Lauv Embraces How He's Feeling | Connecticut Public Radio
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Lauv Embraces How He's Feeling

Mar 21, 2020
Originally published on March 21, 2020 6:07 pm

Ari Leff is better known as Lauv. And he's been quietly gaining fans around the world with his pop music.

Leff has released singles and EPs, garnering billions of streams over the last five years.

He's finally releasing a full album: ~how i'm feeling~, stylized in the lowercase and accompanying tildes that are common in youth Internet parlance.

"I think this album is for everybody, but I think it's especially for people around my age," he says. "And people younger than me, I think especially people who grew up with the budding Internet. I think that this album is, I hope, something that speaks to them."

Leff is 25 and his music relates to what is often in the news about people his age and younger: a life that is so much lived online, on social media. Studies link increased screen time and social media use with more depression and anxiety in young people. Half of Americans say they feel lonely or left out sometimes or always, according to one study.

Enter Lauv's "Modern Loneliness," the closing track of his new album.

Lauv via / YouTube

"It's probably my favorite song I've ever made, and to me, the most important song I've ever made," Leff says, "because it says everything that I've felt and wanted to say for a long time, but didn't really know how to say."

Modern loneliness
We're never alone but always depressed, yeah
Love my friends to death but I never call, I never text
La di da di da, yeah
You get what you give and you give what you get, so
Modern loneliness
We love to get high but we don't know how to come down

"I'm on some level connected to more people than ever," he says. "But that takes up so much time and so much mental space that I don't actually truly know my friends and like a lot of people as deeply anymore. You know, I don't have as many soul to soul connections."

There's evidence that smartphones and social media can activate a reward system in the brain similar to the way drugs do.

"Especially with the Internet, there's this high involved with it," Leff says. "You know, this rush. And it almost becomes easier than having to sit through an awkward conversation and really get to know somebody and get to know them for who they truly are. And so I think a lot of people right now are feeling really lonely and don't really know why."

Multiple songs on ~how i'm feeling~ deal with loneliness. Leff says he often felt lonely growing up. "I was around a lot of issues in my family growing up that I witnessed and didn't really understand how to process."

Leff has been especially open about his struggles with depression and anxiety. He addresses it head-on in last year's single, "Sad Forever."

Lauv via / YouTube

I don't want to be sad forever
I don't want to be sad no more
I don't want to wake up and wonder what the hell am I doing this for
I don't want to be medicated
I don't want to go through that war
I don't want to be sad
I don't want to be sad
I don't want to be sad anymore

Lauv says he's donating all proceeds from the single to mental health charities. "Sad Forever" also appears on the new album, along with other songs that tackle depressive feelings.

Leff says he didn't know how to process childhood signs of depression. It got bad in college, when he went to see a psychiatrist but resisted taking medication.

"I really didn't understand mental health at all at the time," he says. "And then, the beginning of 2019, January of 2019, was basically the worst month of my life. I was just extremely depressed. ... All of 2018 was just me spiraling downward and downward and downward and downward, being totally consumed by obsessive anxiety and just not being in love with anything anymore."

He hit rock bottom. Once there was "nothing left to lose," he was finally willing to see a psychiatrist and try medication. His friends and family convinced him to try multiple therapists until he found the right one.

"Once especially that medication started to work, I realized like something totally flipped for me that I realized there is such a difference between sadness and depression," he says. "There's such a difference between situational sadness and being in a place where your brain, no matter what's going on in front of you, whether good or bad, your brain just cannot seem to be happy."

Lauv has been so open about it partly because he wants other people going through similar mental health problems to know there are resources to help.

His website has an extensive list of mental health support groups for people in lots of countries around the world. The website My Blue Thoughts is a project he started for fans to anonymously share notes to "get something off their chests" and share experiences with others around the world.

Lauv's cover art for ~how i'm feeling~ showcases six "little Lauvs" of varying moods.
Lauren Dunn / Courtesy of the artist

Lauv though is more than just an outlet for expressing negative feelings. The cover of ~how i'm feeling~ showcases six little Lauvs of varying moods.

When his fans listen to the new album, he wants them to "have fun."

