- We launched the Stay Insider Sessions to connect with artists while the world practices social distancing.
- Next up, Lauv reflects on his mental health in quarantine, the music video for “Modern Loneliness,” and the year-old inspiration behind his new song “Love Like That.”
- “I had just gotten out of a relationship that didn’t work,” he explains. “It was a way for me to own up to the fact that I always felt like I didn’t have the amount of love in me as the other person did.”
- “I just didn’t have it. It’s not even that I didn’t want to love them. It’s just, I literally felt so — I don’t want to say empty, but this person is so loving, one of the most loving people I know on the planet, and so warm. I think I was really attracted to that, but I just couldn’t — I just couldn’t do it the same way.”
- Lauv also told Insider about the songs he’s inspired by right now, namely Halsey’s “Clementine,” and his dream collaborators: Kevin Abstract, Chris Martin, and Drake.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Insider launched the Stay Insider Sessions to connect with musicians while they, like many of us, are grappling with isolation and unprecedented downtime. Next up: Lauv.
“It’s a little messy right now. Pardon the White Claw cans and the bottle of tequila.”
Lauv is sitting on his (very deep) sofa, giving me a virtual tour of his home studio setup. He’s been spending a lot of time in this makeshift haven, cultivating fresh strokes of inspiration during California’s stay-at-home mandate.
It’s somewhat rare, I point out, for creative energies to be flowing in this stressed-out and ultra-tense climate.
But Lauv, born Ari Staprans Leff, has already recorded and released a freakishly relevant music video for “Modern Loneliness,” a demo for a new song called “Miss Me” on SoundCloud, and a tender castoff from his recent debut album called “Love Like That.”
“I think probably because I was traveling so much and I was kind of stressed, when I finally got home, I was like, ‘Oh, there’s nothing happening for the foreseeable future. All I can do is write.’ I just kind of felt free,” Lauv explains. “I’ve been writing a lot of music that kind of is more uplifting and fun, that’s kind of escapist, as opposed to sad music.”
“I’ve also been keeping a pretty good regimen of meditating and stuff, which really helps me,” he adds. “And music always keeps me sane because I kind of forget about everything in the world except for the song I’m working on. So I’ve been doing pretty good.”
Throughout our conversation, conducted via Zoom, I keep musing — happily, internally — about the positive energy radiating through his phone screen, how genuinely at ease Lauv appears to be.
Whereas, just under two years ago, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter was in the midst of what he describes as “the worst time of my life.”
2018 was winding to a close as Lauv began work on a song called “Changes,” feverishly constructing a future self that could actually achieve the sort of change that he craved.
“Sorry, I’m getting emotional a little bit,” he reflects, his eyes swimming gently, when I ask about his progress since then. “It was just a really s— time for me. I was just really f—ing depressed and having a lot of obsessive, negative thoughts that were just destroying my life and destroying my sense of self-worth and my sense of loving anything in the world.”
“I just look at where I’m at now, and I feel like such a more positive person, and balanced. My happiness is so much more in check. I feel so much more gratitude and so much more confidence in myself and love for myself and love for other people. I think everything has just so much changed since then.”
“Changes” ended up as the 17th track on his sparkling, eclectic debut album, “How I’m Feeling,” which was released in March.
The entire 21-song tracklist is similarly, unceasingly insightful: “Sad Forever” is another poignant meditation on depression; “Tattoos Together” describes the impulsive, all-consuming honeymoon phase of a new relationship; the aforementioned “Modern Loneliness” is an almost-too-on-the-nose dissection of our dependence on screens and social media, which Lauv describes as the most personal song on the album.
“There’s some lyrics that are almost shameful to say. It’s like, ‘love my friends to death, but I never call, I never text.’ For me to admit that, it’s like, I’m a s—ty friend sometimes,” he muses. “Even though I’m obviously so addicted to the screen in my hands.”
But now that we need technology to stay connected more than ever, Lauv has softened his self-criticism on the subject.
“I feel like now, at least, I’m using it more for intentional, engaged things, as opposed to just passive whatever. I’m talking to my family more, which is really, really nice, and talking to people that I don’t speak to much, just catching up with them and sending vibes.”
It splices together clips of Lauv’s activity on various apps while going about his day at home, as well as crowd-sourced clips of dancing fans, which gives the video more of an optimistic tone. We’re still connected, it seems to say, even when we feel our most distant.
One notable presence throughout the video is Tinder, arguably the most famous dating app in the world — and hardly somewhere you’d expect to find one of pop music’s most important rising stars.
“You know what? I don’t see a problem with [Tinder],” Lauv tells me. “I think I used to be a big hater, or I was resistant to it. But you know, the thing that I’ve discovered about dating apps is, I’m not the best at meeting people in person. I’m confident once I’m in a conversation, but starting a conversation can be really, I don’t know why, but intimidating for me.”
