[Interview] Lauv Opens Door to Musical Prosperity as College Career Comes to a Close

If you don’t know already, Ari Leff is a 21-year-old singer, songwriter, producer, and New York University student who, back in March, launched a brand new musical project he calls Lauv. Leff has been writing songs, producing music, and playing in bands since his mid-teens, as well as producing numerous originals and remixes for a different project called Epique for several years. Leff says his wide taste in music comes from moving around a lot as a child, as he was born in San Francisco and made stops in Georgia and Pennsylvania before making his way to New York City for college.

Lauv’s debut single ‘The Other‘ is an R&B ballad inspired by the emotions one experiences near the end of a relationship. It hit the iTunes Store on March 31st, and made waves in the blogging world, peaking at #3 on the music aggregator Hype Machine. Last month, he put out his second breakup inspired release, ‘Reforget,’ which also made it into Hype Machine’s top 10. Leff is currently preparing for his senior year at NYU, as well as getting ready to release his first Lauv E.P. EDMTunes recently had the chance to speak with Leff; we touched on a wide variety of topics including what he’s been working on recently, his musical upbringing, his forthcoming E.P., and what he sees for the future. First, take a listen to his breakout song ‘The Other’ to see why we are so excited to see what’s coming next from Lauv, and check out his answers to our questions below.

What have you been working on recently?

“Right now I am just doing some final tweaks on the E.P. so we can get ready to release some more music, as well as the music video for ‘Reforget’, which I am really excited about. Aside from that, I’ve just been doing a ton of writing and recording with a lot of different people, a lot of cool collaborations. As a songwriter and producer I’m also working on some other projects, As I always like to keep myself busy, I can’t really not spend a day writing or recording.”

When did you start playing music and what instruments did you play?

“When I was a little kid my parents made me take piano lessons. I don’t have too many memories of it except that I hated practicing as probably all little kids do. My older sisters also played instruments, one of them played violin the other played cello, so I ended up picking up viola, and then it was guitar. Once guitar came into the picture around middle school, that’s when I started to write songs and play in bands. After I came to NYU I stopped focusing on trying to play as an artist, I said I’m just going to focus on making songs and my craft as a producer. I released some remixes and this and that with a different project, but coming back out now as Lauv has been really gratifying to be working on music that feels right for me again.”

Did you always have a pop & R&B music taste growing up?

“I didn’t really grow up listening to R&B, I was really eclectic all across and I went through a lot of different transition where I would listen to one style of music for a certain period of time and would listen to that over and over and then I would go into a different phase. For some reason, one of the first albums I distinctly remember buying and loving was one of the earlier Eminem records, which is really funny; that record was so crucial to me as a kid, I remember being so excited because I had to ask my mom to buy it and listen to it because I was so young. I think a lot of my interest in R&B came from when I spent some years in late middle school and high school doing a lot of jazz guitar training, learning a lot of jazz theory and harmony. There’s that kind of stuff happening in R&B and soul music that was really attractive to me that I really connected with.”

Where does the name Lauv come from?

“It’s a cool story actually; so my mom’s side of the family is from Latvia, it’s a place that means a lot to me because I used to go there every summer growing up and I still have some family there, really beautiful place. Not that I’m super into the astrology thing, but my sign is Leo, which means lion, and I felt that Lauv was the first music that really felt like me. So I wanted to go for something like that, so I took the word for lion in Latvian, which is L-A-U-V-E, and just got rid of the E and kept it L-A-U-V.”

Both of your releases so far, ‘The Other’ and ‘Reforget’ are inspired by the emotions leading up to and following a breakup, so what other emotions in your life do you draw inspiration from in your songwriting?

“It’s not all just breakup, but I would say this E.P. is really inspired by the different phases, stages and ebbs and flows that you go through in a relationship with somebody. Like the little intricacies, the little things that anyone who goes through a serious relationship is thinking at one period of time or another, a lot of things that maybe people maybe don’t admit or say so it’s kind of centered around that. That’s where my head and my heart has been for these first Lauv songs; I guess it all has to do with love, I’m a romantic kind of guy.”

A lot of the songwriting on the E.P. took place while you were studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic correct?

“Yeah, three of the songs on the E.P. are songs that I did just in my dorm apartment in Prague on days when I didn’t have class. I didn’t have that much class while I was there, so sometimes I would just lock myself in the room and write a bunch of songs. I probably wrote upwards of 15 songs, a bunch of stuff that won’t be used for Lauv or probably will never see the light of day. But yeah, I really took that time to write a lot and to just produce a lot of different stuff.”

Are you ready to go back to NYU in the fall?

“The real question is whether I’m ready to spend all that time in classes for one more year. I’m excited, I’ll say that, it’s going to be really crazy trying to finish my last two semesters with everything that has been happening with Lauv and really trying to go full force with it, but I’m excited.”

You recently played your first live acoustic showcase at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. How was that experience?

“It was amazing, it was a great crowd, and the place went over capacity. It was really cool to be on stage for the first time in years, and for the first time ever as Lauv. Now I’m really focused on getting the full live show together so we can go out the door and really kick in with the full band and everything so we can do some full on showcases so it’s not just me at a piano and I can do what I’m envisioning for the live Lauv show.”

If you could play a show anywhere in the world where would it be? 

“I think the biggest milestone, as cliché as this is, would be hitting Madison Square Garden. That would be like the massive milestone of how you know that you’re doing incredibly well. Another place I would want to experience playing is Red Rocks; that would be insane. It just seems like there have been a lot of legendary performances there and the vibe seems incredible.”

The E.P. will have five songs including ‘The Other’ and ‘Reforget,’ what else can you say about it?

“There’s not much else I can say about the E.P. without giving too much away. You got it; it’s 5 songs, at this point that is really all I can say. No release date yet, nothing official but it’s definitely coming soon.”

Did you work with any other artists on the E.P.?

“The other three songs on the Lauv E.P. are 100 percent me.”

You’ve talked in the past about your friendship with Sam Lassner, AKA Prince Fox, who recently graduated form NYU’s music program. How has he influenced your career as another musician coming out of NYU?

“Sam and I have been friends for a while now. He graduated recently, but I met him in the later part of his time in the program. He’s definitely an inspiration to me, and as I’ve said in the past, his work ethic is unmatched by a lot of people I’ve ever seen, so just being in the studio with him is really inspiring because the kid just goes.”

Where do you see your music career going in the long-term, such as the next five years? Ten years?

“Personally my biggest goal is just to reach as many people as possible with the music. I don’t have any too particular details in mind that are like I need this in five years, I need this in ten years. I just want to continue to grow, I hope I can continue putting out music that people can resonate with. I just want to keep everything I do real and put out songs so I can I can grow with all my friends and fans.

While he only two releases under his belts, there are high expectations for Lauv. For now, all we can do is wait for the release of his E.P., and listen to his second release, ‘Reforget.’ You can also listen to a Spotify playlist of songs that Ari was listening to when he wrote ‘Reforget’ here.”