Ari Leff has been challenging industry conventions ever since emerging with his off-centre approach to pop. Possessing an intuitive understanding of melody and hook, he soon became one of the most sought after collaborators, penning hits for the chart elite. His own music as Lauv is introspective and autobiographical, channeling emotion and experience that has earned him tens of millions of streams, all without a label.

Whilst he is known for creating bright sounding pop, underlying issues with mental health and anxiety lie present in the songs, and he bravely addressed these issues online recently. We sat down with Ari on his most recent stop in London to talk more about his writing style and his upcoming debut album, How I'm Feeling.

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Last year you chose to release a body of music in playlist form, do you think with such a wide range of digital platforms and streaming services, it’s changing how artists present their work?

I decided to call it a playlist as some of the songs had been released previously. People are definitely releasing music in so many different ways right now. Currently I’m releasing songs as I finish them, last year I wasn’t super productive so I wanted to start releasing songs asap. I work in a really immediate way, I’m impatient so I want to put it out right now. I don’t want to wait.

You are very much of a musician within the digital age, and I like your self-reference on tracks like ‘drugs + the internet’. When you were coming up, did you feel the need to be “always on” when it comes to social media?

I felt like I was really shy at the beginning. I’m quite an introverted person and I’m quite insecure so I used to think so much about what I was going to post, how I was going to post, what I was going to caption in order to create a whole image. I feel like there was a time that social media was super curated and it feels like that’s gone now.

You’ve worked with some of the most in-demand names in pop recently. How do you find the process and dynamic of collaborating?

Collabs are a fun thing to do, I love co-writing and getting in a room with someone and getting a different perspective, but I feel like there’s less control. It’s a really different vibe. I feel like when I’m doing something with somebody else it’s all about having fun, and that’s my only goal. Working with Troye or Julia, I learn how they write their way through a song. If you ever get stuck it’s really interesting to see how others work through.

Let’s talk about your debut record, it’s called How I’m feeling. What inspired the title and do you think it’s important for people, men in particular, to be more open about their own feelings and mentality in 2019?

It was a combination of things, I wanted it to be this project that was not overthought. I met you… was this very concise body of work, it was about one relationship so it all tied in, whereas How I’m Feeling is my life since then. I’m not going to pretend my life is some story that it’s not, this is how I was feeling when I wrote these songs.

And the latest track you’ve put out from that is ‘sad forever’, which you describe was written in a particularly low time for you. Do you find music is a good coping mechanism when you’re experiencing struggles?

I’m the type of person that for better or worse I need to share everything. I’m not very good at regulation myself, it’s the way I am and the way I create. Music is the healthiest way that I could cope.

The songwriting on this is particularly autobiographical, is it slightly terrifying but your feelings out there on such a global scale?

I think it’s quite freeing. As you’re performing and it’s really genuine, you lose your sense of self and you forget feeling afraid. Sometimes the scarier part is when you’re writing songs and something comes out and you’re like “fuck am I really feeling that way.”

You’re donating all the proceeds to mental health charities, do you think it’s important for artist to be aware of their social footprint and to highlight issues with the platform they have?

I do. There are inherent evils that come with what I do, for example taking so many flights is so bad for the environment. I’m not perfect, I try to offset my carbon footprint by donating to environmental charities after each tour. Artists have a responsibility to care, and to think about the impact you leave on the world.

Touring comes with its own range of stresses but in general, do you enjoy getting onstage and sharing the music with your fan base?

I don’t do great with it, I love the shows but I struggle with all the down time and the flights. The more and more I do it, the more I find myself quite anxious. There was a time where I was drinking a lot and it’s not something I’m doing anymore, but I think you can easily get into bad habits.

An apt question to end on, how are you feeling about the debut album?

I’m feeling really good, it’s by far the most diverse music I’ve made in my life. Genre wise it’s all over the place and I’m excited and proud of that. Topic wise its very broad, I feel like it’s my first real scope of myself as an artist.

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