Chasing fire with Lauv.
There’s an age-old story of what normally happens in a relationship: two people meet, they fall in love, and in many cases, end up breaking up, leaving heartbreak in the air. It’s a tale that’s been retold in music, film, and pop culture for years and years, and Lauv’s ‘I Met You When I Was 18’ 17-song playlist does just that - it tells his own story in intense detail, from the thrill at the beginning in ‘I Like Me Better’, to the trials and tribulations in the middle (‘Paranoid’), to the eventual ending of a very significant relationship in his life (‘Getting Over You’, ‘Never Not’).
Now the playlist is complete, the 17 songs make up a chronological narrative which is filled with earworms - the melodies of ’Paris In The Rain’ and ‘Easy Love’ will be stuck in your head for days, and Lauv’s emotive sentiments (“There's a room / In my heart with the memories we made,” he sings in ‘Never Not’) are equally as enchanting.
Lauv, real name Ari Leff, has been honing his songwriting and production craft long before releasing his first single ‘The Other’ back in 2015. After studying music technology at NYU and dabbling in songwriting and production for other artists, ‘The Other’ was the first song that truly felt representative of himself as an artist - and the rest, you might say, is history. After releasing the ‘Lost In The Light’ EP in 2015, 2017 saw the breakout hit ‘I Like Me Better’, which has an astounding 500 million streams (and counting). Follow up singles ‘Paris In The Rain’ and ‘Chasing Fire’ further solidified Leff’s songwriting talents, and earned him a support slot at stadiums with megastar Ed Sheeran, plus his own sold-out headline tours globally.
When Lauv was in New Zealand earlier this year, we spoke with him about the ‘I Met You When I Was 18’ playlist, being an independent artist in 2018, and the importance of living an unedited life…
COUP DE MAIN: So we don’t have a plaque for you like you got in Australia, buuuut to celebrate the fact that ‘I Like Me Better’ is platinum status in New Zealand, we got you a special blue-themed lolly lei!
LAUV: Oh, thank you! Is it a lolly lei? Yooo, I’m putting this on right now.
CDM: How was visiting New Zealand last year for the wedding that you came for?
LAUV: Oh, it was awesome. I was here for a couple of weeks through Christmas and New Year's, and I got to go to Waiheke, I think I’m pronouncing that incorrectly, and Queenstown. This side of the family is very athletic and very fitness-oriented so they all did a bunch of hikes and stuff, and I was more just kind of chilling but it was really nice.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND, I WOULD…
CDM: When we first spoke last year on the phone, you said the coolest thing was your fans sharing their lives with you. You’ve taken that to the next level with the ‘My Blue Thoughts’ mailbox at your live shows, with people writing notes to you. What has that experience been like?
LAUV: It’s been a lot of different things. Some people have written really funny things, nonsensical stuff, but then some people have written some really crazy, personal, vulnerable things, which I think is really beautiful. I guess the way for me to actually assess it is, I would like to know from fans how it’s impacted them. If writing those things down has helped them let any of it go. I know for me that’s been such a big thing. As much as I can in the morning, I'll try to just write this thing called a ‘Morning Page’ where I’ll write everything in my brain down to just get it down there so I can stop stressing and obsessing over it. So that’s kind of what I was hoping the box would do, even if people don’t change anything in their life, they can write it down and they can kind of just acknowledge it. But it’s been really cool just seeing what people have written all over the world.
CDM: In that same interview, we talked about how you wanted to do the phone calls with fans, saying, “We're all human, I always have the feeling that I want to edit myself too, but the most freeing and exciting feeling is not editing yourself and just being in the moment and just being real,” which ties in with the messages of why you want to do the Blue Thoughts too. Why do you think there’s a societal expectation to edit ourselves, and make our lives appear to look better than they often are?
LAUV: I think a lot of it is the internet, because I’m the kind of person who believes, for example, something as big as identity is more fluid than people think. That who you are in one moment doesn’t necessarily have to be who you are in another moment. But the internet kind of forces people to be able to judge you, or allows people to be able to judge you permanently based on one tiny moment. I think people are so afraid of going anywhere in one moment, because you’re thinking like, ‘Oh, but that has to represent my brand or who I am all the time.’ I think we’re all humans and we all feel different ways, like I could feel one way and then half a second later feel a different way, just because. We’re animals and I don’t necessarily think that we’re that simple in that way, so I think the Internet has a lot to do with it in my opinion.
