Ari Leff is a college student at New York University, but doubles as a solo artist whose music can be found under his artist name, Lauv. His first EP, Lost In The Light, was released in the summer of 2015 and has R&B, pop, and indie influenced instrumentals, pure and sweet vocals, mesmerizing harmonies, and catchy melodies to go along with his lyrics that revolve around a romantic relationship.
Lauv’s five-song EP contains singles that each have millions of plays on YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud, which gained recognition from many blogs and even from actress Chloë Grace Moretz and Liam Payne from One Direction. He is currently unsigned, but something tells me that it won’t be much longer until that changes, and that “something” is his quality music.
I had the chance to talk with Lauv where he told me all about where his artist name comes from, what it was like making his first EP, how he found out he was playing Firefly Music Festival, and more! Check it out below.
You’ve been going by Lauv for your current music project. How did this name come about?
It took me a little while to think of the name because when I had the music together, I really wanted to find something that meant something important to me. My mom’s side of the family is from a country called Latvia and I would go there a lot growing up, like every summer, and I still go. I have a lot of fun memories there. My first name, Ari, means lion and I’m also a Leo, born August 8, so I was like, “Alright, what’s the Latvian word for lion?” It’s “lauva” with an “a” at the end, and I liked it, but I wanted to get rid of the “a” so it sounded and looked a little cleaner.
I know you have been in some bands in the past, so what made you decide to be a solo act, rather than creating another band?
That’s a good question. Growing up, I’ve actually played in a hardcore band, if you want to call it that. It actually originated out of kind of necessity and what I was feeling in the past few years. I’ve been writing a lot of music just by myself and developing my own visions. I still love, in terms of the live aspect, to have people around me to make the show a little more energetic, but I kind of just got to a place where I got a vision that I wanted to carry through myself.
Lost In The Light is your first EP. What was the process like?
It was awesome. I had a couple of songs that I had actually co-written with a friend of mine, Michael Matosic. Before I even knew that I wanted to put them out myself as an artist, we had new songs and I was going through a lot of personal stuff, so I said that instead of pitching these songs for other people, I finally figured I could do something myself. I went through a period of time where I actually wasn’t doing anything as an artist, so after, I decided to carry through those two songs, which are “The Other” and “Reforget.”
I spent four months studying abroad in the Czech Republic, in Prague. Throughout that whole experience, I made sure to bring my music stuff with me. I wrote and recorded pretty much the rest of the EP there. I’d done 10 or 15 songs while I was abroad and when I came back, I wanted to choose which songs would make it to the EP and felt like they were part of this step of my statement, and then I finished up all the production back home in New York. But the funny thing is, some of the vocals on there, like in the song “Come Back Home,” all of those were recorded in my hotel dorm in my travel set up in Prague.
So the rest of the songs that you cut, are they gone for good? Or will we maybe hear them in the future?
Some of them we still sit with and figure out if there’s a way that they’re going to be heard, and I think some of them will, but some might not because as an artist I go through a lot of songs. Every week, I might write like three songs, give or take a couple. So there’s a lot of songs that unfortunately will actually not be heard, maybe for the better (laughs). But some of them, I think will be on future projects.
Your songs “Reforget” and “The Other” each have millions of plays between Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud. What were your thoughts when you realized these songs were becoming as successful as they are?
Honestly, it was amazing to see the whole reaction. We literally put out “The Other” and started from nothing, and to watch the whole thing explode, first on the blog scene, and then on Hype Machine, were just incredibly gratifying. And to keep building from there with Chloë Grace Moretz tweeting about it, and then Liam Payne from One Direction, just blew my mind. All of that was totally organic, which is something I definitely don’t take for granted.
It’s an amazing thing that not everyone gets to experience, where their music is received so well by so many people. When we came out with “Reforget,” sort of the same reaction happened, and being able to get on SiriusXM’s Hits 1 with Jenna Marbles was really cool, and to do the music video. The whole process has been unbelievable.
You have one official music video out right now, can we expect more soon?
Absolutely. I can’t say how soon, but I’m definitely going to be working on more music videos. I want to get into more into conceptual stuff as well with the videos. I’m really excited.
You recently released a Milk N Cooks remix to “Reforget.” Is having your songs remixed something you want to have more of in the future?
Yeah, a lot of people have approached us about remixing “The Other” and “Reforget” in particular, so there have been remixes put out online where I sent people the vocals and they’ve done whatever vision they felt. It was cool, especially the Milk N Cooks one, to see how much people responded to that one.
You play piano, viola, and guitar. Will you incorporate any of these three instruments into your live performances?
Wow! You even knew the viola part, that’s awesome (laughs)! It’s been a while since I’ve played viola. Viola, man, someday that would be fun to incorporate somehow. I’m already incorporating piano, and I’m looking for new ways and experimenting a lot with the live show in term of what I’m going to play. Probably some guitar as well.
You have headlining shows in L.A. and NYC coming up. Are you doing anything special to prepare for them?
These are going to be the first shows where I’ll be playing new music that’s going to be with the release, so right now I’m prepping and working on a lot of new records and figuring out how they’re going to translate live, which is an exciting process. Aside from that, I’m trying to bring as much content to the stage for these shows as I can. I’m really excited to be doing these headlining shows.
I saw your tweet that you literally woke up to the news that you’re playing Firefly Music Festival in June when the lineup was released. What was receiving this news like?
(Laughs) That’s a good story. I woke up and I was getting texts from my friends and random people who were like, “Yo, are you playing Firefly?” and I was so out of it and had no idea what they were talking about, and thought they must have something wrong so I just went back to sleep. And then I woke up again and someone sent me a picture of the Firefly flyer and I was like, “Holy shit! That’s my name on there!” (laughs) I was totally floored. I don’t even know how I didn’t know I was playing this. I guess what had happened is that Firefly had started announcing stuff earlier than people had predicted. That was definitely a highlight. That day was great.
Are you planning on putting out any more music soon, or are you focusing on live performances for now?
I’m definitely putting music out as soon as I possibly can. I’m always the one who wants to put it out right away, unfortunately. I have a whole team that’s trying to help me put it together to make sure we roll everything out correctly. I can’t say exactly any dates yet, but I can guarantee there’s going to be new music out very shortly!
Lauv will be performing at The Studio @ Webster Hall in Manhattan on April 14. His EP Lost In The Light is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. For more information, visit lauvsongs.com.