Troye Sivan On Debut LP ‘Blue Neighbourhood,’ His Video Trilogy & Coming Out: Idolator Interview
Troye Sivan represents an entirely new breed of pop star. Out from the very beginning of his career, the 20-year-old leveraged a huge YouTube following to land a record deal and then proceeded to craft alt-leaning, deeply autobiographical anthems with a group of relatively unknown writers and producers. And the Australian’s bravery has paid off. He now has a pair of top five EPs in the can and a hotly-anticipated debut album on the way (Blue Neighbourhood drops December 4, to be exact).
I caught up with the Perth singer after a screening of his video trilogy in Los Angeles and asked about his first long player. Troye explained the recording process, talked about reaching out to his favorite artists for features (they all said yes) and opened up about documenting his thoughts and experiences in music. The “Wild” hitmaker also spoke about the gay icons he looked up to growing up and the responsibility he feels towards his fans. Find out more below.
Can you talk me through the twists and turns of the Blue Neighbourhood video trilogy? Of course. Essentially, I came up with one message that I wanted to get across. Then it was just about breaking it down into these three videos that had one overarching narrative. “Wild” is the video about the potential of what could be and, I guess, ultimately what should be. Then, “Fools” is when everything is escalated in the relationship. It’s about the the pressures and troubles surrounding the relationship and I guess the pressure of societal norms and homophobia. “Talk Me Down” is the devastating result of what so often happens.
Does that narrative run throughout the entire album? No. Even the narrative throughout these three songs was unintentional. I was just listening to the songs in that particular order and again, I knew the message that I wanted to convey. It was just about figuring out how to say it. I guess the only narrative across the album is that it’s autobiographical. It’s about that journey for a 20-year-old.
The songs I’ve heard capture a little snapshot of the gay experience for many people. Thank you so much. Thank you. It was just about keeping it honest and not really holding anything back. Really it’s just things that I thought, things I’ve written about life, things that I’ve thought about doing and not doing. Making it authentic is really important.
Your album showcases so much amazing Australian talent. Was that intentional? It started off being unintentional and then I just realized that there is so much Australian talent and Australia is such a cool place for music right now and there’s so much good stuff coming out of it that just ended up happening that all of the features, and a lot of the collaborators, were from Australia/New Zealand. People like Allday and Tkay Maidza. I don’t know, to me those people are the coolest people that I can possibly think of — Australian or not.
How did you connect with them? Did they already know your music? No. I still am completely… I’m really genuinely, very amazed that they wanted to collaborate. I really am. Just because I’m a big fan of all of these people and I don’t really know how the music industry works. With some of them it was just as simple as following each other on Twitter. For other people it involved going through management and labels. I’m just really, really thankful that they were all down to do it.
What about on the songwriting side? How did you connect with people like Leland and Allie X? It was essentially through random writing sessions that were set up. Leland or Brett [McLaughlin] and I know each other through a mutual friend. Our mutual friend was always telling me, “My friend Brett writes and he’s really good.” I was like, “Yeah. Sure he is.” One time, I was like, “Alright. Cool. Let’s actually do this.”
Brett knew Allie X and brought her into the session and we did it with a producer called Bram Inscore. The first day, it was like electricity. We wrote this awesome song and we have just been writing together ever since. I think it was really organic. I did a lot of sessions with some really, really amazing people that just never ended up going anywhere.
Can you name names? I mean, seriously big, really amazing names. Not that I have anything against those people, but creatively — it just wasn’t there. Do you know what I mean? I think I just ended up coming back to the people that I was working with. Alex Hope, Leland and Allie X.
When I interviewed Allie, she said she wrote “Bite” from the perspective of someone going to a gay sauna for the first time. Yeah, that’s what it’s about pretty much. Sauna or a club. First of all, I wanted it to sound like how that felt. Lyrically, I think we just wanted to… I don’t know. We were bored and we wanted to just have some fun. It’s so easy to get very theatrical and we just get ridiculous and have some fun.
Out pop stars are a relatively new phenomenon. Even 10 years ago it only really happened when somebody got exposed… Or came out on the cover of People magazine.
Can you talk about your experience being out from the very beginning? I think it was always a real concern for me when I was younger. I was like, “If I do end up like becoming a singer or doing what I want to do, then I’m going to have to come out at some point.” I just thought that I would maybe never come out publicly. It just got to the point where I decided happiness in my personal life had to come first and I ended up coming out to my family and friends.
After a while, just being comfortable with myself and my surroundings, then it was about coming out online. I was in the process of negotiating my record deal at that time and I was so ready to be dropped. I was like, “All right. They’re not going to sign an openly gay artist, a young male artist. That doesn’t happen.” I woke up to a congratulations email from my record label and they went ahead. I think that that is a testament to all of the hard work that the LGBTQ community has been doing for so many years. People like me can now live openly and do what we want.
Which artists did you look up to growing up? From an LGBT perspective?
Yes. I probably came out in 2009. That was when Lady Gaga was massive with “Just Dance” and songs like that. Also, I remember Miley Cyrus had a song called “My Heart Beats For Love.” It’s a really, really sweet song that she wrote for her gay best friend and I used to listen to that song and cry.
You posted a video about safe sex recently. Do you feel a responsibility as a role model? I do. I think that as I’ve grown and educated myself more, I’ve realized the power of the platform that I have. When I meet these kids in person, they’ll whisper in my ear that they aren’t straight. I’m the first person that they have ever told. That kind of stuff just makes me feel like everything that I’m doing — sure, it’s fun — but there are really important things that need to be done and if I’m the one who has to do them, then that’s awesome.
I’ve been given this opportunity. I’m going to try my best to use it. Yeah, I guess, I do feel a responsibility. I just want them all to be safe and happy.
I think you’re doing a great job. Good luck with the album. Thank you so much!