Artist On Artist: Clare Bowditch interviews Gotye

CLARE BOWDITCH interviews Gotye about regrets, the pursuit of happiness and having more YouTube views than Metallica and Beyonce combined.

To celebrate the release of new album The Winter I Chose Happiness, Clare Bowditch has been having intense, personal and amusing conversations with people she’s learnt something from over the course of making her album including Missy Higgins, British psychologist Robert Holden and author Stephanie Dowrick. These collected conversations are called “The Winter Happiness Summit”, with MP3s of these interviews sent out free to anyone subscribed to her mailing list in the lead-up to the album release on September 14. Here is an excerpt from Clare’s conversation with Wally de Backer aka international pop phenomenon Gotye.

Clare: From the outside looking in, it’s been a big year for you. How would you describe the changes that have occurred for you in your life over the past year?

Wally: I’m not sure I have properly digested it all yet, because it has been so busy. I don’t even know if I’ve necessarily gotten used to some of the changes yet. Some of them seem quite obvious like, just going down the local shops … people notice you.

Clare: Well, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ now has more YouTube hits than both Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” put together, which statistically means you “should be happier” then both Beyonce and Metallica, doesn’t it? Isn’t that the way the world works?

Wally: Ha! It sometimes feels to me like lots of people have been telling me in the last year that I should feel “certain ways” I’ve realised that [success/happiness] actually has nothing to do with the things a lot of people estimate as success or happiness. It’s actually much more to do with my own peculiar experience of making music; why I do it and what I find challenging about it, and what I find rewarding about it, especially because the success has gone so far beyond my expectations. It made me realise I need to hold onto my own value judgments about when I think something is worthwhile or good or finished or successful. And in retrospect, I kind of feel like I maybe made some choices with music on my album that were partly driven by the feeling that I needed to have a single. Maybe now I should write some more challenging experimental songs to balance things out … That’s all stuff you think about in retrospect.

Clare: I think most songwriters have a case of “The Brian Eno’s” inside of us, or “The Steve Reichs” or the “The Meredith Monks”. I often think about the albums I “shoulda coulda woulda” written. It was the same (for me) when writing about the topic of happiness. I was asking myself – what have I got to say of any value on this topic? And why am I challenging myself with this question of, “Is it possible to choose happiness?” But I’ve experienced this torture of questions with every album – I had it with the one that was about addiction, the one about lust, and What Was Left was about grief. I mean, as if I wanted to sit there and write happy tunes about grief? So we’re always balancing things as an artist, balancing what our internal motivations are, as well as what’s expected of us. And sometimes we are trying to please a whole range of people. It almost seems to me that the trick to happiness is forgetting about all of that, returning to yourself, asking yourself, “What do I want? What is it I’m trying to say? What do I wish I was hearing other people say.” Do you think it is possible to choose happiness?

Wally: I think so yes, actually. There were a lot of moments especially when I was making the recent record where I felt really down in the dumps, like the process of trying to make a bunch of pop songs, for better or worse, in the form of an album was taking years, and so much of my life-expectation and energy was built around it. But I have always found I am somebody who can turn around how I feel quite quickly, just by stepping out of that headspace somehow. Like changing my environment, whether its going for a walk, getting on a bike or just going, “OK, as much as the only thing I want to do today is work on fixing this mix that’s really frustrating me, just don’t do it. Don’t do anything to do with music today. Go do something completely different”. I find I can very quickly step out of that headspace.

Clare: Another great point.

Wally: What I found frustrating was the feeling every time that I would come back to certain songs I would immediately enter that very dark headspace again where I would be like, “This isn’t right … Sure I can leave it, but I am just going to come back to the same frustrating place.”

But I think you can choose happiness like that, you can develop ways to think your way out of how you feel, give yourself perspective, whether it is just getting to know yourself to the point where you go, “Well, I know if I go see this person then they make me feel better”, or “I know if I get out in the fresh air, or if I do some exercise that helps me settle my brain, and maybe my physical energy in a way, that helps me feel more settled and more contented as least for a short period.” I really value those things because there are certain moments where, in the last year especially, I have felt very confronted and anxious and worried about how certain things have been going, and have had to find ways to try and just re-focus and look at all the great things that are happening. That helps me a lot.


The Winter I Chose Happiness is out on September 14. To sign up to Clare’s mailing list click here.

The Winter I Chose Happiness Album Launch Tour

Wednesday 12th September – Theatre Royal, Hobart

Friday 21st September – The Gov, Adelaide

Thursday 27th September – Lizottes, Dee Why

Friday 28th September – The Factory Theatre, Sydney

Thursday 11th October – Old Museum Concert Hall, Brisbane

Friday 12th October – A & I Hall, Bangalow

Saturday 20th October – Astor Theatre, Perth

Thursday 25th October – Regal Ballroom, Melbourne

Friday 26th October – Regal Ballroom, Melbourne

Saturday 27th October – Drama Theatre @ GPAC, Geelong