Back in May, Ari Leff, best known as his stage name Lauv
, dropped a brand new track, "I Like Me Better," which we immediately plugged as one of the hottest songs of the summer
. Looks like we weren't wrong, because since its release, the track has earned over 101 million streams and Lauv embarked on his Late Nights, Deep Talks
Tour. The eclectic singer has now had two tracks gain success virally, with a combined total of 203 million streams, and his debut album hasn't even arrived yet. Thankfully, I got the chance to pick his brain a little about the whereabouts of said album, and a few other topics from Chris Martin to Psychology. Check out the full interview below.
LARISHA PAUL: You started playing guitar and writing when you were in your early teens, is that when you decided music would be the definite path you'd be taking?
ARI LEFF: That's kind of when it really started to become something for me. Before then I was playing music but it wasn't until I picked up a guitar and that's when I really fell in love and I started writing. I wasn't skateboarding anymore, all I was doing was making music, and that's kind of when I was like, alright, this is it.
LP: That's great. I saw that you studied music technology at NYU, which is cool. I'm currently studying there myself.
AL: Oh yeah? What are you studying?
LP: I'm a journalism and psychology double major.
AL: I took a psychology minor.
LP: Have you used that at all? Has it come in handy?
AL: I just like [psychology] in general. I've always liked to understand thought patterns, when stuff is more in your head versus just your genetic disposition. I don't know if it's necessarily practical knowledge I can trace back to, but it's definitely stuff that I think about all the time.
LP: Was venturing into the music industry in a city like New York intimidating for you at all?
AL: It's definitely crazy. I've gotten kind of used to navigating a little bit.
LP: A lot of the time it seems like people here care more about who you know than what you're capable of doing.
AL: Yeah, 100%. It's still political, so whatever you're doing you just have to take conversations with people with a grain of salt.
LP: The Lost in The Light EP, which was your debut project after "The Other" was released, was really gaining popularity when it came out. And it turns 2 years old next month. Of course a lot has happened since then, but what would you say has been the most drastic change to your life?
AL: The most drastic change to my life has honestly probably been moving out to LA. When I was in New York I was still in school and I was writing for myself as an artist and continuing to write for other artists. Once I moved out to LA, I was done with school and my life just went full speed with everything I was doing. I kind of learned a lot about myself in the past year and where I'm happiest and most fulfilled. It's been really amazing and I'm just way more focused on all of my music and my own world, which is really awesome.
LP: "I Like Me Better" is your most recent single, and it has been doing absolutely incredible, with over 101 million streams in just 4 months.
AL: That's so crazy.
LP: It's a lot more positive than most of your other songs, in terms of the tone and the content of the song. Was that something that you did intentionally when releasing it?
AL: Well, I was just excited to not be the dude who's always releasing sad songs. I'm a sensitive, emotional person for sure, and a little bit of a hopeless romantic, definitely. It's especially, not even just with this song but all of the music I'm working on right now, there are so many other aspects of myself as an artist that I'm really excited to share with the world.
LP: That's a great way to go about it, so that everyone isn't really stigmatizing your music and sticking you in that box of 'someone break up with him so we can get an album.'
AL: Yeah, I almost felt trapped by that. You know, there are some artists–for example, there's a group that I love called Daughter that I listen to a lot, but it's like I already know when I'm gonna put them on. It's for that really nostalgic, longing, sad, lay in your bed and don't move kind of feeling. What's great about myself is I'm a fully rounded person. I don't always feel like that, and I don't want all of my music to always feel like that. I want it to reflect me and everything that I'm going through, and everything that I'm feeling.
LP: So, the music video was released a few weeks ago, just after your birthday–happy belated by the way. The feedback has been really great, everyone is loving the concept of it. How hands on were you in the process of creating that? And the rest of your videos for that matter?
