Piercing Modern Loneliness: Lauv Interviewed

Pop auteur on mental health awareness, remaining independent, and his new album...

Lauv is in London to meet fans, eager to speak about his creative process, and his incoming project.

Sitting down with Clash, he speaks openly about his independent success in the music industry and how he fought his way to the top. We talk about his struggles with mental illness and coping mechanisms, the decline in real human connection, and the pressure that comes with releasing music that talks about sensitive subjects.

With the release of his debut album on the horizon, pop visionary Lauv has delivered an anthemic new single for the technology driven generation: ‘Modern Loneliness’. The power ballad is both a statement and a commentary on our current society, where we are increasingly ‘alone together’.

‘Modern Loneliness’ will be featured on Lauv’s highly anticipated upcoming album ‘~how i'm feeling~’, out later this week…

Secure tickets for upcoming Lauv concerts here via Clash & Ticketmaster.

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How did you get here? All of your music has been released independently and with fantastic success, with no label. Can you explain the process and how you've done this all by yourself?

Okay – I’ve actually been excited to answer this question! I’d been playing music since I was a little kid, but I didn’t start falling in love with it until I was like, 11 or something, that’s when I started playing guitar and writing songs. I thought to myself, this is tight – that’s when I started playing in bands and started to produce music, and it was the MySpace era.

Honestly, I feel like I owe a lot to that era – like, I even have a tattoo of the logo behind my ear, I love MySpace. I loved that era so much because MySpace was the era of self-grind, playing in bands and booking your own tours. Me and my best friend, we would program our own light shows and we were like 14 years old, reaching out to all of these venues, trying to make shit happen – I’d friend request random people and start commenting on their pages, asking them to check out my music and maybe give it a buy! I was absolutely obsessed with it.

I never really got anywhere big, I saw other artist’ explode, which I always wanted and it never really happened and after going through all of that, it was around the time I was starting to go to University and I thought to myself, maybe I should stop trying to be an artist.

So, I decided to focus on being a songwriter and producer, and so I did that for a bit. But I quickly became unsatisfied and wanted more for myself – that’s when I wrote my first song as Lauv and it was the first song that was very personal for me and real; released it in 2015 with no expectations whatsoever, it immediately caught on with ‘hype machine’ and all these other blogs, all of a sudden I had publications and labels reaching out to me.

None of the deals they were offering agreed with me, therefore I just kept releasing my own music on ‘Tune Core’, releasing my music through iTunes and Spotify, things like that, independently. Throughout college I carried on doing this, I was writing songs still for other artist’s – and then all of a sudden, things started happening serendipitously, the song I released in 2017 began to blow up on Spotify out of nowhere. They started getting playlisted, and then they made it on ‘Today’s top 10’ playlists, I started working with my current managers and I was finally feeling confident-ish, with my live show.

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After all of that, I had just written ‘I Like Me Better’ and then the major labels started flooding in, asking to sign me and offering me these deals, which I was completely unsure of as I had no idea what I was doing. It was really crazy having no one care about your music, to suddenly the biggest labels in the world wanting a piece of your work.

I had a lot of friends that got signed to major labels and had had really bad experiences, their music got shelved and was never released – they could do nothing about it as they were stuck in contracts, and from their it was a slippery slope for them.

I thought to myself, I don’t want to potentially go down that path, therefore I spoke to my managers about it – and they were extremely supportive of me staying independent. I’m a control freak, so for me this felt so good. I could do things the way I wanted to and the way I saw fit, on our own schedules. I kept with it, and here we are.

I think it comes down to the music at the end of the day, we are able to independently release our own music on so many different platforms – and if you have something that people want, then it will happen.

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‘Modern Loneliness’ feels so relevant to this time, and tackles the subject of depression and anxiety – why do you feel, in your opinion, that so many of our youth struggle with mental health issues, in a time where we are always seemingly connected through social media? And what is modern loneliness?

Where do I even begin? Well, I think on the social media front, yes we see more people than ever and we ‘know’ more people than ever but this isn’t true connection. Social media allows us to be self-obsessed, you constantly think – what does the world think of me, how am I perceived, do I look good enough?

Meanwhile, before all of this existed – we would just be having conversations in person with one another. You get through the awkwardness and eventually get to know each other, because you’re in front of each other and have no choice – where as now, every relationship you have online is so ‘immediate’ that you don’t experience any of the feelings you should when meeting a new person.

Humans are built for real community and connection, and I think we are missing that from our world right now, due to social media. I feel like everybody wants something from one another, people don’t talk to each other anymore unless there is something in it for them.

