The artist talks about being on MySpace, curating Spotify playlists, and his upcoming release.
Before he was LAUV, Ari Staprans Leff was just some 13-year-old who had the knack for making music. “It was this gradual process where I just kept writing songs and playing in bands or touring before I thought, ‘this is the only thing I ever want to do,”’ he says. Ten years later, the artist is now 23, with his rapid rise to fame bolstered by hit singles “I Like Me Better” and “The Other.”
How did you first get into music? I started playing piano when I was 5 years old. And then I picked up the viola because my sisters were playing violin, cello. But I really started writing songs when I learned guitar. I think I wrote my first song when I was like 13. Since then, it was writing, producing, and kind of just learning how to do the whole thing. At that point I was just exploring. I was too young to know exactly what I wanted my career to be.
What was the first song that you actually produced and released? As Lauv it was “The Other” but way back when I was 13 I actually released a song on MySpace. I had such a big MySpace phase then and I used to just release random songs online.
Did you write about anything specific? The first thing I wrote was like a breakup song even though I’ve never been in a relationship. I genuinely don’t know how it makes sense but I’ve sort of have always been writing love and breakup songs.
Looking back at the first song that you ever produced and released to the artist that you are now, what similarities or differences do you see? It’s been 10 years. Hopefully, the songs got way better. But the way I see my songwriting existence was sort of like I was writing like this and then there’s a few years where I stopped thinking about being an artist. I thought, “maybe I can’t be an artist.” I moved to New York when I was 18, and thought of finding a more practical route. And I was like working at studios. I thought of maybe writing and producing for other artists or be a recording engineer or something. When I was in that mindset for a few years, I wasn’t writing about how I really felt. I was just writing what I thought people wanted to hear.
So by then you already knew who your audience would be? My thought process then was, “oh I should write a song that I think that Katy Perry would want to record” or something like that. So I was trying to write hit songs because I needed to make this a business for my life. That’s sort of where I was at and I was forgetting to be an artist. When I wrote and produced my song, “The Other,” I was like, “Oh I should just write about how I feel and just be honest about my own experiences.”
What’s your songwriting process? I like to, at this point, just be in the moment and sit down and not even really know what I want to write that day. When I wrote “I Like Me Better” I had no idea I was going to write that song. I just sat down with a new synth when I was playing some chords and like most of the song just came to me really quickly. It was sort of like magic honestly. Everything just comes out and you’re not trying and it’s not forced.
Let’s talk about your Spotify playlist. What’s “I Met You When I Was 18” all about? I wrote that about when I moved to New York when I was 18. That was the time I was trying to figure out how I was going to be an artist. I fell in love for the first time out of nowhere and it was a long relationship. This whole playlist is about that time of my life, about everything I went through in that relationship and how I was figuring out myself.
Will the story continue? I feel like there’s more we haven’t heard. Yeah, it’s an in-progress kind of thing. I have a new song coming out November 17 and I’m finishing a bunch of other songs that will come out soon.
How did you curate this playlist? I don’t like to plan things too much. I’m finishing up a lot more songs which are all about that time in my life. This is where I could put them in order. I write songs out of order and I release them out of order. You just never know.
So, what’s the next step? I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity. I moved around a lot growing up so I never had a hometown. And I’ve always moved to towns where people were all from there so I couldn’t really fit in. So, I’ve been very existential and trying to write about the human experience which is really important to me. I’m still figuring it out as I’m living life. Also, I’ll be doing dates with Ed Sheeran, which is really crazy. I’ve never played in an arena and soon I’ll be able to. And aside from joining a bunch of music festivals, I’m going on my first world tour next year so I’m really excited to announce that.
Alyssa Castillo is a freelance writer and is concurrently Rogue Media'sEditorial AssistantforThe NBHD. She reads for fun, writes for a living, and wastes too much time entertaining the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Find her on Instagram as @alyssakcastillo.