Born in Philadelphia in 1980, Kurt Vile is one of ten children. His family wasn't musical but his dad listened to bluegrass and roots records all the time. At 14, Vile's dad got him a banjo that he'd wished was a guitar, so he decided to play it like a guitar anyway. Growing up, Vile was really into '90s bands like Beck and Pavement, as well as older stuff like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Beatles.
Although Kurt Vile is largely known for his music as a solo artist, he began in a band. Vile is founding member of The War on Drugs, who came together in 2005 and released a critically acclaimed album called Wagonwheel Blues in 2008.
Kurt Vile's 2011 album Smoke Ring For My Halo was released to critical acclaim but was not commercially successful. The record peaked at #156 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, but was a critical darling: several well-read media outlets, including Mojo, Uncut and Pitchfork placed the album in their top 20 lists of the best albums of 2011.
Before becoming a full-time musician, Kurt Vile used to be a forklift driver. When he lived in Boston, he drove the forklift so much that he became an expert at it. Vile also worked at a brewery where the owners let employees drink their own beer within reason.
One time, Kurt Vile missed a gig in Amsterdam because he left his bag on a train in Belgium. He had to wait five hours to get it back, so he stayed in a hostel that night. Vile says the hostel was one big party, with people cranking music, sharing cake laced with marijuana, and telling stories about their travels.
In an interview with the L.A. Record, Kurt Vile says he smokes pot but not that often. While touring on the West Coast, Vile once smoked pot with a fan that brought him some good stuff from Northern California. He said he also came across a country rest-stop store on tour that had everything he needed: soda pop, cereal, glass bongs, and pipes.
Some of Kurt Vile's close friends call him "The Cougar" as a joke. It started when his friend Sharkey told him he saw a newsflash that read "The Cougar Is Loose!" and Vile answered comically "Isn't the cougar always loose?"