Chances are you may have already heard of LA singer/songwriter/producer Lauv, without even knowing it. 23-year-old Ari Staprans Leff is a writer who’s contributed to tracks like Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’ and Demi Lovato and Cheat Codes’ ‘No Promises’, and if you haven’t already, you’re about to hear his solo work too.
After just two years of releasing music as Lauv, he’s hit the jackpot with his slinky, minimal jam ‘I Like Me Better’. Australia is one of the first countries to embrace it, sending it into the top 10, while it’s also picking up steam in the US and the UK. It’s a pretty good indication so early on in his career that he’s one of the next big pop heroes. His soulful follow-up ‘Easy Love’ is further proof that the addictive melodies aren’t few and far between.
On top of all of that, he features on the new DJ Snake single ‘A Different Way’, co-written by pop’s current golden boy, Ed Sheeran. You can’t help but think with Lauv’s sharp solo work and work for others that he could be coming for Sheeran’s crown.
It’s early days for Lauv and — as he told Music Feeds over the phone from LA — it’s the “craziest time of my life so far”. He also spoke about knowing that ‘I Like Me Better’ was the one, watching Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’ take on another visual life and what’s next on the horizon.
Music Feeds: How are you feeling off the back of ‘I Like Me Better’? It’s blowing up down here.
Ari Staprans Leff: Man, it’s crazy. I guess I’m feeling really lucky and thankful. I’ve been doing a bit of travelling and I’m back home rehearsing before tour. It’s the craziest time of my life so far.
MF: Obviously, you’re always trying to put your best foot forward but was there a certain feeling surrounding ‘I Like Me Better’ before you dropped it?
AL: It’s funny. When I first finished the song, I think… obviously the production is very minimal. I thought that I had to add some stuff to it. I thought maybe it’s too minimal, like it was the control freak inside of me. And then, when I really started to realise the song had something special was when I started to play it live.
I remember playing it in a basement bar in Seattle where my parents live. My parents have watched me play music my whole life and have been supporting me, but I remember after I got off my Dad was like, “That ‘I Like Me Better’ song, I felt like I knew if after one chorus.” And that just kept on happening to me when I played it. I started to get a feeling, but you really never know.
MF: That song is very minimal and a lot of stuff on the radio over here at the moment is in the same vein. Do you think in the time you’ve been making music that commercial music been heading in that direction?
AL: I don’t know. A lot of my favourite stuff has been doing that for a while. There are a couple of producers I’m really inspired by who have been doing it, and what I’m always driven by are songs that feel classic but done in the way where you’re not sure exactly what genre it is. Obviously, as the culture becomes more global, it’s interesting that music can do that. Minimalism works well because every sound makes a statement.
MF: People got to know you here with ‘I Like Me Better’, but now your second song ‘Easy Love’ is out and people are starting to call themselves fans. Was it a difficult decision choosing a follow-up?
AL: No, actually. I wrote it shortly after ‘I Like Me Better’ and it felt right.
MF: It has a different tone to it and a certain soulfulness. Which one do you think is most like the rest of your catalogue?
AL: It’s tough to judge my own music. I have friends who will hear songs I’ve written for other people and they had no idea I wrote the song and they’re like, “It sounded like you and I searched it and it turns out you wrote the song.” And I’m like, “How do you know? How do you hear that?” I guess it’s hard to be aware of yourself in that sense.
MF: I’ve interviewed Rostam [songwriter/producer and former member of Vampire Weekend], and he says he doesn’t distinguish between writing for others and himself. Do you?
AL: It can be a little different. There are times when I just sit down and write a song, but for me I’m all about how the lyrics turn out and that it’s actually about my life, because I’ve lived a life and I’ve gone through some stuff that I want to share with people. But working with another artist my first goal is to help them tell their story.
MF: Charli XCX and Demi Lovato are two massive artists to have in your discography early on. Do you have others on your hit list?
AL: I would love to write with Chris Martin, for whatever. I don’t even know if I could take the honour of writing a Coldplay song. That’s too wild to even imagine but if we could write a song for me or for whatever, I’d love to write a song with Chris.
MF: How did you feel about what Charli XCX did with ‘Boys’?
AL: That was awesome. That song was very different for me because my stuff is very emotional and this was an opportunity to do something more fun. What I love most about Charli is when she took it… her music videos are so crazy. I’m sure you’ve seen the ‘Boys’ video. I could’ve never imagined it becoming something like that.
MF: What’s it like to watch other artists mould your songs into something else sonically and visually?
AL: It’s really cool. I think it’s nothing but cool. There’s nothing better than being able to share creativity. That’s how you get to see who people are in many ways. It’s what their angle is on something. It’s awesome.
MF: Was it ever difficult for you to figure out how you wanted to portray yourself as a solo artist from the name to the cover art?
AL: It’s interesting. Really, me being ‘Lauv’ was me getting back in touch with the artistic side of myself. Growing up I always wanted to be an artist, and then I got to 18 and I took a step away. It was kind of a confidence thing. I thought maybe I’d work with other artists or be an audio engineer. But up until now with this project it’s been me trusting myself with my own vision because if you’re going to be an artist you may as well share naturally what comes to your mind. All the visuals, everything, has been straight up from my brain. It’s been really freeing if anything.
MF: You’ve been releasing music for a while but from the co-writes to your own stuff it feels like it’s finally all happening. Is it nice to have your own voice now?
AL: Yeah, it’s really awesome. Even beyond the fact I’m having success with the music. It’s cool seeing the way I can impact people, fans and new fans, and the way they’re sharing themselves with me. One of the biggest reasons I’m doing this is because being an artist has been freeing. I thought everything I was doing was too dumb or too personal and maybe people wouldn’t care, but then I realised we’re all humans going through stuff and one of the best things is to share that with mankind and find people who have been through that too.
MF: It’s often very daunting before releasing very personal music, but once fans start relating you see the emotions you may have thought were singular are universal. When did that hit you?
AL: There’s two things. One, even when I first put out music, people messaged me and emailed me and told me the struggles in their relationship. I thought that was really cool just emailing someone and spilling everything that’s on your mind.
The second thing was when I did my headlining tour. I had fans coming up to me with tattoos of my lyrics. That was a grounding experience. I have a couple of tattoos myself and knowing that’s on their body forever. Wow. That’s important stuff. That reminds me how important it is I’m putting stuff out that I believe has a message.
MF: What’s next for you? Album? Single? EP?
AL: I’m finishing a bunch of new music and there’s gonna be new stuff coming. I can’t say too much but I’m putting together something bigger. Definitely bigger.