"I really hope in listening to the album and watching the visuals and maybe coming to see a show and looking at the artwork and diving into the world that more people can feel comfortable not feeling the need to be boxed in in the real world and on the Internet and not feel like they have to be so easily definable, defined in two or three words I think we're so complicated as people. And I just would like to embrace that."

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, we're going to hear some new music from 25-year-old pop singer Ari Leff, better known by his stage name, Lauv. He's been making music since he was a teenager but only recently released his first full-length album called "~How I'm Feeling~." And apart from being a fun listen, many of the songs explore themes that many will find relevant in this moment of social distancing and self-isolation. We spoke to Lauv before the coronavirus pandemic had eclipsed everything else to hear why he chose to focus on some of those themes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MODERN LONELINESS")

LAUV: (Singing) I've been thinking 'bout my father lately, the person that he made me, the person I've become. And I've been trying to fill all of this empty, fill all of this empty, and I could use some love.

"Modern Loneliness" is my - probably my favorite song I've ever made and to me, the most important song I've ever made because it says everything that I've felt and wanted to say for a long time but didn't really know how to say - you know, about my loneliness growing up and about my loneliness, you know, with the Internet culture.

I feel like, you know, I know of more people than ever, and I see more people than ever, and I'm on some level connected to more people than ever. But that takes up so much time and so much mental space that I don't actually truly know my friends and, like, a lot of people as deeply anymore. You know, I don't have as many soul-to-soul connections. And I think a lot of people right now are feeling really lonely and don't really know why.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MODERN LONELINESS")

LAUV: (Singing) Modern loneliness, we're never alone, but we're always depressed. Love my friends to death, but I never call, and I never text.

Looking back, I went through a period of time where I was, you know, depressed in college. And I went to see the psychiatrist, and they tried to prescribe me medication. And I was, like, very resistant towards that. I really didn't understand mental health at all at the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGES")

LAUV: (Singing) I'm getting rid of all my clothes I don't wear. I think I'm gonna (ph) cut my hair, 'cause these days, I don't feel like me.

You know, the beginning of 2019, January of 2019, was basically the worst month of my life. I was just, like, extremely depressed. Basically, leading up to that month, like, all of 2018 was just, like, me spiraling downward and downward and downward. Finally, some of my best friends and, you know, my sisters and my parents - they got me to, like, be open to trying out different therapists and finding the right therapist.

And then also I think a big one for me was being open to considering seeing a psychiatrist again, which is something that I kind of had this stigma around my head. I was, like, I shouldn't need to take pills to, like, fix my brain. Like, I shouldn't need that. But I eventually just got to such a rock bottom that, you know, I was, like, I have nothing left to lose. You know. It's like my only option.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGES")

LAUV: (Singing) I think I'm going to take some pills to fix my brain 'cause I tried every other way. But some things you can't fix yourself.

I felt like I wanted to be open, you know, with my platform and my fanbase about that because I felt like if I could share my story - and, you know, the people who shared their stories with me, the way that really helped me - I thought maybe if I could be open about it that, like, somebody could read it and realize that what they were going through was something similar and, you know, could maybe get onto a path that would help them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGES")

LAUV: (Singing) You've been thinking 'bout these changes. It's all gonna work out, it's all gonna work out someday.

I hope when people listen to this album, they - I mean, I hope a few things. One, I just hope they have fun. I hope that they confront feelings and process things, you know, because for me, writing these songs was my way of doing that. And I really hope, you know, in listening to the album and watching the visuals, the more people can, you know, feel comfortable not feeling the need to, you know, be boxed in in the real world and on the internet and not feel like they have to be so easily definable, you know - defined in two or three words. We're so complicated as people, and I just would like to embrace that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIMS")

LAUV: (Singing) I wish that you and I lived in The Sims. We could build a house and plant some flowers and have kids.

MARTIN: That was singer-songwriter and producer Lauv. His album, "~How I'm Feeling~," came out earlier this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIMS")

LAUV: (Singing) I'll probably never see you again. I wish that we lived on a VHS. I'd erase the things I said and that I'll probably say again. Hit rewind on all the times I got lost in my head. But I guess... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.