The man looking at you through a colourful spring — and in a way aren't we all, these days, viewing the world through a multicoloured Slinky — is Lauv: singer of song, thinker of thoughts, releaser of nine Modern Loneliness remixes. It's always nice to catch up with him, but what's on his mind during Mental Health Awareness Month? Let's find out.
Hello. How are you?
I’ve actually been okay — it’s been a horrible situation but I’m in my house with a few of my friends who’ve been quarantined with me and my sister, and I’ve got a little studio, and a super-big couch.
I’m wondering if your friends — or you — realised exactly how much of a commitment you were all making when you decided to quarantine together?
In the beginning, before it was total lockdown, they’d go from their apartment to my place, backwards and forwards — they’re a couple who are a songwriter and a producer. I was like: ‘Guys, if this gets more serious you should just move in. We can have sleepovers!’ And they were like, ‘Ha ha ha.’ Then when it got serious they said: ‘Okay, we’ll do it!’ We don’t really get on each other’s nerves, surprisingly.
I watched your Breaking Modern Loneliness livestream at the start of Mental Health Awareness Month. Was there anything that occurred to you afterwards that you wished you’d said during the livestream?
My soul actually felt warm afterwards. But I’d been super-nervous before it — like, really nervous. But I feel like I totally fell into it, and I was in the moment and I got everything off my chest that I wanted to say. I spoke to [guest speakers] Alessia [Cara], Anne-Marie and Sofia [Reyes] afterwards, and I was just really happy with it.
You were nervous beforehand?
Coming up to it… Well, I get nervous in all sorts of circumstances. I never like to plan too much what I’m going to say with things like that — otherwise I get really in my head — so when something’s coming up I think: ‘It’s on this day, I’ll wake up that morning and just do it’. But twenty minutes before we were getting set up it hit me that it was a big responsibility. We had a professional on there but I’m not a professional, and I want to be as honest as possible but I new I had had a responsibility on some level — and a fear of saying the wrong thing.
Mental Health Awareness Month comes around each year but for obvious reasons this one’s very different. Is there anything that’s occurred to you in the last couple of months that you’ve realised has been a good way of dealing with All This?
There have been a couple of times… Well, I’ve always known this, but in the past I’ve only had to face it in certain moments: I’m not good at being alone and by myself. And I never really have to be, especially with my career. But right now it’s in the quiet moments, when we all decide we’ve spent enough time around each other and we go and do our own things… I become super, super-anxious. When I’m alone I feel like I lose touch with what I feel like doing, and more than that what I think I should be doing. It’s: should I read? Should I watch a show? Should I call someone? What should I do? Then it becomes really heavy, then I’m anxious and stressed out for sort of no reason.
But I’ve got better at dealing with that, and better at seeing how one of my friends who I’m living with is so good at spending time alone. I think I look at everything as having to be ‘productive’, rather than just being enjoyable. So I’m trying to retrain myself a little bit. If you go into the idea of reading something or watching something just with the idea of accomplishment, you’re not really enjoying it — you’re just doing it to do it, to check it off a list. And that’s the way I’ve been for years. I’d have to create these checklists for myself every day. I’d write things on it — the most fundamental human enjoyment things — just to put them on a checklist. So I’ve been working with that.
And meditation has become more important, too — I’ll do FaceTime meditations with my friends. The way I do it is so helpful for me. I’m not really a religious person but I’ve become a lot more spiritual in terms of just letting go of control and believing in some connectedness between us and humans and pretty much everything in the universe. That’s helped me a lot: instead of just sitting there and breathing and noticing thoughts and letting them pass, that’s just the beginning for me now and I move into guiding myself with my own words. Imagining the front of my chest opening, and allowing all things good to come into me, and imagining everything that’s not serving me now just melting away or blowing away in the wind. All stuff that a year or two ago I’d have been, like: ‘This is bullshit.’
What I’ve come to realise is that whether or not I believe saying ‘I’m sending love’ actually does send love, it just feels really good, and it brings people to your mind who you care about, and I’ll come out of the meditation feeling inspired to talk to them, and show them I care about them. Speaking for me, is the most powerful type of meditation.
I feel like I’ve made a couple of strange new connections in all this, have you found you’ve become unexpectedly closer to unexpected people in the last few months?
That makes TOTAL sense to me. There’s one person I can think of in particular. I met them through the internet and we were going to hang out before this whole thing, and we didn’t get around to it, and I just thought: ‘Oh, whatever, it’s not really going to be anything.’ But then on a whim I decided to FaceTime her, and we got along great, and I was watching a movie and asked her if she wanted to watch the same movie so we could talk about it, and she did. And from there… We’ve started FaceTiming multiple times a week just to talk about life. And we’ve become pretty close! We’ve done one social distancing walk but for two months it was just talking over the internet, and that was super-unexpected. Also there have been a few people from my life who I haven’t talked to so much over the last year, and it’s been: ‘I want to talk to them more.’ And in addition I’m not the type of person who talks to their family super-often, but we’ve been having a lot of family FaceTimes, so that’s nice.
