The tour-de-force known as Milow is coming to America.
Over the last five years this Belgian artist (born Jonathan Vandenbroeck) has emerged
as one of Europe’s most exciting young talents: a plugged-in singer-songwriter with the
ability to touch a crowd and the pop know-how required to make great records. He’s an
old-school soul with a new-fashioned sensibility, a troubadour fascinated by technology.
Milow’s music gleams with the inherited songcraft of his heroes—Ryan Adams, Bruce
Springsteen, Jack Johnson—but it also reflects a point of view all his own, with specific
concerns about growing pains and the future of his generation.
This combination of the intimate and the widescreen has won Milow a devoted fanbase
across Europe, not to mention a list of achievements that includes number-one singles,
platinum albums, sold-out tours, performances at some of the world’s most prestigious
festivals and millions upon millions of YouTube hits. What’s more, he’s accomplished all
this as his own boss, releasing music through Homerun Records, a label he founded in his
“I just never wanted to have to answer to anyone else,” he says of the DIY operation.
“It’s always been my call.”
You’d understand, then, if Milow were in the mood to give himself a break—especially now
that he’s relocated for the time being from Belgium to sunny Southern California, where
he spent a year as an exchange student during high school. For many artists, success
means stop; for Milow it’s a reason to go. Instead, he’s excited to embark upon the
natural next step of his career: building an audience in the United States.
Some high-profile Americans are already on board. Milow has shared the stage with Jack
Johnson and Brett Dennen. Even Kanye West is a fan and posted Milow’s cover of “Ayo
Technology”—yes, the 50 Cent/Justin Timberlake jam—to his tastemaking blog, helping
drive the song’s eye-popping video to its current total of over 65 million views.
Yet with the same humble spirit that originally inspired him to take up the accordion at
the age of 9, Milow is starting small on these shores, playing intimate venues like L.A.’s
Hotel Café (which booked him for a five-night residency in February) and issuing a sixsong EP that perfectly encapsulates what he does. On Born in the Eighties—assembled in
part from the first two studio albums he released in Europe—Milow showcases his
insightful songwriting in the pensive title track and “Canada,” about wanting to hop a
plane in order to meet Neil Young. (“I just know we’ll get along,” he sings.)
“Dreamers and Renegades” reveals a harder-rocking side, while the anthemic “One of It”
demonstrates why Milow concerts turn more often than not into mass sing-a-longs. And
then there’s the still-stunning “Ayo Technology,” which he’s performed on countless
radio and TV shows throughout Europe. Milow creates his own take on 50 Cent’s hit with
a stripped-down arrangement that gives the song a strangely haunting vibe.