CDM: Do you think the most important moments in our lives are the unedited, in-the-moment ones?
LAUV: Yeah, I think definitely. I was having this thought earlier today. I was here [in New Zealand] before and we went to this coffee shop nearby again this morning, it’s called Shaky Isles and it’s a cool spot, but there’s plenty of cool places. When I walked in I just had the strongest feeling of nostalgia because I was there with my sister last time I was here and we had a two-hour long, really deep, in-the-moment conversation, just about a million things in our lives. Stuff that she’s struggling with, stuff that I’m struggling with, feelings we have about the world, and problems and all this and that. It was something I didn’t expect to happen that morning and it did, and I had this feeling that your most valuable memories, at least for me, my most valuable memories and the things that mean the most to me and last the longest in my heart, are those times where you can just go all the way there with somebody, and totally be free to express however you feel and have a conversation and connect.
CDM: Your music is often so rooted to places - In ‘I Like Me Better’ you talk about being young and in love in New York City, and obviously ‘Paris In The Rain’. Why do you think your songwriting is so connected to locations?
LAUV: It’s me, I just feel places represent certain feelings and it’s more the ideas of places, I’m obsessed with the ideas of things. To me, the idea of 'to be young and in love in New York City', it just is a cliché in and of itself, and people who’ve never been to New York can imagine what that feels like I think, and it really was like that. For me, ‘Paris In The Rain’ is about the idea of being in Paris in the rain without actually being in Paris, which is why I shot the music video in Paris, Texas. I love the ideas that go behind places, when they can consistently mean something for so many people that it now becomes an idea that everybody can share.
CDM: I really love ‘Getting Over You’, and the fact you released it on Valentine’s Day was a rad touch. Why do you think that heartbreak, and getting over relationships, is such a hard thing to do?
LAUV: Oh my god. So I once spoke to somebody, a married couple, and they had been each other’s first serious relationship and they had stayed together. At the time I was kind of going through something and I was just looking for something, some kind of advice. He said something along the lines of, ‘Our hearts can only take so much.’ In his belief, it was that you can go through life and you can get your heart broken, adapt and meet somebody else, or if you have something beautiful with one person you can decide you’re gonna make it work for a lifetime. At the time I didn’t really understand that, I was kind of like, ‘Oh whatever, I think that’s a little bit cheesy, and a little hokey.’ Now I’ve kind of come to the place where I understand where that comes from. I feel like at least for me, once you fully, really, really, seriously fall in love with somebody and then come out of that, it’s so hard to not compare every other potential relationship with that, and every other feeling against that. To try to move on from it is so hard because you have you have to go through so much to let yourself go there in the first place. There’s so many hard times and you’re so vulnerable to somebody. The first time you do it, it’s really exciting, and then after that it’s almost like, <sighs> ‘I have to do this again?’ It’s really hard and then you become cynical, I mean I’m just speaking about me I guess, but I think other people maybe too. Yeah, you get cynical and you’re too exhausted to do it again. Then you find yourself being shitty and just defaulting to just more surface-level physical relationships and stuff instead, because it’s too hard to go there again. I don’t know... it’s weird, I think that’s just how it is.
CDM: In ‘Paris In The Rain’ you sing, “I might not deserve it but there's nothing better.” Do you think that we, as humans, are often conditioned to believe that we’re not deserving of love?
LAUV: That’s an interesting question. I do. I think so. I feel a few ways on that, it’s sort of a split thing for me. In some ways it’s almost a ‘thing’ to say, it’s almost like a term of endearment to be like, ‘I don't deserve you, you are so incredible, how could I deserve you?’ I don’t honestly know if it’s like a literal, ‘I’m a shittier person than you and I don’t deserve you.’ But I think we have a way of putting ourselves down or lowering ourselves as a way to endear somebody else, even if you don’t really, really mean it in your heart of hearts. But I think that’s an interesting thing.
CDM: Pop culture teaches us that love is such a difficult and emotional rollercoaster, but it’s different for everyone, and it’s weird that we often only see one representation of it. Do you find it important for your music to showcase the multi-faceted sides of love? Not just the beautiful/romantic?