AL: I was very hands on. I basically had the concept of the elderly couple worked out in my head and it was about me finding the right director to help really look into it. It was a process of taking the concept that I had. The song is about being young and in love and you don't really know who you are or who you want to be, and I was like well, what if we represent that but with an old couple? Then it sort of evolved into this whole thing where the old couple was supposed to be representing us when we're a lot older. The first time I saw the very first cut of the video, I don't know, this part just got to me. In the bridge, when it's showing the shot of us in the bed, and her hand falling on my face and me pushing it off, and then the same exact scene with the old couple–I just lost it. I was like, "Yes! I picked the right director!" He knew exactly what we were trying to accomplish.
LP: That was my absolute favorite part of the video, I thought it was so precious.
AL: It was my favorite. I watched it back and I was like "Yooooo!"
LP: You've had multiple tracks pretty much go viral at this point, and your debut album isn't even out yet. Is that something that we could be gearing up for anytime soon?
LP: You do a whole lot of everything. Besides the obvious singing, you write and produce your own music, and you've also written for other artists–including the new Charli XCX track "Boys," which is huge right now. I know a big thing for you is writing from the heart and writing what you feel rather than what you think people may want to hear. Is that still a rule that you follow when writing for other artists?
AL: I've been working on more music than I ever have for myself and for a whole bunch of projects. So, unfortunately, I can't say anything else right now on that. But there's definitely a ton of new music coming.
AL: That's my favorite way to write in general, but not every song can me the "Me" show. When I'm writing with other people, sometimes it's somebody else's thing and you're just there to kind of help them get out. For me what really counts is, even if it doesn't turn out to be something personally deep for me, as long as somebody there is trying to say something in particular, and they're passionate about it, that's what drives me. There's a lot of people that I love working with, and a lot of times it's for my own projects, but when I'm working with other people sometimes it's not about me.
LP: Almost everything you've released so far has been solo tracks, apart from "Question" which has Travis Mills on it. Are there any other artists you have your eye on for a possible collab in the future?
AL: There's a record producer named Sam Gellaitry who I would love to work with, he's crazy. Or Mura Masa, or Cashmere Cat. I'm waiting for that to happen. I think the all time dream would be a song with Chris Martin from Coldplay. Even if [the song] doesn't come out, I just want to sit with him.
LP: Who would you say influences you the most when you're creating?
AL: The musical inspiration question for me is always really fun, because I feel like I'm subconsciously tapping into everything that i've ever listened to. My most conscious and deep inspirations would be Coldplay, John Mayer... Daughter is definitely one of them, and the three producers I listed. Paul Simon, as a songwriter, is huge for me. He kind of changed the way I look at my own song writing process. But it'll be anything from those guys to listening to something I heard on Soundcloud one time with 10,000 plays. Whatever sticks out to me, I'll pull from. It's always all over the place.
LP: Your audience is growing more and more by the day, so it's almost as though you're going to end up filling that spot of inspiration for someone. People are going to look to you and think, "I want to be like that. He did this I can do it too."
AL: That'd be awesome. We're in the most exciting times for young creators in general. I feel like it's all about the idea. People who don't really have the technological skills are making incredible stuff. I've worked with producers who are looking at the screen like, "I don't really know what I'm doing," but when you hear it come out of the speakers, it's amazing. So, I want to encourage as many people out there who feel like they want to say something or they want to create that there really isn't this big barrier for you to break. It's just like doing your thing and it's very freeing, I think.
LP: You've got some fans who really go above and beyond for you. A little while ago you posted about someone who had gotten some of your lyrics tattooed on their arm.
AL: That's probably the craziest thing to me. When I was on tour, there were a few nights where people would come up to me and one girl had "Reforget" tattooed on her finger, and somebody was having me write out lyrics to "Come Back Home" so she could get them tattooed on her arm. That kind of stuff is so crazy to me. It's so easy when I'm constantly working to forget this impact that you're already having. It's so amazing.
LP: Was there anything you wanted to let everyone know about yourself?
AL: I can tell you this, the stuff that's coming next is what I'm most excited about.