Four months on from when he was last here in Singapore as the opening act for Ed Sheeran, Ari Staprans Leff (better known as Lauv) popped by our shores for a one-night only performance as part of the Shell Make The Future festival. Taking time out of his busy schedule, the American singer-songwriter sat down with Teenage to talk about working with Ed Sheeran, his love for old Taylor Swift, penchant for memes and more.
Hi Lauv! You’ve opened for Ed Sheeran last November and now you’re here to perform your own set, how does it feel to be back in Singapore?
Oh, it’s awesome! I wish I could be here for longer, honestly. Those shows [opening for Ed] were so cool because those were actually my first arena shows ever, so it’s really special to be back.
How was it like working with Ed Sheeran? Do you look to him as an inspiration?
It was amazing! He’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, in a lot of different ways. As a creator, he has such a distinct sound. You can even hear it in the songs he writes for other people where it’s so obvious when it’s Ed. And he’s such a down-to-earth person and so genuinely nice, like the way he treats his whole team, and the way he and his whole team treated us was incredible. He’s definitely an inspiration to me, just kinda seeing the way he does his live shows, and seeing how big it sounds and how engaging the show is even when it’s just him on stage.
You’ve been writing songs for other artistes like Demi Lovato and Charli XCX. Is there a song you wished to have kept for yourself?
That’s a good question, but no, there hasn’t been one yet. That will probably happen someday but so far, no. For example, when I wrote “I Like Me Better”, one of my best friends asked me during dinner one night if I would give it away if Justin Bieber wanted to cut it, and I immediately went “Nope!”. I knew this song had to be mine, and I’m glad I kept it, but yeah hopefully someday I don’t have that regret.
What’s the decision process like behind you choosing to keep a song for yourself versus you giving it away?
For me, the songs that I know I have to keep tend to be more personal. I always write from my perspective and what I’ve been through, but when you’re writing with or for another artiste and when you’re in the room with a few other people, things change a little bit. I’ll add something from my own experience and then somebody else will interpret it a little bit differently and does their own thing with it, and when that happens, I feel like I can let go of it because it’s not quite as personal.
We read that you love sappy movies and we just have to ask – what’s your biggest musical guilty pleasure?
Well, I don’t really feel guilty about it but I’ve been going back to old Taylor Swift, like her Fearless album. Okay so I remember when I was in high school – you know how sometimes you just have the most random memories – I have this memory of being on the treadmill running one day and, oh what Taylor Swift song was it? It’s like one of her saddest and slowest songs ever, and I remember just taking the most intense run and feeling so good listening to this super sad song… Oh! It was a super slow ballad called ‘Last Kiss’ and I was running at like triple times the tempo. (Laughs) I’m pathetic.
You mentioned that ‘I Like Me Better’ was written when you were a freshman and in the midst of discovering who you were. What’s a piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old self?
I think it’s easier said than done, but to just be more accepting of yourself as you are. Cause I felt that around that time, I was very much trying so hard to make myself into who I thought people wanted me to be and who I thought I should be. And there was so much unhappiness that came from that. But, going through that also taught me that there was no other way I could live my life other than to accept myself. But I guess it would have been cool if I could have gotten there quicker.
Now at 23, would you say you’re ready for what fame is about to bring?
Well, I have no idea. Like I don’t feel like I’m famous at all. Not even close, no. To be honest, I don’t really think about it. I sort of feel like every new experience I go through, I kind of just adapt to it. I moved around so much growing up that I always felt like when something new was thrown at me, I would kind of just figure it out. I don’t really think about the fame part of it though.
You recently shared an Instagram post about having the freedom to let go of expectations and to be real. Was there a turning point in your life where you decided that “Okay, this is me. I’m going to be true to myself”?
It’s funny, I don’t know if there was one turning point, but rather it’s been a whole process, you know? ‘Cause I feel like I’ll have these days where I’ll feel really connected to [being myself] and that’s when I’m posting about that and I feel really happy and fulfilled and in the moment. But then, it’s like I can wake up two days later and be totally like “ugh, not again”, and I’ll be in a bad mood and start overthinking everything and I totally lose touch. So I feel like it’s a constant battle going back and forth, cause it just kinda depends on my mind, but I’m trying to stay grounded and in the moment.
So how do you deal with the bad days? Is there something that you tell yourself?
I try to meditate. But even if I don’t fully meditate, I try to take like little moments throughout the day to just sit there and feel my feet on the ground and just, breathe. Sometimes when I’m feeling really anxious and disconnected from the moment, I’ll just write endlessly in my iPhone notes until I finally feel like I can let the bad thoughts go.
The name of your tour is I Met You When I Was 18. Imagine you’re 18 again, what is one thing you would say to someone from when you were that age?
If anything, I think as I get older, I feel like sometimes I don’t even show my own family enough appreciation. Lately, I’ve been randomly texting my mum and dad, like the other day I was in a mood and I just shot them a text saying “Love you guys so much, and thank you for all that you’ve done for me”. And I think when I was 18, I was so caught up and distracted with myself and my life and moving to New York and stuff, but yeah I wish I could have been a little bit more open and expressive that way.
You started writing love songs even before you had a relationship. What is it about the topic that drew you to writing about it and where do you get your inspiration from?
I think I just wanted to fall in love so badly that I was obsessed with the idea of it and the feelings behind it and even like the sad parts of it. Sometimes I think that the things you remember most, the things you actually miss the most, are the things that were actually sad and hard at that point in time. I don’t know if other people feel that way but I certainly do, where I find myself missing times in my life where it was really hard and I didn’t like it for whatever reason. Yeah, I’ve always liked sad things.
A quick search on Instagram brings up loads of fan pages dedicated to you. What was your first reaction when you saw such accounts popping up?
I think it’s crazy! There are so many fan pages and I’m like “What? Why?”. I feel like I see multiple new ones everyday and I honestly don’t get it. But I love it when fans make memes of me. There’s like a bunch of them that post memes of me and [other members on the tour], and they’re hilarious. And I say “keep making memes, make me a meme”. I’m just trying to be the most famous meme ever. That’s success.
Lastly, what’s in the pipeline for you?
Definitely new music. I’ve actually been finishing new music while I’ve been on tour, which has been really fun, recording in hotel rooms and stuff like that. So, new music, finishing the rest of this tour, announcing more tour dates and hopefully some more really good food!
Lauv’s latest single ‘Chasing Fire’ is out now. Listen below or stream it on Spotify!
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