Lauv at GRAMMY U x GRAMMY Week
Photo: Araya Doheny
Lauv Gets Real: "Focusing On Doing The Most Authentic Thing To You Is The Most Important"
For the first-ever official GRAMMY U x GRAMMY Week event, independent pop champ Lauv treated the young Recording Academy members to an intimate look into his rise to fame, creative process and how he's found his voice and confidence along the way. The lively conversation was led by powerhouse producer Jennifer Decilveo in Studio V of the famed Village Studios in Los Angeles and followed by some more great questions from the audience.
These lucky attendees (the program was exclusively for current GRAMMY U members) not only went home with big smiles and bellies full of free tacos and iced coffee, they also went home with some big takeaways to apply to their own journeys within music. Read on to explore the five major points for yourself, brought to you by the thoughtful, creative mind of the "Tattoos Together" singer.
Importance Of Authenticity
Speaking to his experience of writing songs for others and struggling to really gain traction at first, 25-year-old artist revealed what changed the game for him.
"The thing I was missing was that people want authenticity," he explained, adding that he was writing what he thought people wanted to sing instead of real stories from his own experiences. "I spent all this time trying to pitch my songwriting and it wasn't until I released my own song that I got noticed."
In 2015, he dropped his first single, "The Other," followed by his catchy 2017 global hit "I Like Me Better"—one of the songs he wrote about his first experience of falling in love while at N.Y.U. Lauv's honest, raw, lover-of-love personality has since come through front and center in his music. For example, "I Like Me Better" opens with: "To be young and in love in New York City / To not know who I am but still know that I'm good long as you're here with me."
Later in the conversation, during the audience Q&A, a student asked advice on how to break out in world already filled with so much content and creators. "Focusing on doing the most authentic thing to you is the most important," Lauv answered. If you do something that connects with people, they'll share it, he assured. He explained how he used to spend a lot more time trying to figure out how to promote himself, which he now understands is better spent on exploring how to be his most authentic self.
Lauv's Production 101: Weird Sounds + An 808
Attendees got a fun look into the producer side of Lauv's mind. He shared that the first beat he'd made in Abelton was for his 2019 hit with Anne-Marie, "f***, i'm lonely." Sharing the screen of his laptop, Lauv broke down its elements within the production software. With this example, he also explained the basic foundations with which he builds his tracks: starting with weird sounds and building the chords around it. Oh, and some 808 drums.
Before he'd even written the lyrics, he built the base of this track's catchy sound in Abelton, with Splice Loops, a sample of his voice and his favorite 808 drum. He arranged it in Logic, as he finds its interface more…logical. So, with "f***, i'm lonely," he created the beat first—while on tour in Asia with Ed Sheeran—and the lyrics came later, inspired by a conversation with friends and collaborators, songwriters Michael Matosic and Michael Pollack.
After returning Stateside after the tour, Lauv rented out a large, strange house in West Hollywood, Calif. and was feeling lonely. He expressed this to Matosic and Pollack, who encouraged him to write a song about—the trio wrote it then and there, in the creepy mansion. While he feels the lyrics are not his deepest, he underscores they come from a real emotion, an honest, authentic feeling. Seeing as the music video alone has amassed over 25 million views on YouTube in just six months, it has hit the pop world right in the feels.
Write More & Challenge Perfectionism
In addition to getting exposure to Sheeran's massive overseas audience and the beat for ""f***, i'm lonely," Lauv also gleaned some pop star wisdom while touring with the "Shape Of You" singer. He explains that Sheeran writes about seven songs a day, working through them and waiting until he's finished to decide if their good or not. If there are any pieces of gold in the drafts, he'll go back and work more on them. As for the less lustrous ones, he just moves on rather than making sure every song draft has to go somewhere.
Instead of obsessing and laboring over something to make it perfect, where self-doubt or over-work can often take over, relishing in the process of creativity and just getting the thoughts and feelings out can be really powerful. Seeing this in action helped Lauv reflect on and reimagine his own creative flow, which he acknowledges he has a tendency to get stuck in overthinking things.
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Embrace ALL Of Yourself…
Another great GRAMMY U member question was about determining your brand as an artist.
"Overthinking can really ruin you," Lauv mused, noting how he used to spend too much time caught up in singular decisions. He, like many young popstars standing in the spotlight on their own terms, is a perfect example that you don't have to just be one marketable thing to be a successful artist.
He explained how, when he would meet with music labels, they would ask what his special thing was. This question was understandably perplexing, but he decided, "Okay, I'm the hopeless romantic." This "one thing" is obviously not fully representative of all the facets of who he is—none of us are one-dimensional characters—and puts a strange pressure to over-exaggerate one element of ourselves and essentially erase the others.
The "Changes" singer took this idea and flipped it on his head, forming "a one-man boyband" with six different, exaggerated versions of himself, each represented by a different color. This cute and quirky representation of Lauv is featured and celebrated within the songs and visuals for his upcoming debut studio album, ~how i’m feeling~. The 21-track LP officially drops on March 6, although nine of them are already out in the wild.
…Even The Blue Parts
Last April, Lauv shared a very powerful personal note on social media about his struggles with anxiety, depression and obsessive thoughts, which eventually led him to seek help and try medications. He received an outpouring of support from his huge global fan base, as well as from the larger music community. With his Blue Boy Foundation and MyBlueThoughts.world, Lauv is reaching out to others who face depression and other mental health issues, reminding all of us that we aren't alone.
"There's so much shame around needing to take a medication for your brain," Lauv said, explaining how he had always been resistant to taking mental health meds, even as he was going through a really difficult time.
He told the audience how grateful he was for his friends and family encouraging him to talk to a therapist. It wasn't until then, with the support of a medical professional, that he was really able to start working through his debilitating thought patterns.
Last year, as he began his personal mental health journey, he also sought out more ways to help others, even beyond the much-needed representation of an emotionally honest and vulnerable public figure. He generated $100,000 last year for the Blue Boy Foundation, which he launched with the proceeds from the song he wrote while feeling emotionally stuck in darkness, "Sad Forever."
Another student question was around the leave-a-thought boxes he has had at shows in the past, where fans could write down what they were feeling. He revealed that, in partnership with Microsoft, he has built the idea out into a little "confessional" booth at shows, where fans can record an anonymous message. All these now live on a blue map at mybluethoughts.world, where anyone can read them, as well as share their own.
As Lauv explores and shares his true self in this messy, confusing world we live in, he is setting a beautiful example of how to connect and relate with others around the world, something we all really need more of right now.