For as much as he embraces modern musical innovations, Lauv picks up a thread that can be traced back to timeless troubadours.
“We’re in a really interesting age,” he exclaims. “There are artists who write, produce, sing, and do everything by themselves. I look at it like the new generation of ‘singer-songwriters.’ There’s something that I want to say, and I’ve learned how to utilize the tools at my disposal to tell a story. Technology is at a place where you make music with whatever you can get your hands on—instead of just a guitar. As a creator, one of the most special and important things to me is to make music that feels classic and timeless at its core, but to do so in a way that sonically breaks boundaries and defies what’s been done with genres.”
The 23-year-old independent singer, songwriter, and producer resembles an auteur in his assemblage of electronic tones, airy beats, jazz-inspired guitars, and soulful vocalizations. A self-described “hopeless romantic,” his music could be likened to Chris Martin and The Weeknd teaming up to score a movie. Resonating with fans worldwide, that approach yielded nearly one billion cumulative Spotify streams in under a year’s time, a consistent spot on Spotify’s “Top 100 Most-Listened To Artists in the World,” and a sold-out headline tour as his profile skyrocketed.
However, he took the first step on this journey at the age of five when his parents enrolled him in piano lessons. To accompany his older sisters, he picked up viola two years later before discovering guitar at nine-years-old. As the family moved between San Francisco, Atlanta, and Pennsylvania, his tastes shifted between everything from Eminem and Green Day to Underoath and The Postal Service, comprising an eclectic musical DNA. During high school, the budding talent turned his attention towards production.
“There was something about the recording process that intrigued me,” he recalls. I thought, ‘What if I started making music, me, my instruments and my laptop, building out what I was hearing in my head?’”
After logging countless hours in his bedroom writing and producing, Lauv, real name Ari Leff, entered the prestigious Music Technology Program at NYU in 2012. Under the auspices that he’d “make music for other artists,” he passionately maintained the same prolific output until penning “The Other” and “Reforget” during 2014. At that point, he uploaded the tunes under the name “Lauv”—Latvian for “Lion”—nodding to his mother’s roots in Latvia.
“I couldn’t imagine someone else singing these words,” he admits. “They were really special to me. I hadn’t thought about being an artist for a long time. I put so much pressure on myself in high school, but this was something I had to do. It was the first time I was being vulnerable in a real way. It was exactly what I wanted sonically. I was being the most genuine I’d been to myself with this music.”
“The Other” quietly took the internet by storm. Premiered on a friend’s blog, the song virally lit up HypeMachine. Fueling the 2015 Lost in the Light EP, the track eventually generated 100 million-plus Spotify streams and placed on Today’s Top Hits and the Global 100—all from his dorm room. Relocating to Los Angeles and signing a publishing deal with Prescription Songs, he co-wrote the platinum-certified Top 5 smash “No Promises” by Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato as well as the Pitchfork-endorsed “Boys” for Charli XCX, among others. In the meantime, “I Like Me Better”became his second bona fide smash. It vaulted past the 350-million mark on Spotify, soaring to the top of the Global and Viral Charts in addition to going Top 5 on iTunes internationally.
By early 2018, it had garnered platinum certifications in seven countries, gold certifications in three, and scanned platinum in the United States. Extolling the song, Time wrote, “‘I Like Me Better’ is transforming into a proper summer jam without losing its meditative qualities.”