Adam Young

Adam Young of Old Crow Custom Works designs construction projects that utilize new and salvaged materials in his self-built studio.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Adam Young, 38, is a “maker,” or that’s what he calls himself.

He is an artist, a wood and metal worker, a skateboarder, a father, a husband and a man of the past. He mentions a “buddy” or friend in every other sentence, and it is clear he surrounds himself with  family everywhere he goes. But his work begs a certain autonomy.

He clearly appreciates working independently from a boss, a specific location or rules of execution. His handiwork, however, is behind some of the coolest spots in Austin — such as Yellow Jacket Social Club, Javelina and Farewell Books.

Young first came to Austin in 1994 to pursue skateboarding and be a part of the punk music scene. He moved back for a second time in 2004 for a landscaping job. He hasn’t left since then, and is now one of a handful of craftsmen keeping Austin beautiful with the work of his own two hands.

Young has worked with his hands since he was a kid. One of the first things he ever built was a tree house on a hill with his brothers at one of their Louisiana homes. But he never made a conscious decision to pursue woodworking as a career.

“It was something I just kind of stumbled upon, I suppose,” Young said. “Even now, I think that it’s pretty amazing that I’m able to have a family and make a living doing something that I really love and am passionate about.”

Old Crow is the name Young gave to his self-owned and operated business, which he’s had since early 2010. He’ll build anything from tables for friends to backyard decks for contract clients. Two of his most notable projects, however, are popular Austin joints: Yellow Jacket Social Club, a bar on East Fifth Street, and Javelina. Both have a well-worn and welcoming atmosphere, in large part due to the warmth of every surface, stool and bench. This feeling comes from using salvaged materials. Young traveled with the co-owner of Javelina, Craig Primozich, to Hillsboro, Ore., to see the old red barn wood that would become the base of the bar.

“I hadn’t even hired him yet and we went and picked out wood together and spent the day together,” Primozich said. “Once I saw him digging through all the stuff and talking about ideas and what he could do with things, I was pretty sold. He just knew what he was doing.”

Using salvaged materials, while not essential for Young, better suits his personal taste. He said either the material will dictate the design and what can be done with a piece of wood or metal, or a very specific design will require finding very specific materials.

“I don’t like to say that I have one thing, but for me personally I really love the look and the feel of salvaged materials and even repurposing materials or objects,” Young said. “The wood itself will tell me if it makes the cut to be used or not. Sometimes I’m not quite sure what it’s going to yield and then you peel the first few layers back and it blows you away how beautiful the grains and the colors and the things that pop out [are]. I think that’s one of the things about working with old material, some of the surprises that you can discover.”

Musicians like Levon Helm, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson inspire a lot of the wording and sometimes the imagery of Young’s work.

“I’ll just be listening to a song at one point and one of their lyrics just jabs me a certain way,” Young said of his creative process. “Right now Kris Kristofferson, I’ll just listen and listen and listen to Kris Kristofferson music over and over again for days and days and weeks and then … just kind of, something else will happen. It just shifts over to being inspired.”

Young is not a rock star and doesn’t have an ego, but he’s got a fan club. There are those who look to him as an artist, those who look to him as a creator of beautiful structures and there’s a little girl who looks to him as a father. As much as Young values his independence, it is clear that quite a few people would be lost without him. And while he would never admit it, he’s a lot like the salvaged wood he loves to work with so much. If you sand it down and peel back the layers, what you find will surprise you and strike you as remarkably beautiful.

The Basement Tapes: Breanne Düren

Breanne Düren just released her debut EP, “Sparks”, and is now the opening act for Owl City’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour.” Düren sights the excitement of touring with Owl City as inspiration for her EP. (Photo Illustration)
Breanne Düren just released her debut EP, “Sparks”, and is now the opening act for Owl City’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour.” Düren sights the excitement of touring with Owl City as inspiration for her EP. (Photo Illustration)

Seated in a blue armchair, tuning her guitar, pop singer-songwriter Breanne Düren doesn’t look like a celebrity, much less an opening act for Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour. Her smiling eyes, Midwestern accent and buttery voice are just some of the immediate charms of her bubbly, yet down-to-earth personality.

While in Austin for her Wednesday night performance with Owl City at ACL Live, Breanne Düren performed two songs from her debut EP, Sparks, for The Daily Texan’s music blog series, The Basement Tapes. She shared with the Texan her thoughts on working with Adam Young of Owl City (whom she has toured and performed with twice), being a young pop artist and the inspirations behind her music.

Daily Texan: Can you tell me what’s the inspiration behind Sparks?
Breanne Düren: I wrote the EP while I was on tour with Owl City, within the first couple years of doing that. And it was a really, really new experience for me. I had never toured before. I was able to travel to all these places that I had never dreamed of ever being able to see in real life. Meeting a bunch of new people. Being able to just have the incredible experience at such a young age that it was all really exciting, I think that excitement and energy was put into the songs I wrote. And so there’s definitely energy to it and innocence to it.

DT: So what is it like working with Adam?
BD: Oh my gosh, it’s been amazing. He is so talented. He is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s just a great, humble, nice guy as well so it’s just a fun tour to be on. Everyone on the tour is great and we’re all really close friends and we’re just one big tour family.

DT: What are some highlights of that first tour for you?
BD: There had been some many incredible moments. We were able to play at
Madison Square Garden. It was the Jingle Ball in 2009 and we were playing with a bunch of these huge pop stars — Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, John Mayer and all these other artists. We were able to play a song, one song, and it was just a magical experience. I have been able to see places all over the world. Once we had a day off in Beijing and we were able to climb the Great Wall of China, so that was another moment of sort of “pinch me, is this actually my real life?”

DT: Are you working on an LP right now?
BD: Yeah, I am! Being on tour is a great environment for me to write. There’s a lot of creative energy floating around. I’ve already started recording some demos. Hopefully by early next year maybe we’ll be spending time in the studio or start wrapping up the full length.

DT: What are some inspirations behind the materials you’re writing?
BD: It’s definitely going to feel like an actual progression from the Sparks EP ... just the experiences I’ve had in these couple years that I’ve been living and growing. Just some bitter questions such as what does my future look like? What do I want for myself? And also, relationship things. They are always the first things I write about.

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Pop artist possess 'Sparks' of inspiration