10 minute read

Lauv

Lauv’s hit single «I Like Me Better» is probably already in your playlists without you even knowing it! Starting out in the business as a songwriter for pop stars such as Charli XCX, the 24 year-old artist finally decided to dedicate his art to this own project. After more than one billion streams on the different tracks off this playlist « I met you when I was 18 », a faithful fanbase, many shows opening for Ed Sheeran and his own world tour being a success, we can safely say that Ari Staprans Leff has everything needed to become the next pop superstar. Discover more about Lauv, his music and his down-to-earth, kind and spontaneous personality in our interview.

Taken from the music video of « The Other », the first track Ari Leff decided to release as Lauv.

On The Move: I read a lot about you online, about where you come from, but I didn’t find anything about your first memory in terms of music, can you tell me about it?

Lauv: Yeah, some of my first memories would be I guess playing piano as a little kid when I was probably like 5 or 6. Just classic lame parents having me do piano lessons, and I remember being yeld at by the teacher to play properly... It was my first memories of music because I sort of played as a little kid before I started writing music.

On The Move: What triggered you wanting to write?

Lauv: I started writing when I was probably 13. After I played piano, I have two older sisters and they play violin and cello and I started playing viola and guitar. Once I started the guitar, I was like, holy shit, this is incredible. Then I stopped doing everything and I just sat in my room and learnt Green Day songs and learnt all these songs just off the internet. That’s when I started writing, I just fell in love with that !

You have to write from yourself, that’s the most genuine music"

On The Move: We know you started making music professionally by writing and composing for others. But in 2014 when writing « The Other », you decided to keep this one for yourself. What clicked for this track (that made you keep it)?

Lauv: Yeah, good question ! That one was just like the first I had written in so long that was about my life. It wasn’t me trying to write something for someone else. When you learn you can write for other producers and artists, when you are young, you just start to think « ok what’s the song that Katy Perry wants to sing ? », some stupid things like that. By the way, that doesn’t work, you have to write from yourself, that’s the most genuine music. But that was the written first song that I thought was really close to me personally. I just wanted to sing it and put it out just for myself.

On The Move: This song specifically was very intimate, just like your music overall, but you often say that you started writing breakup songs before even knowing what a relationship was. So you don’t need to exactly experience these things to be able to write about them?

Lauv: No, I think the songs I was writing then, they were like fearless and back to them you can tell I didn’t really know. My dad would make fun of me. He would be like « what are you saying here ? » because I hadn’t been through it. I just always, for whatever reason, loved sad music and stuff like that ; when I was trying to learn how to write that was the natural instinct for me I guess. It’s funny though!

On The Move: Is there any condition that you prefer to compose in? Being alone or not for example?

Lauv: It’s always different, I have to drink a lot of coffee so that I believe in myself. It sounds weird but... I also just love like for every experience to be different because if I feel like I’m always doing the same thing as before then I lose my focus and inspiration a little bit. So sometimes it will start like, especially when I’m on tour I’m always writing lyrics down on my iPhone notes and ideas and voice memos. Then I try to come back to that later but every song starts differently.

On The Move: Is there any song you wish you had written? You wish it was yours?

Lauv: There is a ton of them ! Recently, I don’t know if you’re into The Talking Heads, my dad was super into them when I was growing up, and one of my favorite songs … maybe « Youth » by Daughter if you know that song?

On The Move: Oh yeah that’s a gorgeous song.

Lauv: She’s so fucking good! So sad and so good!

On The Move: That’s a great band! So last June you released your playlist « I met you when I was 18 », why did you want to do it?

Lauv: I wanted to make it really hard for people no I’m just kidding (laughs). No basically the reason I didn’t want to do it as an album is that the songs had been coming out slowly since 2015. In that time first there was singles and I put out a little EP but I didn’t really know that they all fit together in the way that they did. Once I thought that all these songs were about this relationship, and it was a long relationship, I wanted to give people a chance to go back and hear it in the right order if they wanted to. That is what « I Met You When I Was 18 » was born for. I wanted to keep adding to it as I was finishing songs. It was a kind of an ongoing thing.

On The Move: Are you considering realeasing a proper album in the future?

Lauv: Definitely yes ! I love bodies of work you can go through like « Ghost Stories » by Coldplay or « Mylo Xyloto », « Continuum » by John Mayer… I love when it’s a whole physical body work, definitely!

On The Move: What can we expect from it?

Lauv: It’s really important to me that you’re not doing the same thing over and over and over. I’m a romantic person but the things I’ve been writing about have been less about just love, more about bigger life stuff. I want it to be like a broader scope of my entire personality. Maybe a couple funny songs who knows? (laughs)

On The Move: There is also this thing visually, it’s very tight to you, the color blue ? Why is that?

Lauv: Just blue, with its different shades, and more than any color for me is just emotional and has a depth to it, especially with loving and sad music and stuff. It has always made sense to me. Before I put on « I Like Me Better » I got this idea of a blue rose and I was googling that. I realized that in literature, a blue rose is supposed to signify unrequited love. I thought that was amazing, that was perfect. Then from there, I was also inspired by this artist Yves Klein, really cool with deep deep blue. I wondered if I could do some plan of this deep blue but with paint so I started doing paint stuff. That’s how it was born.

On The Move: If this going to evolve? Will you start another color period like Picasso?

Lauv: (laughs) Yeah for sure! I think blue and the feeling of blue will always be there and I want to incorporate the color as a classic thing but I don’t like being stuck in the same bubble so yes it’s going to evolve, tonally and I think also in terms of materials and stuff.