LAUV: Yeah, I think that’s a big part of the association for me with blue and love, as opposed to doing something like pink or red, is because blue for me gives me the feeling of all the complexities of love. Just because I grew up listening to a lot of sad and longing music and I think blue can feel that way. But for me, different shades of blue mean all the different… Because the question at the end of the day is, how much of love is rooted in just chemicals in your brain, or is it something real? I think it’s kind of a combination, it’s a little bit functional too. I think that euphoric feeling is just chemicals in your brain in a lot of ways, endorphins. But I think there is something really beautiful, there is an art to making sacrifices and enduring really hard times with somebody. Even that in itself bonds people, going through hard times together. I’ve always been really fascinated by all of the stuff aside from just the simplicity of falling in love. I think the more, ‘How much pain can I go through and why is that worth it? And how much do you learn about yourself? How much do you learn about somebody else? How much do you create your own definition of what love is?,' I think that’s what a lot of me falling in love for the first time was, was kind of discovering what is my definition, and what are the important parts of love. Because I think people look to other people to define it. I would do it all the time too, I would be like, ‘Oh is that person attractive or something?’ That’s so weird, whatever you find attractive is what you find attractive, and if you wanna be happy you have to chase your own version of attraction and your own version of love. For you, if going through a lot of negative times is worth it and it teaches you things, then for you it is, you know?
CDM: Is it important for your live show to be performed in the same order as the ‘I Met You When I Was 18’ playlist?
LAUV: Yeah, I wanted to do that. I was really stubborn about it. It actually took me many, many hours trying to figure out how to make it work because ‘I Like Me Better’ is at the top. But I was like, I can’t play the actual ‘I Like Me Better’, that has to be an encore, and ‘The Other’ has to be part of the encore because those are my two biggest songs. If I had done the shows straight up and that was the first song, by the time people had gotten to the end, people wouldn’t... So I had to kind of figure out how to take the bridge from ‘The Other’ and put that there in the order instead of the full song, and do stuff like that. But yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I’m getting ready to release new songs soon, trying to figure out how to piece those in.
CDM: How much more of the ‘I Met You When I Was 18’ story is there still to be told?
LAUV: I’m trying to think of what would be the best way… I would say there’s definitely a few pieces, it’s not a tiny bit, but it’s definitely not a ton.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT ‘I MET YOU WHEN I WAS 18’…
MY FAVOURITE SONG FROM ‘I MET YOU WHEN I WAS 18’ IS…
CDM: In our last interview you said that you thought the strongest human emotions are love and fear. But songs like ‘Paranoid’ are equally as emotive. Do you think love drives all these other emotions that go alongside relationships?
LAUV: Yeah I think for me at least, ‘Paranoid’ was coming from a feeling of fear, it was fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear that somebody could just play with you and do the same thing with somebody else. Paranoia to me is straight-up fear. I do feel like most feelings stem from love and fear.
CDM: You had a high school band which you booked shows for via MySpace. What did the band sound like?
LAUV: Oh man, I guess at that time you would define it as acoustic electronica, with shitty synths and acoustic guitar, but then also pop-punk? It was that kind of thing.
CDM: Do you think this sense of independence and being in charge of your own career has been why you’ve maintained not signing to a major record label yet?
LAUV: Yeah, it’s been kind of rediscovering part of myself that has been the most rewarding thing. I kind of went a period of time after that MySpace era where I had kind of lost the confidence to be my own artist and do my own thing. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh shit, I can write songs for other artists and I can produce songs for other artists,’ and that became my whole mindset. Then coming back and writing my first song with ‘The Other’ and making music as Lauv has all been reconnecting with that sense of independence and honestly just being a kid and expressing myself in every single way and being free. Having that kind of experience of being in charge of my own career is definitely inspiring my decision to be independent now.
CDM: I feel like it’s so important for artists to know about every aspect of their career, and I feel like when you sign to a major, you’re less involved with each aspect?
LAUV: Yeah I think that definitely can happen and it’s certainly important for me. I’m just a big control freak and I think so much about every piece, so I worry that if I lose control of it that it might become not me, and I don’t want that.
CDM: Have you been songwriting about things that have happened after the narrative of ‘I Met You When I Was 18’? Is this future music a different ‘colour’ do you think?
LAUV: Yeah. That’s a good question. It’s too early in the process to know exactly what it’s gonna look like. I feel that there is definitely blue in there, but I definitely think there’s gonna be evolution as well.
LAUV’s ‘I Met You When I Was 18’ playlist is out now - stream it below…
P.S. Order a physical version of this photoshoot/interview with a CDM x Lauv zine - click here to purchase.