We get all of this fast approval from people, but you’ve got to think – these people really don’t care about you. So, no matter how many likes you have on social media, or connections you have on LinkedIn, they’re not real and human connections. I think that’s why as a generation, we feel so alone all of the time.

Due to the nature of your song lyrics, people and your fans have never felt closer you – they believe that you have had a serious impact on their lives and well-being, how does that make you feel?

It’s very intense, before I released my current music – I had a playlist which was essentially about a break up. I’d have fans come up to me after my shows and tell me that I helped them get through their break-up, which was nice. But since I’ve talked about the dark side of my life and the depression, the anxiety and so on – people now tell me things like ‘you saved my life’.

You feel a sense of responsibility for these people, because they’re listening to your music and using it as a tool for catharsis or escapism. There’s a particular man in my life, who I look up to so much, and essentially saved my life and I always wonder how much pressure that puts on him.

I’m happy that in some way I can help, but I think I get a little worried and freaked out when I think about it, because it’s such a serious thing.

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You’ve been open about your struggles with anxiety and depression, and your music has played a large and poetic part in your self-expression. Do you feel more at peace with yourself since finding success, or does your success and fame add to the already existing stress?

I feel more at peace for different reasons, for example having my music become successful is very fulfilling. Although, for a long time I chased the idea that a certain ‘thing’ or ‘goal’ would make me happy, and I would chase that and chase that relentlessly, and it didn’t work. It never helped me, it was always just like ‘on to the next thing, and the next’. I’ve come to realise, as corny as it sounds, it’s got to be an internal thing, (happiness).

For me I’ve found content in therapy and a certain amount of medication, which is funny because I used to be totally against medication, I don’t know why. I soon realised that neurochemically I was imbalanced and needed that little extra help to get me on the right path. I needed to deal with the problem rather than masking it, this helped me become more at peace within myself.

There are so many reasons for a person to be depressed, it can be situational, it can be because of past trauma, so many things. Depending on your situation, if there is not a particular thing that is causing your suffering, then it’s definitely worth talking to a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of your pain.

There shouldn’t be a stigma around medication, you wouldn’t walk around not taking your medication if you had a problem with your blood sugar or something like that – so why do it when your brain is suffering? That’s why I started my foundation The Blue Boy Foundation, all the earnings made from the song ‘sad forever’ go towards distributing the profit to organisations around the world that provide support for people suffering with mental health issues.

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For your fans that are struggling, what advice would you give them? What sort of things help you cope, make you happy and keep you feeling positive?

A few things, again talking about the medication for mental health – a lot of my family have had to use medication to get through their mental health issues. But for whatever reason, I was so against it. Until my sister eventually said to me, “Ari, go and see a psychiatrist, I’m worried about you!” So I did. That’s when I got diagnosed with depression and OCD, and it was definitely the obsessive thoughts that fucked me up the most.

The things that helped me the most though were therapy, medication, being open and honest with people that really care about you – not people that are just interested in the fact that you’re suffering. Surround yourself with good people.

Meditation also helped me massively, it allowed me to disassociate with social media and pull myself back down to reality – which is such a nice relief when you realise that social media isn’t as important as you think it is.

Another thing I think is difficult for people now is that they’re terrified to say the wrong thing, because of things like cancel culture and just the fact that anything you put out into the internet is out there forever. But I believe we need to make mistakes and do stupid things, or say the wrong thing in order to find ourselves and learn from mistakes. You should be allowed to have outbursts and fuck ups, because we all learn from them. To improve as a person or grow, we need to learn from our wrongs.

Also, for a while I thought that all of my anxiety and obsessive thoughts were just a disorder that I needed to fix and be medicated away. I think it is a disorder, but I also think sometimes your anxiety is trying to tell you something – sometimes there are lessons to be learnt from it, if you sit with it and ask yourself why you’re anxious, you can maybe figure out what you need to fix and what needs to be dealt with.

What do you hope for the future for yourself, and ultimately – where do you want to see yourself in 10 years?

I have no idea, honestly, I don’t want to know. I think once I start to predict my life, that’s when it becomes boring. The only thing I do hope for is to have a wife and children in 10 years’ time. And I just want to be happy, that’s all I’ve ever wanted really. I want to be able to touch as many people as possible with my music, and help people find happiness through self-expression and song.

I think we all want to make a difference. The music isn’t going to stop, but I’m not going to set myself any goals or accomplishments as I don’t think it does anything for me whatsoever. I’m just going to keep making the music I love and see where the future takes me, hopefully somewhere nice.

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‘~how i'm feeling~’ is out on March 6th.

Secure tickets for upcoming Lauv concerts here via Clash & Ticketmaster.

Words: Julia Hope

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