Lauv is an artist who has always been honest through his songwriting and shared his struggles with mental health, and in-turn strived to create a safe space with his listeners for them to turn to. His debut album ‘~how i’m feeling~’ and collective project ‘i met you when i was 18’ were vulnerable bodies of work that let listeners into his world, and soundtracked his coming of age journey. And the hits came with ‘I Like Me Better’, ‘The Other’, ‘i’m so tired… featuring Troye Sivan’, ‘fuck i’m lonely’ featuring Anne-Marie, and ‘There’s No Way’ featuring Julia Michaels taking over your playlists and igniting singalongs all over the world on his sold out tours.
After what felt like a continuous string of releases, Lauv (real name Ari) took some time to himself during the global pandemic to really process everything, and to also ultimately look after his own mental health. From that time away, he wrote his sophomore studio album ‘All 4 Nothing’ which is this super reflective body of work, that also has an overarching hopeful element to it. It’s a record that saw him taking a step back from being the sole-producer and he began collaborating with other producers to push his sound in exciting new directions. In-turn he also found that his songwriting methods began to change, and he started to allow the lyrics to come subconsciously in a freestyle delivery instead or meticulously edging towards something. This has allowed for him to create an even more honest, reflective, and vulnerable record that welcomes fans into a whole new era of Lauv.
I chatted to Lauv about the direct and reflective lyrical honesty behind his new album ‘All 4 Nothing’, explored the creative processes behind songs like ‘26’, ‘Stay Together’ and ‘Hey Ari’, and discussed the ways he’s going to to continue creating a safe space at his live shows for fans. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Upon a first listen ‘All 4 Nothing’ certainly feels like an ultra reflective record that captures deep vulnerability with a mix of hope and understanding. If you were to go back and play this record to yourself on the release day of ‘~how i’m feeling~’, how do you reckon that Ari would’ve reacted to where you’re at now?
LAUV: That’s an amazing question! I think he would be mind blown. He would definitely be like “what is happening?” *laughs*. I think there would be a lot of cool surprises for him in terms of songs like ‘Bad Trip’, as that song sonically was really fun for me as it reminded me a lot of the music I listened to growing up. But yeah, he’d be definitely surprised sonically of the record as there’s so many different vibes going on.
TB: ‘26’ opens the record in a super autobiographical way, especially with the opening lines; “Can I tell you a story about a boy who broke his own heart? And he always blamed everybody else. But the truth is that he did it to himself”. Those lines are so vivid, and give me little goosebumps because the journey to get to a place to understand that realisation must’ve been quite hard, and now it’s the first thing people are going to learn about you on this record?
L: Definitely! Writing ‘26’ was honestly a very painful, and cathartic experience as I was just like “how are these lyrics coming out of me?” They were literally appearing on the microphone at that moment. I wasn’t even thinking about anything, it just happened. I had been working on a few ideas that day, and nothing was really clicking. And then all of a sudden all of ‘26’ just came so fast. It was crazy.
TB: Do you find that happens a lot, where you just have a stream of subconsciousness?
L: Yeah! That’s one of my favourite experiences, because most of the time I spend in the studio is me trying things that aren’t clicking, and feeling let down by what we’ve made. But then all of a sudden there are moments like that where everything just happens. It’s like magic!
TB: As a songwriter, were you worried about polarising listeners with the lyrics “twenty-six and rich. How the hell did it come to this?, and potentially losing that relatability or empathy with them that you had built?
L: Yeah, I definitely didn’t want the song to be taken out of context, as I can see how people could get confused by it and question what is going on. What I meant by that song was that I was still broken on the inside even though things were good on the outside. I never pictured that I would even get to this place where I had success in my music career, in addition to feeling really anxious and low about a lot of things. So I guess I was just trying to give people context of those feelings.
TB: As a long time fan of yours, ‘Stranger’ made me very excited because it feels like the ultimate elevation lyrically and sonically to ‘i met you when i was 18’. Do you see any parallels between this song and that body of work, or time in your life?
