums chart.

  • Adam, on "Hello Seattle": "Two or three years ago, I was writing these songs, and I wrote this one about Seattle and I had never been there, because, at the time, I was stuck in the Midwest and I was working a job I didn't like and I was very much writing music as an escape. So Seattle was the farthest place away from me and I thought 'I'm gonna write a song about this place because I haven't been there.' So it really is just an interesting take on the world."

September 13, 2007

  • Adam releases the second Port Blue album entitled The Airship.

September 26, 2007

  • Adam is promoted to working as a warehouse supervisor operating trucks at a local Coca-Cola factory in Owatonna, MN.

November 2007

  • Adam begins writing songs for his debut album under the Owl City moniker over the course of the month.

November 28, 2007

  • Sara Johnson, Andy and Tony's sister, uploads a music video for Andy and his song entitled "Do You Want to Date Me", which is part of his project, The Perfect Theory.

December 2007

  • Adam takes time to work on his debut album as Owl City over the course of the month, producing, mixing and doing additional tracking.

  • Adam also begins producing his next Port Blue release, mixing and doing additional tracking.

2008: Maybe I'm Dreaming

January 2008

  • Adam continues working on his debut album as Owl City over the course of the month, producing, mixing, and doing additional tracking.

  • Adam also continues working on his next Port Blue release, mixing and doing additional tracking.

January 3, 2008

  • Andy and Tony's sister, Sara, uploads a video to YouTube of the two brothers listening to a song from Adam's Owl City project. The song featured is a demo version of his newly-written song, entitled "Rainbow Veins".

January 10, 2008

  • Adam releases the Port Blue EP entitled The Albatross EP. The album's photography is done by Adam's mother, Joan Young.

February 14, 2008

  • Owl City performs for the first time in Chicago, IL at Schubas Tavern. The highly-anticipated show quickly sells out.

March 9-14, 2008

  • Andy and Tony Johnson spend time filming a music video for Adam's newly-written song entitled "Early Birdie" in Rochester, Minnesota.

March 17, 2008

  • Owl City's debut album Maybe I'm Dreaming is released. The album features vocals from Austin Tofte and Breanne Duren. Despite having been self-released, it manages to reach the top 20 of the Billboard Electronic Music Album Chart.

  • Adam, on "On the Wing": "On the Wing is about jumping off the peaks of mountains and taking flight."

  • A music video for Adam's newly-written song entitled "Early Birdie" is uploaded to the Windsor Airlift YouTube channel. The video features Andy and Tony's sister Sara.

March 29, 2008

  • Adam and his friend Austin Tofte form the band Swimming with Dolphins. The name of the band was derived, according to Tofte, from "some old Jacques Cousteau documentaries from the 80s."

Early-Mid May 2008

  • Andy and Tony Johnson write "Would You Be My Valentine" for their project, The Perfect Theory.

May 22, 2008

  • Sara Johnson, Andy's sister, posts an acoustic demo of his newly-written song for The Perfect Theory, entitled "Would You Be My Valentine", to her YouTube channel.

Summer 2008

  • Adam releases a demo of an Owl City holiday single on his MySpace page, entitled The Christmas Song.

June 13, 2008

  • Windsor Airlift release their sixth EP entitled Beneath the Crystal Waves.

June 28, 2008

July 5, 2008

  • Adam celebrates his birthday with family and friends. He also receives a new Korg keyboard/synthesizer.

July 12, 2008

  • Swimming with Dolphins performs in Erie, PA at the Forward Hall.

July 24, 2008

  • Owl City reaches number 2 in the unsigned artists section of MySpace.

September 2, 2008

  • Swimming with Dolphins release their debut EP entitled Ambient Blue. The track entitled "Silhouettes" features vocals from Breanne Duren, who later goes on to join the live band for Owl City. The EP also features a cover of the song "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman.

October 8, 2008

  • A video of behind the scenes footage from the music video for "Early Birdie" is uploaded to the Windsor Airlift YouTube channel.

Late 2008

  • Having become a viral phenomenon, selling around 2,000 tracks a week on MySpace and iTunes, Adam is contacted via email by Universal Republic presidents Avery and Monte Lipman with a view to sign him. The two recommend Adam partner with 27-year-old manager Steve Bursky of Foundations Artist Management. As a result, the two begin working together.

  • Steve Bursky: "I think they saw Owl City as representing the future of our business. This idea of a kid in a tiny town in rural U.S. being able to make songs in his basement that sound like Top 40 radio could never have happened ten years ago. By hiring a young management company who understands the business circa 2011 over a seasoned industry vet, who might not understand the online spaces well, showed a lot of understanding of where this kid was going to end up having success."

  • Adam departs from Swimming with Dolphins and Windsor Airlift as a result of Owl City's increasing popularity.

  • Around this time, Adam quits his day job working in a Coca-Cola warehouse to pursue his dream of making music for a living.

  • Adam: "I can remember going into work six months later, where I worked for Coca-Cola, and putting in my two weeks - telling my boss, 'This has been great, but I'm on to something else.' I remember the look I got when I told him I was making music and I was hoping I could run with that for a while. I remember walking out of that place, and it was the best feeling in the world."

December 13, 2008

December 15, 2008

  • Andy and Tony Johnson upload a music video for their Windsor Airlift song, entitled "The Theme for Moonglow", to their YouTube channel. The video features Adam and an unknown friend.

December 23, 2008


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