“I’m the type of person that likes to be an open book, I just feel more comfortable”, says pop visionary Lauv.
It’s an honest admission from the 25-year-old LA rising star, who has bravely overcome struggles with mental health to create one of 2020’s most eagerly-awaited debuts, ~how i'm feeling~ .
For those unfamiliar with Lauv – real name is Ari Leff – he’s a big deal.
His tracks have already racked up more than a billion streams while his talents led to collaborations with close friend Troye Sivan, pop royalty BTS and Anne-Marie.
If he’s not penning 21 stunning tracks for his first album, he’s constantly pushing his creative boundaries to come up with inventive new ways to connect with his fanbase.
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It’s no surprise he’s one of the most talked about and exciting new talents in music, selling out venues across the world.
In an honest and open interview with Daily Star Online, Lauv spoke about his ambitious debut, his collaborations, aspirations and why he’s the “One Man Boyband”.
We caught up with him backstage ahead of the first night of two sold out shows at London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town.
“It’s been a long process”, Lauv tells us when discussing the recording process of his forthcoming debut.
“I was supposed to be making a lot of it last year but I fell into a bad place emotionally and mentally , so I wasn’t very productive.
“Out of 21 songs, we have already released six of them and we are going to keep releasing singles until it’s out. I did that because I was making it for a lot longer than I thought I was and I didn’t want to wait.”
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~how i'm feeling~ is a bold and, literally, colourful concept for an album.
Describing it as “super juicy”, Lauv’s album will see him embody the personalities of six different characters represented by colours.
They are: purple (existential Lauv), orange (f***boy Lauv), blue (hopeless romantic Lauv), green (goofy Lauv), yellow (positive Lauv) and red (spicy Lauv).
He’s untouchable creatively, too.
The Billy Meets World web game was launched earlier this year as the user navigates his dog, Billy, in the music video for Drugs & The Internet, while the accompanied promo for the song Sims saw him bring the album’s concept and characters to life.
“Musically it’s a super diverse album”, he continues.
“The project I put out when I was 18 was like hopeless romantic songs but this is more existential, mental health related stuff. Songs about my favourite bar, a song about my dog’s name.”
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Mental health is a topic we return to during the interview and his efforts to de-stigmatise talking about it are commendable.
Lauv’s open about how he reached his lowest point and his efforts to get himself to where he his now.
His live shows even feature a recorded monologue where he describes in detail how he felt during his toughest times.
He tours with the My Blue Thoughts box – an interactive experience launched in conjunction with Microsoft where fans can express their feelings anonymously and connect with people feeling the same way across the world by analysing keywords.
If someone’s going through a break up or the loss of a parent, they can be linked with others dealing with related struggles.
The Blue Boy Foundation was launched by him and his family to raise awareness of mental health globally and all proceeds of his track Sad Forever were donated to various mental health organisations.
He revealed: “It’s super important for me. I grew up in a family where there were a lot of mental health issues. I understand a lot of it from a different perspective. Things like eating disorders, I think, are not understood in the right way.
“I kind of have a really close experience of that. I went through such a bad time at the beginning to get out of that hole that I realised that the things that helped me the most were people in my life who had had similar struggles.
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“They would explain to me that I might not just be sad, I might be depressed, which is like something chemically going on in your bran that you might need to balance out.
“I’m the type of person that likes to be an open book, I just feel more comfortable. I felt like it would help more people.”
Lauv’s live shows are a sight to behold.
Backed with a dazzling light show that mixes engaging fluorescent, video game-esque moving imagery throughout, he powers through the set barely taking a breath.
In a set featuring crowd favourites Drugs & The Internet , Sims , Feelings and I Like Me Better , Lauv justifies the hype by swapping dance-driven numbers to guitar-led pop backed by his impressive band.
A standout moment was Anne-Marie joining him on stage for their hit f***, i’m lonely , leading to one of the biggest reactions of the night.
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Lauv is the real deal on stage.
“I do feel freer”, he adds when discussing performing live.
“I used to be nervous and self critical, especially when I was in a bad place. Those times on stage were some of the times when I was the closest to wanting to quit.
“Now I feel like it unlocks a whole part of myself creatively and personality wise. Somedays the recording studio is incredibly natural and flowy, but some days it’s not.
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“Other days you have moments of flow and think ‘let’s go and get some food’ and you go back and try again – but when you’re at a show you can’t do anything like that, it’s the whole thing. You’re in the moment.
“It’s so f****** fun.
“This tour is the best we’ve ever had. Mentally I’m in a really good place. I’ve been really engaged on stage.
“The stage itself is super dynamic."
Lauv’s rising stock has led to collaborations with big name stars. He worked with Troye Sivan on i’m so tired , a collaboration which has hit more than 500 global streams.
But their musical partnership was more than just a collaboration – Troye helped Lauv through a difficult phase in his life.
“Troye was such a fun experience. He’s such an angel, so sweet. I was going through a weird time and he’s been there for me as a friend. Personally, for real.
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“It wasn’t like, cool, we did a song together then we did promo together – we spent time together, texted a lot.”
Lauv reveals his dream to work with Chris Martin of Coldplay when discussing his musical influences, how listening to Paul Simon helped his songwriting process and how John Mayer was his high school favourite.
But he’s already featured on a track by one of the biggest acts on the planet – K-pop megastars BTS.
He recalls: “BTS is crazy. I went to go and see them at Wembley last time they were here coupe of months ago.
“I had seen they had covered some of my songs on their live streams and I was like holy s***. Then I got asked if I wanted to meet them. Of course I wanted to meet them!
“I went backstage, was super nervous but of course they were super sweet. I met them and took a photo with them.
“On my way out a person in their team said we’d love to have you on Make It Right. They asked me to take my own interpretation of the own parts.
“Reaction has been amazing. I have got so many new followers. I’m pretty sure I got probably upwards of 70,000 new Twitter followers and similar on Instagram. It’s been insane.”
Lauv was born in San Francisco before his family moved to Georgia and Pennsylvania, where he lived until he made his way to New York to study.
Now he resides in LA, a place he now calls home – but did moving around the US influence him?
“It influenced me musically”, Lauv tells us.
“Every time I moved I entered a new phase. When I was in Georgia, I was listening to a lot of rap music in Atlanta. That was around the time I got into illegal downloading. Kazaa, Limewire and that stuff.
“In Pennsylvania I super got into emo music, like the whole MySpace era. I got into a lot of different phases and the experience shapes your personality.”
Lauv’s committed work ethic shows no sign of stopping. He’s already thinking about making music for album number two and there are a host of tours lined-up to promote ~how i'm feeling~ – where he hopes to develop his six characters even further.
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But did he ever think he’d get this far?
“F*** no”, he admits.
“I never could have imaged it really happening. I started playing in bands when I was 14 and 15 to 20-30 people.
“I think about it on stage, especially on this tour. There are multiple levels in these venues. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say. I just stand there – it’s crazy.
“I think beyond this I want to release a lot more music after the album. Keep writing, build it up, drop it and do a bunch of touring after it.
“I want to go crazy on the characters and do as much as I can.”
~how i'm feeling~ is set for release on March 6, 2020
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