Popping Up: Lauv
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
Lauv’s haunting ballads of lost love are upholding a new tradition of pure R&B mixed with pop. With lyrics that lament the end of a relationship set to gently pulsing rhythmic dance beats, Lauv’s songs somehow still betray a decidedly sexy tone. Quite frankly, it’s hard to know if you just listened to a breakup song or a track best suited to a seductive first slow dance with a new flame.
Lauv’s debut EP, Lost In The Light, features five songs, including his most recognizable single, “The Other.” Here he uses his sweet falsetto like an emotional dagger, reminiscent of voices of other traditional contemporary R&B crooners like Maxwell and Sam Smith. In fact, Lauv’s sexy vocals wouldn’t be out of place featuring on a Miguel or The Weeknd album. So what distinguishes this Latvian-American newcomer from his contemporaries? For starters, there’s a clear European dance influence that encourages listeners, however heartbroken, to dance.
To learn more about this young man with the heavenly voice, we had a sitdown with him after his first live performance with School Night! at Bardot in Los Angeles earlier this month, and talked about his inspiration for Lost In The Light.
REAL NAME: Lauv is singer/songwriter Ari Leff (currently a senior at NYU), who sometimes collaborates with co-writer/producer Michael Matosic.
HOW YOU KNOW HIM: His breakthrough hit “The Other” has garnered over 1.4 million plays on SoundCloud and nearly 2 million views on YouTube. His other single, “Reforget” has racked up 683,000 plays on SoundCloud, and Idolator premiered the video for the song last November.
HOW HE SETTLED ON THE NAME “LAUV”: “My mom’s side of the family is from Latvia, a super small country in Eastern Europe,” Ari tells Idolator. “Growing up, I would go there every summer and I still go. That place has a lot of good memories for me. I’m also a Leo, and Ari means lion [in Hebrew].”
FINDING THE LAUV SOUND: “I spent months trying to figure out what my sound was, because I wrote mostly on acoustic guitar. It sounded totally different than it does now, almost like a folk-y vibe. The funny thing is, it’s not like I grew up listening to a bunch of R&B, so I’m not a classic R&B head or anything. The sound just came about by experimenting, I guess. You could say I found the Lauv sound by producing ‘The Other’.”
CLAIMING “THE OTHER” FOR HIS OWN: “I think I was listening to ‘Climax’ by Usher a lot at the time. The funny thing is that ‘Climax’ sounds so sexy but it’s really about getting to the peak of a relationship and then wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Originally, I had it in mind as something I was writing for someone else but a combination of things happened.”
Lauv continues, “I realized I’d never really done stuff like this with my voice in this way and received a lot of encouragement from co-writer Michael Matosic. We were both in the same boat — writing all these songs and then trying to pitch them — neither of us had any credibility or name yet. We were just pitching these songs for all these major label acts, and it didn’t really work. Then Michael just asked, ‘What if you just did this yourself?’”
THE STORY BEHIND “REFORGET”: “That one was supernatural. I also co-wrote it with Michael. I remember the name ‘Reforget’ came to me. Then I asked, ‘What if I just called it ‘to reforget?’ I know it’s not a word. But it just made sense to me.”
LAUV’S FIRST BIG BREAK: “I had just gotten off the plane in Scotland and I saw this tweet from Chloë Grace Moretz.”
— Chloë Grace Moretz (@ChloeGMoretz) March 20, 2015
“But because I have the worst memory for actors and actresses, at first, I didn’t realize who it was. But I saw that this tweet was getting so much attention and then I figured out who she was. That was a big thing for me. She found me on Hype Machine and she didn’t find my twitter handle, she just posted #lauv, so that’s how I found out. She’s cool because she consistently supports artists on Hype Machine.”
“Then, Liam Payne from One Direction tweeted my lyric video for ‘The Other’. Everything went out the window at that point. After that, Jenna Marbles played ‘The Other’ and then ‘Reforget’ on her SiriusXM show and it continued to explode.”
MEETING MICHAEL MATOSIC: “My girlfriend was taking a music publishing class being taught by a woman named Jennifer Blakeman, a woman who’s been in the music industry a while and has done a lot of cool stuff. She played Jennifer one of my songs, without saying, ‘This is my boyfriend’. She just said, ‘Check out this song’. And Jennifer was super into it. I met Jennifer and she brought me into a meeting at BMI. That was one of the first big steps for me, for sure — through that, she got me connected with a lot of my favorite collaborators in New York and Michael was one of them.”
THE PAIR’S WORK ETHIC: “A lot of people go through eras of when they collaborate together. Hopefully, [Michael and I are] not in an era — hopefully, we can work together forever. But if we are in an era, I want it to be a really long one. We push each other in the right way. Even though we do a lot of our own things a lot, he’s definitely one of my favorite people to make music with.”
Lost In The Light EP (Full Stream)
WHERE YOU CAN CATCH LAUV LIVE IN THE STATES: Expect to see this new talent touring quite a bit through the summer, starting with a concert at The Studio at Webster Hall in NYC on Thursday, April 14, 2016. He’s also working on lots of new music, hoping to put out either another EP or an album. However, he’s also still a full-time student with one last semester left at NYU, so keep an eye out for him crossing the stage at graduation this spring.