The CultureMap Interview
It’s been a hell of a year for Gotye (pronounced “Gah-Tee-Ay”), the Australian singer-songwriter who earlier in 2012 catapulted from relative obscurity — at least on this side of the ocean — to international megastardom on the strength of his viral hit, “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
As he prepares to storm through Texas this week, with appearances in Houston, Dallas (Friday night at Verizon) and at Austin City Limits Music Festival, CultureMap caught up with the artist about how his life has changed since recording one of the year’s biggest hits.
CultureMap: At a festival like ACL, the audience might only know “Somebody That I Used To Know,” while the headlining shows you’re doing in Houston and Dallas are more likely to be your own audience. Do you consider playing for a festival audience an opportunity to introduce people to the rest of your songs?
Gotye: As opposed to doing a set that’s simply 12 versions of “Somebody That I Used To Know”? [laughs] Only probably in that I don’t think I’ll play a couple of very quiet, stripped-back ballads. I know, especially from recent show responses, and tweets and emails from fans, [these] are really a couple of deep favorites of very strong fans of mine.
“I’m still very DIY,” Gotye says. “I’m still producing my own records and will continue to in the future. I like being very hands-on and involved.”
I’ll probably drop them because it’s a festival audience, and they’ll be chatty, probably. But otherwise, I don’t really approach it all that differently. The material is quite composed but flexible enough that I can change the set up to work toward a festival. People who don’t know anything other than the single will see a bunch of different stuff.
CM: For someone who started out as a DIY artist, recording on a four-track, has stardom changed what you’re able to accomplish creatively?
G: It’s been a gradual thing over the past few years. I’m still very DIY. I’m still producing my own records and will continue to in the future. I like being very hands-on and involved — not only in the music, but also in the artwork and the videos and things like that. The budget may be different, but I was in the lucky position after my second record to have made enough off of that just from sales in Australia that I could take control myself. I did not need a label to front me the money to make an album.
I’m still in that position. But, if anything, I kind of like the idea of stripping it back and going back to trying to limit myself more and work through some challenges. That helps you write better material, when you have certain limitations.
CM: Have you found new creative opportunities as a result of the song?
G: I think I will. I’ve met a bunch of people who are very interesting, whose work I admire — producers and other artists. I think there are lots of opportunities to collaborate and potentially work with those people. I’m excited to explore those things.
CM: Have you been approached about doing songwriting for other artists now?
G: Yeah, there have been a few people who’ve asked if I want to write for other people. DJs who want me to sing on tracks and things. There have been a bunch of different things. I haven’t really had time yet to say yes to anything, though, really. I’m kind of focusing on touring and enjoying the experience of hanging out with my friends in my band and my crew, doing lots of shows, and doing lots of good shows.
“Sometimes random things you see on the Internet make you go, ‘Wow!’ My music’s being heard by people who have a completely different ... perspective of what music is for them.”
I’m not really writing a lot of new stuff yet. I’m waiting till next year to do that. I’m just kind of filing away different ideas. I’m excited about some of the people I’ve met and the people who are excited to work with me.
CM: You’ve been putting out music for a decade, but this is your first international hit. If you knew during your early years that this was coming, would you have changed anything?
G: Perhaps. I might have slightly selected tracks on Making Mirrors differently. Maybe dropped one or two, tried harder with some of the more extended experimental things I was working on that I didn’t quite finish, that didn’t make it to the record, but which I thought were quite promising. I don’t think I would have changed anything else. I’ve just been doing what I do.
CM: You haven’t really changed what you’ve done. You’re still making music you believe in, with people you like playing with. What’s it like to have the whole world start paying attention all at once, when you’re still doing the same thing?
G: I’ve been told there’s a wider range of people discovering my music. There are some really intense fans. Usually it’s really lovely; sometimes it’s really intense. Sometimes random things you see on the Internet make you go, “Wow!” My music’s being heard by people who have a completely different range of musical triggers, or a completely different perspective of what music is for them.
Which leads to hilarious, offhand things best ignored, probably. Sometimes that’s confronting, sometimes that’s humorous, sometimes it’s instructive, in terms of what it actually means to have a piece of work become part of pop culture. There’s such an intensely wide variety of responses and opinions. But otherwise, I guess I don’t think about it all that much.
CM: Do you ever watch the YouTube covers?
G: I watched a bunch of them! Did you see the mashup that I made of hundreds of them? I learned how to do some video editing recently, and I did a massive audio/video mashup of over a hundred different covers and parodies of the video and the song for my YouTube channel, called “Somebodies.”