Gotye on Finding Fame, the Pressures of Success, and His Own VH1 Behind the Music
Not too long ago, Wally "Gotye" De Backer was sitting in his room, playing with loops and samples, building melodies and a lyrical narrative about "broken relationships" and "confusion."
As of press time, the music video for "Somebody I Used To Know" on the official GotyeMusic YouTube channel has 329,598,389 views. It's won nine awards, including the ARIA Music Award for "Single of the Year," and been nominated for five more. It spent six weeks as the number-one song in America and has catapulted its composer to a new level of stardom he never expected.
But De Backer doesn't let the success go to his head, nor distract him from a true love of creativity, art, and music.
Crossfade: Now you're experiencing this crazy level of fame. Is that really awesome for you? Or is it in any way a double-edged sword? How has it affected your life?
Wally De Backer: I felt a little bit more confronted by it maybe earlier in the year with the first tour. Now I just feel kind of the same. I feel like there's a bunch of people who really want to come see the show and some people who want to hang around and would like to meet me personally or there's a lot of excited energy. I don't feel like I'm operating in any kind of weird world. Fame, I guess, creates its own realities where you're prompted sometimes even to feel like you're not human. Some people will look at you like you're not quite human, like you're something else. I'm not into those type of interactions. I find it kind of tiring and not very interesting. So I don't feel like that's happening at all, which is great. I feel like I'm meeting genuine people who are engaged by my music. Or want to chat about it. Or just people who have really lovely energy.
Since your audience has exploded, do you feel that it's affected your creative process at all? Or do you feel free to just continue to create?
I'm always just following what I think is interesting to me based upon whatever I've been listening to or how I'm feeling. I'll ask people for opinions and I'll ask people how they think other people will relate to the lyrics I'm writing or a type of song I'm putting together. I'm not going to start making any different type of music because now I'm aware of a larger or broader audience. I think that's actually dangerous. Because you can only start writing stuff that's more watered-down if you start considering the fact that when you've got such a wide audience. I think the more creative, weird, and interesting I can be, the better.
I'm sure your fans will appreciate that attitude.
Also, I haven't been writing anything new. The blank slate is always really scary no matter what you've done and no matter how much you think you've got an idea of what you want to put together. It's always really about coming back up against yourself and kind of going, "What can I do that is actually any good or interesting that hasn't in some way been done before or isn't some kind of cheap option?"
Are you still being given enough freedom to work in your own way? Or is there pressure to continue this success while it's hot?
Everyone's been very, very cool. I think that's one of the good things when you work with really good people who understand how you work. There's always a little bit of to and fro. This last tour might have been navigating a lot of new experiences and new relationships in terms of working with some major labels for the first time, working even sometimes with my management in some ways. But it's working out really well.
I don't so far feel any pressure from my management or label to be putting out material sooner rather than later. I think they realize I've got a peculiar process and I think that for me to make an interesting record it's going to take some time and require me to kind of draw from certain experiences and kind of explore a new way of working. That's been a nice discovery, that I can actually work with the so-called "big bad scary part" of the music industry and it doesn't instantly become this nightmare, like, "Oh shit, this is just like the stories I've heard."
It's not VH1 Behind the Music just yet?
Hahaha. Oh man, I've seen a few of those things, they're so funny. "It went great, until the major-label licensing deal and then horror struck."
I hope that doesn't happen.
I should make my own VH1 Behind the Music: "Making music in his bedroom, all of a sudden -- world tours, financial woe, writing new interesting material." Maybe that should be part of my next record.
Gotye. With Givers and Jonti. Sunday, October 7. Klipsch Ampitheater at Bayfront Park, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $25 to $60 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-358-7550 or visit bayfrontparkmiami.com.
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