2012 Nobel Peace Prize Concert
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 bedroom.
“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 once 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 50 million views.
Yet with the same humble spirit that originally inspired him to take up the accordion at the age of nine, 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. That’s actually an experience he’s looking forward to having again: ask Milow about re-introducing tunes so familiar now to so many across the pond and he’ll tell you it’s led him to think deeply about what an artist’s job should be and how he can strengthen the bond between him and his fans.
“Every time I get on stage, I feel like that’s an opportunity to show a little bit more of myself,” he says. “Some of my songs are about really serious topics, but I also like to have fun, and I think my shows are where I can make that clear.”
YouTube is littered with concert clips that prove he’s right. Now that Milow is concentrating his efforts in the United States, he can’t wait to present the evidence live and in person. A sophisticated music-scene veteran with the bottomless energy of a beginner, Milow is ready for what’s next.