Lauv was looking happy and relaxed when he sat down for our one-on-one interview in a hotel in Makati.

The American singer-songwriter was wearing an oversized taupe blazer over a white tank top and royal-blue side-stripe track pants. A thick, gold chain was wrapped around his neck to complete his activewear-popstar-business look.

But beneath that hip exterior is a sensitive musician in touch with his authentic feelings. 

The independent musical artist, whose real name is Ari Staprans Leff, is famous for his raw, passionate songwriting. His songs, like intimate diary entries about loneliness, heartbreak, and the wide spectrum of romantic love, are belted out in electronic and R&B pop.

This is why Lauv emotionally connects with his global audience, including his huge number of Filipino fans. His songs mirror a myriad of relatable, universal emotions on love and romance. And being authentic is important to the L.A.-based artist, who intends to continue to pour out the contents of his heart in a truthful manner.

“I feel like it’s easy to spend a lot of life somewhat filtering yourself, you know? And you don’t even know you’re doing it. And then you’re like, ‘Wait a second, I don’t actually feel that! I feel something totally different!’” he shared.

His new single “Potential,” which was released this month, is Lauv admitting newly discovered feelings. The music video, directed by Luke Orlando, opens with the singer with a tear rolling down his cheek. Set in a confined space glowing with emotive colors that keep changing, the video features no props—just a group of dancing people coming in between Lauv and his “potential” love interest, who happens to be a long-time friend.  

“This song, ‘Potential’, is the first time that I’ve—openly, to myself—written a song about my feelings towards a guy,” the soon-to-be-30-year-old artist said. 

But Lauv clarified that confessing his attraction to a same-sex individual is “not what defines the song.”

“I think, really, it’s just the fact that I was able to admit to myself the feelings I was having and be, like, ‘Okay, is this person a friend? Or do I really see them as more than a friend?’ And that’s okay, you know? I can have those feelings. I’m allowed to have those feelings. I think that’s the big thing for me.”

It is scary for many to admit that they have fallen for a close friend, as it may lead to a disastrous unrequited love or friend-zoning. Yet, in “Potential,”  Lauv is putting his heart out, acknowledging his current truth: Never told you why / Always held inside / No more tears to cry / I’m not afraid, I gotta say / Oh, damn, I think we got potential.

Creative Process

The multi-platinum singer-songwriter and music producer first gained recognition in 2015 when his soulful song “The Other” on SoundCloud went viral. It was the beginning of an illustrious chart-topping-world-touring career marked by his 2017 breakthrough up-tempo hit “I Like Me Better,” which peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has amassed over a billion streams on Spotify. On June 9, 2018, Lauv ranked number one on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart.

When he was 23, he co-wrote and co-produced the house track “No Promises” for Cheat Codes featuring Demi Lovato, which reached number 7 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart. He then went on to collaborate with other big names, including Ed Sheeran, LANY, TWICE, and BTS.

The Philippines was lucky enough to witness Lauv singing in the flesh. He performed in Manila and Cebu in May 2019 and September 2023, with the music video for his mental-health song “Sad Forever” even shot during his performance at the Araneta Coliseum in 2019.

When asked to describe his creative process, Lauv said the ideas  “come out of nowhere” and he holds on to them before they vanish.

“One day, I’ll be at a dinner and I’ll have a conversation with somebody and it’ll touch me. And then all of a sudden, I have a whole song idea. And so I have to go home and make the song. Yeah, usually that kind of vibe. And I usually just kind of try to capture whatever that feeling as quickly as I can before I lose it. From there, it’s just polishing and stuff,” he said.

He shared a memory he has of a night in Paris. 

“After a show of mine, I was out with some friends and had a really deep conversation. And I literally was like, ‘Okay, excuse me for a second.’ Then I left the table and then I was pacing around on the street recording ideas on my phone.”

When asked about what makes him passionate about music, Lauv said he knows no other medium to express himself.

“I think it’s just the first place that I learned how to explore my own feelings and be like, ‘These are my feelings and this is my space to talk about how I feel!’ I think that’s what made me obsessed with music. And maybe too obsessed with it sometimes. Too obsessed.”

Coming Full Circle

Lauv professed that he has now come full circle in his artistry and he was back where he started—doing what he loves.

“I started out…not really having any idea what I was doing, just kind of doing what I love to do along the way,” he said. Eventually, he “kind of lost touch” with himself. But today, he is back to being his original Lauv.

“I feel like, now, Lauv today has come full circle,” he said, describing this phase in his career as similar to his first-time sensation of leaving the studio with a song that feels “really exciting.”

The excitement clearly comes from Lauv finally being a hundred-percent comfortable with his personal feelings and being transparent with them in his songs.

“I think, if I’m being really honest, I’m really proud of myself for what I allowed myself to feel and not judge myself. I mean, I put out a song called ‘Love U Like That’ a little while ago and I judged myself. Now I don’t care, because, ‘Hey, I love you like that!’”

Lauv will perform on May 19, 21, 28 in China, before continuing his 2024 Asian tour in South Korea on May 31 and June 2, with a final stop in Thailand on August 24.