L: No way, that’s so cool! In a weird way, now that you’ve said that, I can totally see that. I wrote so many of these songs by freestyling on the microphone which is something I used to never do. So in that way these new songs are so different to my old material, but I can definitely see some parallels with ‘Stranger’ and ‘i met you when i was 18’ now that you’ve said that.
TB: ‘Stay Together’ was a song that lyrically fascinated me as it was a very different type of break up song as it was a very thankful track to something ending because you can see that it was wrong for you. Did you surprise yourself by writing a song like this?
L: Yeah, it kinda came out of nowhere because I was in the middle of writing all of these other songs that were more about my life in the moment, and where I was at especially in the lockdown. Whereas this song was about an old relationship. It was really random how it came about.
TB: How long did that song take to get where it is now sonically?
L: The writing was really quick, but the production took a while. There was an early demo, and then it got reworked a little bit. The guitars were always there, but the drums got re-done and got a bigger vibe to it.
TB: ‘Kids Are Born Stars’ has these really cool pop production quirks, that almost has a boyband feel to them. Was this the sort of direction you wanted to take the song in?
L: Yeah, it gives me that quirky, almost cheesy, but intentionally in a cute way feeling. My favourite thing about the song are the horns in the background, they’re so sick. But writing that song was me reflecting on eighth grade, and it reminded me of something I’d maybe have made back then.
TB: ‘Hey Ari’ is the album’s most directly vulnerable moment on the record, and it acts as a poem to yourself. It feels almost like a stream of consciousness. Did it come together in that way, or was it a very meticulous song lyrically to find what you needed to say?
L: That one again was pretty subconscious, and kinda just came out. There were a few lyrics I tweaked for a little bit, but for the most part that one came together pretty fast. I mean, most of the songs came together in such a fast way. I made a lot of songs in-between that were not good, but when I was making one of the songs that made it, they came together pretty fast.
TB: ‘~how i’m feeling’ and ‘i met you when i was 18’ were both length bodies of work, whereas this record was quite short in comparison. Was there any part of you that wanted to add more songs, or were you intentionally trying to refine what you were creating?
L: Yeah, I think I was torn as a part of me loves making long projects and putting a bunch of songs and things out. And a lot of people were telling me that I should make an eight song to ten song album this time around, but I knew it had to be more-so ten to twelve songs long as a minimum. As I was narrowing the songs down there were just a bunch of songs that had different dimensions to them, but they worked together to paint a bigger picture, so that’s how we ended up landing on thirteen songs.
TB: I also wanted to chat to you about your live show, because I saw the ‘I Met You When I Was 18 Tour’ as well as the ‘~How Im Feeling Tour~, and both of them felt like experiences rather than just shows. Especially with the 2019 tour aiming to create a safe space by having Beyond Blue volunteers there talking to fans and handing out flyers, the My Blue Thoughts section, as well as cool innovative merch giveaways and bundles with qr codes to win meet n greets. So as you look towards touring this record, are you planning on furthering those experiences and continuing to create safe spaces for your fans?
L: Yeah definitely. One of the things I actually really wanted to do, which I’m not as I realised it’s going to be really hard to do during the show, is that in my mental health journey I’ve become really into meditation, and I actually love guiding my friends through it. So I thought about what if I could do a meditation on stage, but then in rehearsal I realised it was going to be really hard. But I am working on something else that I think will be really cool, and still be accessible, and create a nice vibe for people and something for them to lean on.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the record. Are you ready?
L: Let’s go!
TB: The emoji that best describes my new album ‘All 4 Nothing’ is…
L: The little monkey covering his eyes.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
L: ‘Better Than This’
TB: The song that went through the most versions to get it to where it is now is…
L: ‘Stay Together’.
TB: Another title I was playing with for the album was…
L: ‘Kids Are Born Stars’ was one of the original titles I had.
TB: The first song I’d want you to show your friends from our album would be…
L: ‘Bad Trip’.
‘All 4 Nothing’ is out now!