It’s not always helpful to say ‘look on the bright side of a bad situation’, but there have been some positives in the last few months.
For sure. It’s complicated. As someone who’s really blessed and, honestly, privileged in a situation like this, at first I feel guilty and I just feel inherently bad. Like: ‘I shouldn’t be able to enjoy this.’ But the only other option is just to feel bad. I decided that the better approach is that if you’re in not the most dire situation, ask yourself: ‘What can you potentially do about the people who are suffering?’ But beyond that sitting in your house feeling bad isn’t going to help anyone else and it’s not going to help your own mental health. So it’s: ‘How can I focus on the positive parts of my own life?’
Do you feel a responsibility to be present on socials for your fans?
Yes and no. What’s I’ve come to learn is that I need to first and foremost look after myself: I can’t help other people if I’m not in a good place. When I feel like I’m in a good place I do my best to be active and connected. This morning for instance I ate breakfast and got on Instagram Live with some of my fans, and they showed me some paintings and drawings they’d done. But I’ve also got better, when I need space, at just hopping off and not being online.
For most people therapy has moved online in the last few months. How’s that change been for you?
It’s been good. Some weeks I get on and don’t feel like I have much to talk about, so we keep it short, so it’s nice that it’s flexible. But then we have weeks, like my most recent session, where it’s an hour and a half, where I’m going on and on about all sorts of stuff and that’s been really helpful. It’s never as good as in person, but I’m still really happy with it.
What can be done for live music community? I saw a report here in the UK saying that 82% venues were at risk of closing by the end of this month.
The live music thing is really really hard to figure out. I’ve been talking to my own agent and my band. There are government grants to take care of my band and I’m figuring out ways myself to financially take care of them, but I don’t know what’s going to happen to agencies and venues. I don’t know what it will look like — I imagine until there’s a vaccine it’ll be really hard to play venues that are big. It’s crazy. I’m trying to release new music and find new ways to do online live shows that aren’t just hopping on Instagram Live with an acoustic guitar.
Has there been any writing that’s inspired you in the last few months?
I mean I don’t want to be self-promoting, but I haven’t actually spoken about this properly yet… You know I have the My Blue Thoughts project and the website? We’ve developed, like, a toolkit. That you can go through if you go to the website. Exercises. Listing out negative things, brainstorming ways you can attack that. It walks you through some tips that will hopefully help.
What good habits and bad habits have you picked up in the last couple of months?
Well it’s good and bad: I’ve got so sucked into music creation. To the point where, honestly, I don’t really do anything else. So it’s been really productive — and I’ve been happy because I was touring and travelling for so long that I was always stressed about music, and now I can just experiment and have fun. Have a couple of drinks, not stress about it, and if I make a bad song it’s a bad song and I can learn from it. On the other hand it takes me away a little bit from consistently being there for other people. With one of my friends I’m living with, who doesn’t make music, it’s been pointed out to me that then I’ll be in my zone and not be the best friend. I’m trying to figure out a balance. I’ve always been really bad at balance.
What time do you get up in the mornings?
Usually about 7:30. And I go straight to my studio. In fact I’m working on a song right now.
What’s it called?
I don’t know yet! I was going to call it Mine, but I want to call it something weirder.
What’s going to happen when this is all over? Is everyone going to be having loads of sex?
I think you’re absolutely correct. Definitely. It will be funny. I think it will be slowly to start with — people getting together at houses, rather than at big parties — but I imagine there are going to be parties like in prohibition. It’s going to be so crazy, when I have kids, telling them about this.
How are the assorted members of the one man boyband getting on in quarantine?
To be super honest… I’m grateful for rapid growth, but it makes things complicated. So I’ve just put out this album with all this [one man boyband-themed] creative, but I’d been building up to it for so long… And really the one-man boyband was my way of starting to integrate different parts of my personality. Even a year ago I was still having a lot of trouble fully being myself, and I still feel like that. Fortunately and unfortunately what happened was that my career started to take off when I was still very unsure of myself and insecure and I felt like I was supposed to portray just one part of myself. As I got more attention I felt this pressure: ‘Am I fully allowed to be myself? Am I allowed to be weird and goofy?’ For the longest time I felt ashamed to embrace sexiness: I felt like I was only supposed to be ‘cute’. I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be confident and sexy and own that part of myself. I’ve always felt uncomfortable owning my own masculinity and I’ve always felt more feminine, and it’s been trying to embrace all that… And now I’ve put this album out, and I’ve been in quarantine, honestly I’ve been thinking of it way less as these separate people inside of me, and more about just being an integrated, singular person. Which I’m very thankful for. It feels a lot more stable.