Lauv Explains How a 'Sappy Ass Movie' Inspired New Song & Opening for Ed Sheeran Has Been Life-Changing

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Jennica Mae
Lauv

At this point last year, a 22-year-old Lauv was watching his breakup tune “The Other” begin to take off on Spotify, nearly two years after releasing the somber dance track. Little did he know that just one year later, the song would go on to have more than 120 million streams and he’d have 20 million monthly listeners.

"I had no idea stuff was going to be where it is,” Lauv, whose real name is Ari Leff, tells Billboard. “It’s still sinking in, you know?”

While “The Other” certainly kickstarted things for Lauv -- which means “lion" in Latvian, an homage to his mother’s heritage and his first name, which means lion in Hebrew -- the singer-songwriter’s follow-up took things to an even bigger level. The bouncy, smitten relationship tale “I Like Me Better” has garnered nearly 250 million Spotify streams since its release in May.

But even with the sudden success of “The Other,” Lauv wasn’t sure where things would go. Although “I Like Me Better” was the fastest song he’d ever written (and his friends reassured him it was “perfect"), he was nervous about it.

"To be honest, that was the same thing with ‘The Other.’ I really had no expectations for what those songs would be,” he says. "With pretty much everything that I’ve done, in terms of going from being a songwriter and producer for other artists to doing my stuff, all the songs that I’ve kept to myself have always been me writing about my life. Just trying to be honest and vulnerable -- try to process something myself. I feel really lucky I’ve been able to do that and people have connected with it all around the world.”

Lauv has especially seen his international impact in recent weeks, serving as the opening act for Ed Sheeran on the Asia leg of his Divide World Tour. Even just a few dates into the tour, Lauv already considers the gig “life-changing,” as it’s his first time to that part of the world and his first chance to play arenas -- but more prominently, Sheeran is one hell of a mentor.

“In a world where there’s so much calculated shit happening out there, in terms of artists and the way they present themselves, Ed is through and through -- not just musically, but just as a person -- the most genuine person I think I’ve ever met,” Lauv shares. "That shines through on stage and how in-the-moment he is. And not only that, but he stays in the moment and the show is incredible. I think everybody in the audience is totally in the moment. It’s been really, really inspiring to be around him.”

The now 23-year-old singer got to relish in the amazing experience with his parents, who flew out from Seattle to see the first couple Ed shows. Possibly the most unforgettable part of this trek, though, is seeing thousands of phone lights illuminate around him: “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid."

 

thank you for lighting up my blue world --

A post shared by Lauv (@lauvsongs) on


Before the nightly shows in Manila, Lauv had the chance to perform at local malls, where he heard a couple thousand people -- who don’t even speak English -- sing every word back to him (“I’m totally blown away,” he gushes). He attributes that kind of reach to streaming, which he praises for launching careers thanks to the ability for people to stumble upon artists they never knew about.

“[There are] not the same gatekeepers anymore,” he explains, mentioning that he's been sharing music since the MySpace era. "I think that’s what music should be. It should just come back to the art, right? I hear a lot of people complaining about music today and I’m like, I think it’s the most exciting time ever, personally.”

His streaming success has earned him a nod as one of the first artists in Spotify’s emerging artists program RISE, which launched last month. Whether it’s the sound, the lyrics, or both that’s causing his music to resonate so much, Lauv is getting as much out of it as the fans are.

“Prior to [these releases], I just felt like I’ve been scared to share whatever I’m going through with people, because it’s so easy to be like, ‘Oh, they won’t understand it’ or ‘They won’t relate to it’ or whatever it might be,” he says. “All of this music, It’s definitely been the most freeing thing that I’ve ever done.”

The contrast between his two streaming sensations is ironic, with “The Other” discussing the end of a relationship and “I Like Me Better” is about the exciting beginnings of one (and “the first really happy song I’ve written for myself in God knows how long,” he laughs). Though when it comes down to it, all of that goes back to the fact that Lauv’s music is romantic.

“That’s also kind of part of why I ended up choosing blue as a big part of my theme,” he suggests, adding that he went through a massive emo phase that helped shaped his music. "I love exploring the more complicated side of love. I feel like I’ve always gravitated toward that.”

Lauv combines his romanticism and vulnerable storytelling on I met you when I was 18, an “album project,” in his words, on Spotify that will evolve in coming weeks and tell the story of what he’s been through, whether it be with love or something else. He just added the 11th track to the playlist today (Nov. 17), “Paris in the Rain,” which he feels is the most romantic song he’s ever put out.

As the song’s title suggests, it tells of a love story set in Paris (“Anywhere with you feels like Paris in the rain,” he croons on the track). But funny enough, what initially inspired it wasn’t actually his own love story at all.

Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite movies -- I love sappy ass movies,” he says with a laugh. "The first time I watched it, I was like, ‘Yo, I’m gonna write a song inspired by this movie.’ And then the second time I watched the movie, that’s when I got the concept of how I was going to write it. I picked up the guitar and wrote the song.”

Lauv plans to continue adding tracks to I met you when I was 18 over the coming weeks and months as he preps for his first headlining tour (named after the album project), which will start in North America in January and hit cities in Australia, New Zealand and Europe through April. Once he’s in the headlining spot, Lauv hopes he can live in the moment the way Sheeran does -- but almost more so, he’s looking forward to seeing the connection with his fans grow even more.

“I really hope to give to other people who are listening to my music the same thing that it’s done for me, which is make me feel more free and more accepting of myself,” he says. "It’s really, really cool to see my fans and people who discover my music giving that back. I hope I can help other people feel the same thing."

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