Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you choose Milow as your artist name?
I came up with the name "Milow" in September 2003, but there's not really a meaning. I liked the simple sound of it, and I added the "w" as a personal touch. Later I discovered a coincidence: "Milo" is Greek for "apple", and "Jonathan" (my first name) is a kind of apple. But, to be honest, I didn't know this at the time :-) In Belgium there's a tradition of singer-songwriters who sing in English to pick a more international sounding artist name, instead of using our (long) Belgian name. It's because all of us secretly hope to have international success, and (we somehow think) that's harder with names like Jonathan Vandenbroeck, which is my real name.
Why did you make a cover version of 'Ayo Technology' by 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake?
There was never really a master plan to release this particular cover version. It started off as a joke in early 2008 when I sat down for a couple hours with my acoustic guitar to see if I could change the song so that it would appear to be one of my own songs. I changed the structure completely (so that it's more of a Beatles-song) and most importantly, I came up with a new vocal melody so that I could sing the raps/rhymes from 50 Cent. I was never going to do anything with it after I had played it for a Belgian radio station, but I got such great reactions on weblogs and websites (YouTube) and at live concerts that after a couple months I decided to record it. When I had such a great feeling about the recorded version as well, only then I decided I wanted it as a single.
How would you describe your music for someone who has not heard it?
Acoustic singer-songwriter music, sometimes acoustic pop songs, sometimes storytelling folk songs. I try to be as pure and honest as possible in my songs and performances. There's no wall of sound I try to hide behind. Most important in every song is vocals and melody. Every night I sing my songs, it's like I sing them for the first time. And when recording my music, I try to stick to the same rule: "less is more". It's not really important how people describe my music. Whether you call it acoustic folk pop, singer-songwriter music, or just pop, it doesn't really matter much. I try to blend lyrical storytelling with classic and timeless songwriting. If I use 'pop music' to describe my music, I mean 'pop' in the old school meaning of the word, like pop music like the Beatles, Crowded House, Simon & Garfunkel were known for making. All these songs were written on my acoustic guitar, and are still strong just played solo with just a guitar or piano. That's still the most important 'test' a new song has to pass before I record it and put it on an album.
How do you balance writing songs and performing concerts with acting as your own manager, and running your own record label and publishing company?
It's about passion, dedication and hard work. And most importantly, it's about blocking out and turning off all these other activities when I'm writing and recording songs, so the creative process can't be damaged by other ways of thinking. All I tried to do is write great songs that are fantastic to perform live. I started doing everything myself (I'm part of the DIY-generation) because 5-6 years ago, no one believed in my music but me, and no label wanted to sign me. The great thing about my way of working today, is that I have 100% artistic control over every aspect of my music.
Did you always want to be a musician? How did you get started in music?
I started to play music when I was a little kid. When I was 9 or 10 years old I started to play accordion. When I was 12 I saw my first live concert: Pink Floyd at the legendary festival site in Werchter, Belgium (the town next to the town where I grew up). When I was 15 I started to play electric and acoustic guitar, because I was a big fan of Nirvana, and to write songs. When I was 17 I started playing in a few bands. But 2003 was an crucial year for me. I was 21 and I decided to leave the rock band I was playing in. I threw away almost all of the songs I had written and made a fresh start as a solo artist. That was the start of 'Milow', and the first songs I wrote at that time were 'You Don't Know' and 'One of It'.
Why is title of your album "North and South"?
North versus south is the central theme that connects both the music and the lyrics of the eleven songs on this album. It's my most personal album so far, because all the songs were written and recorded at a time when I was stuck in the paradox between my professional life and my private life. So this album became an album about contrasts, about extremes, about opposites. These are songs about personal highs and lows, about life and death, and making choices every day between opposites. It's also about growing up and living in an increasingly polarized world. The fact that I made this album in my country, Belgium, that has been getting more and more divided in the last few years, has absolutely had an impact.
What was the difference recording "North and South" compared to the ones before?
The biggest difference was time. Because I was so busy with touring I had to record differently from before. With my previous studio-albums I wrote all the songs, and when I had enough good ones, I rehearsed and arranged them with musicians, and then I went in the studio for a few days or a week, after which I went straight to mixing, and the album was finished in less then a month. This time, although I recorded again with producer Jo Francken, it was a bit different. Whenever I was home for a few days I went into the studio to record new songs. When I went back on tour I continued to write new songs. These I recorded again when I went home again. This process, back and forth, continued for a few months. There were three recording periods in 2010. I started recording for a week at the end of April, beginning of May. Then again ten days at the end of August. And then from half of October until end of December on and off. In January we recorded the last stuff and then started mixing. The great thing about having so much time is that we could take some distance and see if we still liked what we had done in the studio the month before. With some songs we started from zero a few times. Also great was that for the first time I could really work on the details in my music. I tried to improve my songwriting, but especially the arrangements and the overall sound & groove. This is a direct consequence of all the concerts I played, because all these songs were arranged with the live versions already in the back of my mind.
Did you feel any kind of pressure to record a hit single because everyone will compare your new songs with 'Ayo Technology'?
No not really. I mean, I obviously felt there were expectations, but that didn't really paralyze me. I'm pretty good with handling the pressure. With 'You Don't Know' I had already proven that I wasn't another one-hit-wonder and that I could have success with one of my own songs. So that has given me a lot of confidence. And I just tried to write the best songs I had ever written. Pressure and expectations have always had more of a motivating and stimulating effect, rather than a paralyzing one. I think every single one of the eleven songs on "North and South" can stand up against 'Ayo Technology' and 'You Don't Know'. I know a lot of artists talk about the difficult second or third album, but to be honest, writing songs and recording albums is not a very difficult or complex process for me. My producer Jo Francken and I just really took the time to make this album, far a way from pressure, stress and other people's opinions.