Born on May 21, 1980, in Bruges, Belgium, singer-songwriter Gotye grew up in Australia. In his youth, Gotye learned to play numerous musical instruments, including piano and drums. But it was after he began to experiment with electronic music, samples and found sounds that Wouter truly found his voice, and his audience. Since taking on the stage name Gotye and releasing his first EP in 2001, his success has been meteoric, landing him at the top of record charts around the world.
Wouter De Backer, best known as Gotye, was born on May 21, 1980, in Bruges, Belgium, to Flemish parents. When Gotye was 2 years old, his family relocated to Australia, eventually settling in Montmorency, Victoria. When he began school in Australia, his parents chose to call him "Walter," or diminutively, "Wally"—the English equivalent of his Flemish first name. In his youth, Gotye was exposed to various musical instruments and learned to play many, particularly piano and drums.
While attending Parade College, an all-boys high school, Gotye formed a band called the Downstares, in which he played drums. At the end of high school, however, the band split up, forcing Gotye to find new means of musical expression. It was around this time that he began to experiment with electronic music, found sounds and sampling.
The Birth of 'Gotye'
In 2001, at age 21, Gotye recorded a four-track EP and made a limited number of copies, creating a unique sleeve for each. He decided to name the project Gotye (pronounced like the French "Gauthier") in homage to a pet name that his multilingual parents had often used for him. He sent the recordings to radio stations around the country and handled all of the promotion himself.
Inspired by the positive feedback he received, especially from Australian radio station Triple J, Gotye produced two subsequent self-produced and self-promoted EPs, which also received positive feedback and gained regular radio rotation. In 2003, these early recording were grouped together and released as an album, Boardface.
In 2004, Gotye moved to Melbourne and continued to record new tracks, while also working at a library and performing with a band called the Basics. The result of the following two years' worth of recordings was ultimately released as Like Drawing Blood. The album met with notable critical and popular success in Australia. In May 2006, it was voted by Triple J listeners as the "Best Album of 2006," and in September 2006, the album was nominated for the ARIA Award (the Australian equivalent of a Grammy Award) for best independent release. The following year, Gotye won the ARIA for best male artist, reinvigorating sales and both critical and popular adulation of Like Drawing Blood.
As his success continued to swell, Gotye was able to establish a home in Melbourne and in 2010 set up a recording studio in the barn on his parents' 13-acre farm. There, he began recording tracks for a third album. In 2010, he released the single "Eyes Wide Open." In July 2011, he released a follow-up single, "Somebody That I Used to Know." The song was almost instantly successful.
Its popularity was further bolstered by Ashton Kutcher and Lily Allen, who touted the song on Twitter. The single reached No. 1 in 18 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. It also reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart—a feat that only four Australian artist had achieved prior to Gotye. A video directed for the song and released on YouTube was one of the website’s most viewed videos of all time.
On August 19, 2011, Gotye's third album was released. It was titled Making Mirrors, a name inspired by a painting by Gotye's father, which is featured on the album cover. The day after the album’s release, Gotye performed the album to a sold-out crowd at the Sydney Opera House. Making Mirrors charted Top 10 in 17 countries and No. 1 in six, due in no small part to the album's hit single, "Somebody That I Used to Know." The song, which features singer-songwriter Kimbra on vocals, went on to win two 2013 Grammy Awards—for record of the year and best pop duo/group performance. Additionally, Making Mirrors won the 2012 ARIA for best album and the 2013 Grammy for best alternative music album, and Gotye received the 2012 ARIA for best male artist.