“Being totally, emotionally wide-open writing every day is exhausting,” Ari Leff admits with a sigh. It’s not a sigh of exhaustion, though – it is a sigh of zeal. Leff is an artist who practices in raw emotion. Despite performing under the stage name, Lauv, his music narrates his most vulnerable experiences, a marriage of his personal and professional life. He has made a name for himself by tuning intimate experiences into ballads. His popularity grew when he shared his first single, “The Other,” on a friend’s blog in 2015.
“The Other” was written after breaking up with his long-term college girlfriend. In it, he sings about the conflict in deciding to stay with someone despite knowing the relationship isn’t a good fit. He croons, “Who wrote the book on goodbye?/ There's never been a way to make this easy/ When there’s nothing quite wrong but it don't feel right/ Either your head or your heart, you set the other on fire.” Leff first wrote the song with only a guitar, explaining that the emotional track had a folksy inception. When he sat down to record the song, “it was just me and my laptop and a little keyboard and headphones."
The pickup and circulation of his heartfelt hit was organic and speedy. Unexpectedly, his song was landing in earbuds all over the world. Leff recounts in youthful awe discovering actress Chloe Grace Moretz tweeted about him as he traveled in Prague: “Who is this guy Lauv?” she’d asked. Leff responded to her and many other craving souls with a second, equally personal single, “Reforget,” and then eventually a full EP.
His debut EP, Lost in the Light, poignantly examines his relationships in vulnerable melodies. He takes his emotions and adds a beat to them. A beat that captures the pulsing thump of his thoughts. In “Reforget,” Leff describes a night out being escalated (and hindered) by heartbreak. Deferring to alcohol in order to “reforget” pain is commonplace behavior. His illuminating lyrics are relatable and transport listeners to their resembling experiences.
There are communities built around music, and likewise music built around communities. When traveling throughout Prague and Europe, Leff challenged himself by walking around different cities and making beats inspired by how he was feeling in the moment. “I was writing for the Lauv project everyday,” he says, counting about ten or fifteen songs he’d written at the time. Despite the abundance of songs, Leff shrugs off any notion that all-consuming projects are suffocating. He confesses: “As workaholic as it might sound, I don't have fun doing anything else in the world as I do making music.”
To further immerse himself in music, Leff recently moved to the hub of music: L.A. It is a move that will be heard in his sound, the way only a new environment, transition, and personal breakthrough can. “The biggest changes in the way I think and the way I create have always been when I put myself in a totally new context.” Re-establishing and acclimating himself to new homes is nothing new for Leff, who was born in San Francisco before moving to Atlanta then Philadelphia and subsequently New York City for school. Each of these places broadened his musical tastes and training, as he delved into genres from hip-hop to jazz.
Before experimenting with sounds, Leff has what he amusingly calls “vibe starters”. These are routines he follows in order to ruminate on his music. “I need coffee for energy, I take a walk, and – I know this is bad, but I'll go to a 7-11 and get a massive Coke Zero to drink.” Pair that with his gumption and optimism, and you’ve got the musical force that is Lauv. His virtual debut into the industry is apparent in his trust of good music. “I really, truly believe that if somebody is creating music that resonates with people, their music will be heard. If you put it out there – you can't just have it sitting on your hard drive – and people genuinely love and are attracted to it, then they are going to share it with their friends and it's going to get attention.”
Check out Ari Leff’s website for updates on new music and tour dates.