On The Move: You also maintained a really close relationship with your fans, I read about that « My Blue Thoughts » box during the gig, where does this idea come from?

Lauv: I’m trying to remember where it originally came from... I just remember before I went to my first world tour, I really wanted to do something. First, I wondered if I could make it a part of the stage, where people could write notes, anything that’s going in their lives, anonymously and we can make it part of the stage. Then I thought it was going to be messy and you wouldn’t be able to read it. So eventually, the idea morphed from there into this box. I was honestly nervous to try it because I didn’t know what people were going to do. But people have been really open, funny and sweet. People have shared a lot of pretty intimate things. Hopefully it helps them in some way to just be able to put that somewhere. From here, I want to keep growing it, I would love to eventually make it a video booth where you can walk in and it’s like a silhouette so no one can see who you are, almost like a non religious confessional. You could go in and say anything.

On The Move: That would be nice!

Lauv: You couldn’t see who it is. I don’t know if that would be practical but I would love to do that !

I want my album to be like a broader scope of my entire personality"

On The Move: Going back to your work, you collaborated with a lot of artists, who did you particularly love working with?

Lauv: I’ve been lucky, I haven’t worked with anybody I haven’t liked!

On The Move: Maybe a specific lesson learnt from one of them?

Lauv: Yeah! I think one of the biggest things in terms of hanging out with other artists, going on tour with Ed Sheeran and being around him has been probably my most inspiring experience because the music business is very competitive and people are fake. That’s just the reality, people protect themselves. You don’t know who your real friends are. People don’t always support each other. But what I saw from him was in every single way the exact opposite. I was opening for him in arenas and it’s just simple things: a lot of times artists don’t get real soundchecks. We got a full soundcheck, they saved all of our settings, they let us take our time, they supported us allowing us to have some production. He’s said he does that because he had that experience when he was opening for other artists. He saw the difference between being treated well and not being treated this well. He said he just wanted to do that for other people and he’s like that with his whole crew.

I really feel like everybody who meets him has that same experience. He is just somebody to look up to. Sometimes it’s easy to get stressed out, you really want to succeed and you get all caught up your own head and you see that, it’s just a good person. It reminds you that it’s possible! (laughs)

On The Move: Was it hard to perform in front of an audience that isn’t yours?

Lauv: Honestly, I was more nervous for the first show, because I was playing in front of 20,000 people or something. But because it’s less intimate it’s almost like it’s less scary. Everything is further ! I feel honestly more nervous for my own shows or more excited but also more nervous because... if I’m playing in front of new people, I am what I am, they’re going to like me or they’re not going to like me. Sometimes I have this fear of playing in front of my audience. They decided they love me and they come to my show and they’re like « actually maybe I don’t like you ». I always put pressure on myself for my shows to really be like... amazing if that makes sense.

I would like to play my own stadiums someday" 

On The Move: What can we expect from your live shows?

Lauv: Oh ! Let’s see... there are always a couple of surprises. There are random things happening. I don’t know if you’ve seen on my Instagram story but my photographer on the first leg of this tour brought a random piece of food to me - I forgot what it was - and now, every night at some point, it happens again (laughs). Last time, it was a cheeseburger, I was singing and he brought it so I ate it while I was trying to sing. So you could probably see that at some point, we never know what it will be. I love my shows to be a bounce : there’s a couple of stripped down moments where it’s just me and a keyboard or me and a guitar, I love to get really down to the basics. But also I feel really proud of the production and the vibe we’ve put together in terms of visual aesthetic on stage. I think it is always a high energy show.

On The Move: Coming back to the time where you were trying to book gigs in America for your band and stuff, what would you say to yourself at this time?

Lauv: I think what I would have said... I guess I wouldn’t have done anything differently because that is how I got here. I think back then I didn’t think enough about the music. I was wondering how I could get people to discover the music, how I could get in front of people. What I learnt, especially after putting out « The Other » and since then, is if you’re trying to be an artist and make music a 100% for yourself and you don’t expect anybody to listen to it, that’s fine and do that. But if you’re hoping that people are going to listen to you, you have to be willing to throw away your own music and say that it is not good enough because people don’t owe you anything. So I think that I learnt that people don’t owe you anything, to focus on the music and make that as good as possible.

On The Move: Nice ! Now you have these millions of streams and you performed on differents stages, also in different shows on TV, what is your next goal somehow or your dream?

Lauv: I would like to play my own stadiums someday, that would be sick ! Because the feelings of all those people together singing words is unbelievable. The album for me is my big focus, I think the music is the main thing right now and also to continue to create in other ways. I don’t know maybe someday, I’d like to publish poetry or maybe a novel or something like that.

On The Move: To conclude, we’re in Paris, one of your tracks is « Paris In The Rain », what do you love so much about Paris?

Lauv: There is no other city to walk around and to just get lost in the streets, that’s the biggest thing for me. Every time I come here, I just try to wander as much as possible. Every area is in my opinion very different, you just get a lot of different feelings from it. What else? I don’t drink that much wine... (laughs) But I have gone into cheese a little bit.

What Lauv is listening to at the moment :

Phoebe Bridgers, Apparat, Talking Heads.

INTERVIEW BY CORALINE BLAISE WITH DéBORAH GAILLARD | PHOTOS BY DAVID FITT EXCLUSIVELY FOR ON THE MOVE