April 20th, 2012
11:49 AM ET

Gotye on music, fame and those comparisons to Sting

If you’ve heard Gotye’s immensely popular hit, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” you probably recognize the line, “But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough.”

But with YouTube views approaching 200 million, the Aussie-Belgian singer can’t possibly feel like an unknown.

And things couldn’t have felt so rough when he took the stage with guest vocalist Kimbra on “Saturday Night Live” on April 14.

Further proof he’s on fire: “Used to Know” landed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, is No. 1 on iTunes and has topped charts in more than 15 other countries. Gotye’s star is rising so quickly that while touring the U.S., his handlers have scrambled to upgrade to bigger venues to keep up with demand.

“I don’t act famous, do I?” Gotye asked CNN in a recent interview. (Answer? Not really.)

“Well get me a few drinks,” he said. And what happens then? “I go to bed!”

So aside from feeling humble and a little weary, what can we learn about this nude-posing, green-eyed singer of that memorable heart-bleeding chorus?

First of all, he said he’s a bit sick of talking about the song. He does, after all, have other songs, not to mention an album. “Making Mirrors” was released stateside in January on Fairfax/Universal Republic Records.

Secondly, his real name is Wally de Becker (watch the video to learn how he prefers to pronounce Gotye).

He’s also a perfectionist: Gotye’s soundcheck lasted a good 90 minutes before he’d come down from the stage for an interview (the average soundcheck lasts about half an hour). He runs through every song on his set list, tweaking frequencies, adjusting mixes, adjusting his bangs (only sometimes).

If you get the chance to see Gotye in concert, you’ll learn he’s a whizz-bang multi-instrumentalist, darting around the stage to play drums, keyboard, a thing called a mallet cat (“like an electronic marimba”) as well as guitar and bass.

“A lot of my stuff live is about trying to find a balance between the ‘traditional instruments’ and triggering samples and chopping them up and manipulating them,” Gotye said.

The 31-year-old also finds constant comparison to Sting a double-edged sword.

“I’m self-conscious because Sting seems like a whipping post for all hipsters,” he told us. “Still, it’s flattering because he has written some incredible songs. He’s a fantastic vocalist.”

And much like Sting, perhaps Gotye isn’t going to become somebody that we used to know.

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Filed under: Music

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Gotye is Sting's son

    I shall just say this https://www.facebook.com/gotye.is.stings.son

    July 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lavuz

    Are all people mad? This sting's song from the police. Omg young kids today.

    July 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rachell

    **** Hipsters.

    June 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. monsterschooler

    Dear Creativity in Pop Music,

    We missed you. Thanks for coming back.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Creativity? really? this cheap Sting copy?... really? are you serious?. Whatever

      June 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. some1

    I love him! this is like the greatest song! though i never thought that he had other songs than this :/ i wish i get to hear more of those songs from him 😀

    May 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GirlFriday

    I wish this gifted man and sincerely down-to-earth artist the best of luck. I love his work on the "Gotye project," as he calls it, as well as with The Basics. Amazing, amazing vocalist and drummer (among other things). I was familiar with a few of his other pieces before "Somebody" blew up in the states, to put it mildly, and truly hope others get a chance to check out his other work. Kimbra, too, is a powerful, artistically-soulful singer who is paving the way to a more poetic music that I, personally, have been waiting for for years!

    On another note–Wally's real name is misspelled/incorrect in the article: It's Woulter 'Wally" de Backer (not "Becker").

    April 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • GirlFriday

      ...and to update myself, I think the name is "De Backer" (capital "D"), although I've seen it lowercased so often that it's starting to confuse me, too!

      April 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gina Coady

    I've just discovered Gotye's music just a week ago and I'm completely hooked! I've been listening to all of his lyrics mostly on youtube and I just can't get enough. It's like a breath of fresh air for me!!! Love it All!! I can't wait to catch him performing at a gig in my area..........long island,NY.................I hope his success here in the US doesn't ruin him and that he has a very good support system of true friends and family back in his home. Stay true to yourself Wally and don't let your new popularity change who you are as an artist and human being.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Goldy

    It's not his first album. Here in Australia we've been listening to him for ages. Glad that he's finally got a hit over there in the states but don't underestimate him, he won't stop turning albums out

    April 20, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Leucadia Bob


    April 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marko

    this is his 3rd album...and NO WAY is he a 1 hit wonder. This album is FULL of hooks. Guy will be playing Madison Square Garden by late Summer.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. >{¡}

    problem: they're "playing the hell out of it" then by next month we'll all be tired of it, and his 2nd album will flop. then it'll be "so 5 minutes ago" shame, really.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cynthia Rose

    met him after show at the NYC Terminal 5 gig...nicest, most approachable guy. We chatted for 15 minutes. Just great. Hope he becomes a superstar. Deserves it. Can't imagine anyone listening to the album and not walking away thinking the man is a genius.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fresno Bob

    check out EYES WIDE OPEN on album too...amazing!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • pmor

      Surprised EYES WIDE OPEN wasn' t 1st hit love it more than someone used to know

      May 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Catherine in Tulsa

    He reminds me more of Tim Finn. Very excited to have another good artist to follow.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LedZepFan

    LOVE this song.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Bubba

    this is where music is going....no more reheated 90s bands. A new generation is taking over and people like Gotye, Foster the People, and Naked And Famous are the future. FINALLY new great music!! What took you so long?

    April 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah T

      Here here! Also; Florence and the Machine; Mumford and Sons and by all accounts stick with whats been great all along- Dave Matthews Band.

      April 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Erika

    Amazing song...my station here in Pittsburgh WXDX plays the hell out of it. Kimbra is a star too.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Phil from Akron

    Alternative music is back. Thanks Gotye! More real artists like Gotye on the radio and less faceless pop. Album of the year so far! And great SNL performance....something you rarely see.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Jacob22

    amazing record. He was the absolute star of Coachella. "Somebody" is the tip of the iceberg. Like 5-6 great songs that could be hits on album.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Woooooolt

    Id do him.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |

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