“I also feel like, people are a little bit put-off — when you’re in a bar, for example, and you try to come up and talk to someone,” he continues. “I feel like girls — and I imagine guys too, in certain situations — get constantly berated by people. You know what I mean? It’s just like, how are you supposed to know that somebody is actually worth the time?”
Lauv remains vague, however, about his current dating life. He was most famously involved with Julia Michaels, the singer-songwriter behind hits like “Issues” and Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” and presumably the inspiration behind Lauv’s own song “Julia.” The two musicians ended their relationship in January 2019.
“Love Like That” was cut from the final version of “How I’m Feeling,” although Lauv says he can’t remember exactly why. Just a few weeks ago, he decided to release it anyway, although it was actually written in February 2019.
“I was coming out of a real, real big low in my life,” he explains. “I had just gone on some medication, because I was diagnosed with depression and OCD, and I was having a very extreme situation with it in January.”
“I kind of came out of it, and I was able to see more clarity as to what was going on in my life and what had been going on,” he continues. “It was a way for me to own up to the fact that I always felt like I didn’t have the amount of love in me as the other person did. I just didn’t have it. It’s not even that I didn’t want to love them. It’s just, I literally felt so — I don’t want to say empty, but this person is so loving, one of the most loving people I know on the planet, and so warm.”
“I think I was really attracted to that, but I just couldn’t,” he pauses mid-thought, before eventually concluding: “I just couldn’t do it the same way.”
But you shouldn’t count on more retroactive releases from the “How I’m Feeling” cutting floor — even though Lauv whittled the tracklist down from at least 30 songs.
“I move on really quickly as a person, especially the older I get. I feel like I’m rapidly growing and evolving,” he tells me. “I feel like, usually, once I write it and once I put it out, I kind of move on immediately. It’s weird.”
He adds: “There’s a few that people around me, they’re just like, ‘You have to release this song, you have to release this song.’ But those songs remind me of bad times, so I don’t really want to finish them, you know?”
By contrast, Lauv says the new music he’s working on is “so different” and much more cheerful.
He doesn’t necessarily have a release timeline or a specific project in the works, but he’s been enjoying the freedom to create within a wide-open schedule.
“I definitely have my days,” he concedes, in terms of his creativity and mental health. “I think the most common thing for me is, my sort of OCD stuff comes out, where I get really obsessed with a certain — anything, like any decision I’m trying to make, or a decision I already made and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I made the right decision.’ Or even something I want to post on the internet.”
“I’ll literally let it ruin my day, to the point where I get so anxious and down that I just want to sleep. Like, ‘I just want to sleep this off.’ But for the most part, I’ve been good.”
In the meantime, while fans wait for more official music, proceeds from sales and streams of “Love Like That” will be donated to the Blue Boy Foundation, Lauv’s initiative to support young people struggling with their mental health.
Most recently, the foundation organized a fundraising livestream to address self-care in quarantine, which featured Lauv in conversation with collaborators Alessia Cara, Anne-Marie, and Sofía Reyes.
In the future, when indoor gatherings of more than 20 people become a possibility again, Lauv hopes to coordinate his tour schedule with events and lectures from local mental health organizations.
“I don’t want to speak for other people, but you could start to think, ‘I know what to do. I know it all. Whatever. I’m just going to go, go, go.’ But I have so much to learn,” he explains. “I’m not a professional whatsoever. I can only go based off my own experiences.”
“I think there’s a lot of education to be done,” he concludes, “in terms of, on my part, to really learn where I stand on different situations and how I want to help.”
Lauv cites Halsey’s song ‘Clementine’ and Drake’s recent mixtape as current inspirations
Lauv speaks glowingly of fellow musician and mental health advocate Halsey, who has similarly been open about her experience with bipolar disorder.
“You know the song where she says, ‘In my world, I’m constantly, constantly, constantly having a breakthrough?'” he asks, referring to Halsey’s 2019 single “Clementine.”
“That line just f—ing destroys me,” he says. “I don’t know if she’s referring specifically to her mania, but I just relate it to these experiences where I have these extreme mental highs, where I think I’ve cracked the code to what I need to do in my life, or my career, to reach the next level.”
“And then a week later I’m like, ‘I totally don’t even think that’s anything that makes any sense.’ And I just move on to something else,” he continues. “I do that in relationships, too. I fall so hard and I’m, ‘Oh my god, this is my person.’ And then, ‘Nope, never mind.’ So, that song really hits me.”
In terms of “dream collaborations,” Lauv lists Brockhampton frontman Kevin Abstract, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and Drake.
“Obviously, it’s not the time yet,” he laughs, referring to Drake, whose merits we’d already discussed and best album we’d already debated. (“I really love ‘Views,’ Lauv had said, “but ‘Take Care’ is always going to be the Drake I really fell in love with.”)
“I know that’s a crazy pipe dream, but that would be just be so crazy,” he concludes breezily.
“I just have so many level-ups to do first.”