While many of this year’s Grammy nominees received their happy news in glamorous fashion, by being present at the live nomination concert in Nashville on Thursday, triple nominee Wally De Backer, a.k.a. Gotye got the news in a much more mundane manner.
“It was pretty low-key,” he told MTV News via phone from his native country Australia recently. “I was having a meal in the catering area of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre and my manager sent me the message.” Thankfully his bandmates were also present when he received the good news, and they took the opportunity to make a bigger deal about his three nominations: Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Somebody That I Used To Know” and Best Alternative Music Album for Making Mirrors.
“My bandmates facetiously joked with me over lunch, saying, ’Good on you, di–head, you got Grammy nominations!’ ” he recalled with a laugh. “That was quite fun.”
“Fun” could also serve as a descriptor for the banner year De Backer has had, though “blockbuster” and “explosive” would also work, thanks in large part to the widespread success of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which also features Aussie songbird Kimbra and has more than 350 million views on YouTube, not to mention countless covers and parodies. And while most of Gotye’s fans discovered his music this year, even though the song was posted to YouTube back in the summer of 2011, the experimental singer-songwriter has been performing since his early teens and has released albums for 10 years.
With all the fanfare made over just one of his songs, we were curious to know about De Backer’s relationship with “Somebody That I Used To Know,” and if there’s any fatigue in reliving the emotions behind the music.
“It’s a challenging song to sing,” he said. “There are two or three songs in the set that on any given night really challenge my voice to be at its best to be able to communicate them properly, and ’Somebody That I Used to Know’ is one of them. So I’d say my main relationship, aside from it being the song that’s top of mind in the media and online and commercially, my main relationship is how my voice inhabits the sonic space of performing it in a show. Sometimes it will get thick because even when I try my best to be professional as a singer and not talk too much and sound check too long, it’s still a song that challenges my vocal ability when we sing it live. That’s probably the best way I can describe it. And it requires a lot of emotional build-up I guess, at least a good deep breath before I sing it live because I think to sing it well and give it energy it needs it takes a lot out of me.”
One sign of the song’s success are the seemingly endless covers and parody songs posted on YouTube, which De Backer enjoys immensely, so much so that he made his own tribute to them via a cover mash-up symphony of sorts.
“I had a lot of fun putting them together in an audio/visual piece on my YouTube channel, it’s called ’Somebodies: A YouTube Orchestra’ and I mixed the video and audio of about 130-plus versions of the song by fans online into a new piece. I like the music and the audio/visual aspect of the mashup better than the original now,” he admitted. “Because to me it speaks more broadly about how the song has mutated and been embraced by people and traveled out there online and then me getting a chance to respond to it in a form that is kind of my bread and butter, which is collecting large amounts of audio and video data and sorting through them and turning them into something new in my home studio. To be able to have done that with the song that has gone out there so widely was such a nice experience to have been offered by my fans and by the Internet.”
The scope and scale of his “Somebodies” tribute is a great example of how grounded and grateful he is for the support, along with the fact that he sincerely appreciates other musicians in all forms, which of course includes a few of his competitors for Grammy awards.
“I really love Frank Ocean’s work,” De Backer said when asked about artists who have inspired him this year. “I think his mixtape and his album are fantastic, he’s got an incredible voice and he’s a really interesting songwriter. On the more pop end of the spectrum, the first time I heard Taylor Swift’s ’We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ I thought it was one of the most killer pop songs I’ve ever heard, so yeah, there are a bunch of great songs and bands and to be nominated amongst, and someone like Bjork in the alternative album category is quite a [head-]spinner, she’s an incredible artist. Very adventurous, very forward-thinking, it’s very flattering, really.”