Interview: Troye Sivan on the "gay joy" of 'My My My!', his new film role, and queer representation.

It’s hard to deny that Troye Sivan is having a Big Moment. Most artists get one such moment in a career, where all the stars seem to align and everything falls perfectly into place, clearing the path to an unstoppable ascension. But this 22-year-old South Africa-born Australian’s story isn’t quite as straightforward. One could even argue that the last five years of Troye’s life has been one long, protracted Big Moment.

For those of us who have followed his career for half a decade now, looking back on the artistic journey he’s been on is something of a mind-bending experience. In 2013 came the YouTube superstardom. His famed coming out video, currently sitting on eight million views, blasted him into the vlogging A-list. A year later came his first release, ‘TRXYE’, which was followed by the ‘WILD’ EP and his debut album, ‘Blue Neighbourhood’, both in 2015. Dropping in December of that year to five-star reviews, it cemented Troye’s status as an alt-pop darling. It was around this time, when he was touring ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ in New Zealand, that we last caught up with Troye, for the cover of CDM Issue #19. Collaborations on that record with Alessia Cara, Jack Antonoff and Broods helped bring him to the attention of big name producers and artists, who he was seen rubbing shoulders with at awards ceremonies, fashion shows and the like.

And so we, and Troye, arrive at 2018. His as-yet-untitled sophomore LP is expected this Spring (NZT), proceeded by a one-two punch of singles to rival the best pop music has seen in the past few years: ‘My My My!’ and ‘The Good Side’. The former, a hands-in-the-air certified banger about the absolute joy of finding someone who you can’t keep your hands off or have a single night away from, has been heralded by many as one of the best pop songs of the year so far. The latter harks back to the end of the relationship that inspired ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ and offers an apology to an ex for the fact that Troye walked away somewhat unscathed. Following an appearance on Saturday Night Live, in which he performed the two tracks on an episode hosted by Jessica Chastain and watched by millions of Americans, and with a yet-to-be-released Ariana Grande collaboration in his back pocket, Troye enters 2018 on the cusp of household name status.

After several years of being a huge star to a few subsets of the global populace, he’s now crossing over into the biggest of big leagues, the upper echelons of pop, and you’d be hard pressed to find another artist who feels better equipped to grab this particular Big Moment with both hands. The fact that he can do this on the back of a music and visuals that are so openly queer (if you didn’t know better and were to squint a bit, you might think the ‘My My My!’ video was in fact one of Madonna's from the late 80s) is a testament to the times and the commercial power of the young, open-minded audience who have – and continue to – gravitate towards him.

The day we catch up with him in London is one of, if not the snowiest day London has seen in years. Sheltering from the blizzard in a regal five-star hotel and dressed in a red sweater by Valentino, the fashion house for whose menswear he is the current face, Troye bounds around the hallways with a spring in his step that disguises the cold he’s battling, picked up somewhere along this two-week European promo trip. Such is the risk he opens himself up to in order to have the kind of close relationship with his fans that has been second nature to him for all the time that he has had a following. Photos on social media from three listening parties in London (the week before, following his attendance at the Brit Awards), Paris and Stockholm, where he played cuts from the unfinished record, show him embracing his adoring admirers. One is inclined to believe that a little illness is a risk he’s willing to take if it means getting to enjoy these personal connections. And besides, tomorrow he jets back home to Australia for some well-earned re– wait, no, scratch that, he’s straight back into promo Down Under too. No rest for the wicked, eh?

Troye spoke to us about the “gay joy” of ‘My My My!’, why he can’t be a voice for all queer people, returning to acting after a few years of focusing on music, and much, much more.

COUP DE MAIN: We love the video for ‘My My My!’ Let’s talk about the strut. Was it choreographed, or is that all you? Did you need some time to warm up?
TROYE SIVAN: It wasn’t choreographed. I had a movement coach on set, which was really helpful. That was the way I was moving around my hotel room the day we wrote the song. I was dancing around to it, pretending I was, like, the shit. I knew that I wanted to do that for the music video but had no idea where I was gonna pull the confidence from. On the day, the first set up we did was one of the super wide shots in the warehouse. It was, like, sixty crew members, a camera, and then just me in this huge empty space. They were like, “Ready, set, go!” I just had this moment where I was like, “You know what, I’m just gonna go for it.” I asked the movement coach if he would stand behind this one pillar and do [the strut] with me, so I didn’t feel as weird, because I was super embarrassed. It was more for moral support than anything else.


 
CDM: Did you look at footage on set, or would that have made you self-conscious?
TROYE:
Well, I wanted to shoot it on film so that the video would have that classic, beautiful film look, and that grain. But what that means is you can hardly watch [footage], because there’s this one little tiny screen that shows this really blurry, bad version of what it’s going to look like. So I didn’t really watch. When I was talking to Grant Singer, the director of the video, I had two options. He was like, “You can either be super happy with it on the day and we shoot digital and that’s the way it looks, or you can just trust me with the film stuff on the day and when you get it back you’re gonna be floored.” I was like, “Let’s do option B.”
 
CDM: The video for ‘My My My!’ is so powerful and confident, and also quite camp in a way that I feel out gay men in the public eye are often discouraged from being. Have you ever had push back from people who are happy with you being out, but less happy with how you choose to physically express yourself?

TROYE
: Not really. If anything, the push back was from myself. I definitely had that internalised homophobia, and ultimately that sexism. I grew up watching myself. And then I came out, and even afterwards it was still this thing in the back of my head, like, don’t stand like that, or don’t dance like that. Just through growing up and feeling so happy and so liberated… I specifically didn’t want to make the video feel explicit, because I wanted it to have as wide of a reach as possible, so that I could communicate this other agenda, not of gay sexuality necessarily, but gay confidence, and gay joy, and comfortability. So that campness, I’m so happy that it’s in there. That’s what felt real to me and so that’s what I wanted to communicate.

MY GOOD SIDE IS...


 
CDM: Grant Singer also directed Lorde’s video for ‘Green Light’. Is the phone knocked off the wall in ‘My My My!’ a reference to that video?

TROYE
: No, I didn’t even know that that happened until I was watching back, and I was like, wait a second! So, no, it wasn’t. Unless Grant put it in there without me knowing.
 
CDM: Yeah, maybe it’s his trademark. We’re super excited to see ‘Boy Erased’ later this year! How did the role come to you?

TROYE: Very bougie sentence, but I had always told my agents that acting was something that I was putting on the back burner a little bit, but if the right role came around, I would love to [act again]. Like, “Please send me everything and I’ll audition for what I want to audition for.” I had kind of low expectations for acting, because it takes so much time. You audition for fifty things to get one role, and that’s if you’re lucky. So I always just kind of assumed it wasn’t going to happen, but then they were like, “We’ve found a project we want to send your way.” I read the script in like an hour, saw the cast attached to it, saw that Joel Edgerton was directing. It’s just such an important story, and it’s so beautifully told. I think it’s going to be really important. I just wanted to be in this movie so bad. So I auditioned, put it on tape and sent it off. I hadn’t heard anything back, and I was on the street in LA and this guy walked past me and I was like, “I think I recognise that person but I don’t know from where.” He stopped and turned around and started walking towards me and I was like, “He’s probably gonna ask for a photo.” And I thought I was about to have a fan experience. And then I was like, “Holy fuck, that’s Lucas Hedges,” who’s the lead in the movie. He came up to me and was like, “This is so weird, but did you just audition for ‘Boy Erased’?” I hadn’t told anyone, so I was like, “Uh, yeah, I did.” He was like, “Joel sent me your audition.” That was the first moment where I thought maybe this is gonna happen. Two days later, I FaceTimed with Joel and he told me that I got the part.
 
HOW I LOOKED AT NICOLE KIDMAN ON THE SET OF 'BOY ERASED'...

CDM: It’s notable that the two artists who’ve made the best pop music of 2018, yourself and Janelle Monáe, are both also actors. Do you connect your music with your desire to perform too? It seems the film might cross over with some of the topics raised on songs like ‘HEAVEN’. Or is it not that deep?
TROYE:
It wasn’t intentional. This role felt perfect for me. It really did feel like an absolute dream, it fit in so many different ways. I think I got lucky. But I also feel like a lot of singers can act, and a lot of actors can sing. I think it’s a similar muscle, in a weird way.
 
CDM: You’ve avoided the trap that some famous white gay men can fall into of thinking that the LGBTQ+ movement is all about them. Are you conscious of your privilege and how that ties into your role in our diverse community?

TROYE:
Totally, yeah. I think that’s why I’ve always politely rejected anyone who tries to be like, “Do you see yourself as a voice for _____?” Because I, ideally, am a part of a much bigger machine of trying to get LGBT voices heard – not just mine, not just anyone’s. I think that the more we’re starting to see people like Kevin Abstract pop up, or people like myself, or Hayley Kiyoko, or Sam Smith, or Halsey, or whatever – the LGBTQ community is so diverse and so huge that I don’t think there will ever be enough representation. Some LGBT kids are gonna look at me and be like, “I don’t relate to that person at all,” and that’s totally fine. I’m just trying to be the best voice that I can for people who might see themselves in me, but not for everyone, all the time.
 
CDM: You’ve said that a song on the album called ‘Bloom’ is “subversively queer”. How so?

TROYE:
It just ended up being a little bit ironic. It sounds like a commercial viable pop song - it’s very, very pop. It feels almost like borderline bubblegum, a little bit. We had so much fun writing it. And then the lyrics – it’s one of the dirtiest songs on the album.

HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY NEW ALBUM...
 

CDM: And finally, when are you planning on returning to New Zealand?
TROYE:
I would like to say that I’m gonna be back soon for promo. If not for promo, then I’ll definitely come and play a show. So, touring.

MY FAVOURITE THING TO DO WHEN IT'S SNOWING...

'My My My!' and 'The Good Side' are out now. Troye's second studio album will follow later this year.

Watch Troye perform 'The Good Side' on 'Saturday Night Live':