Lauv longs for the happiness of childhood on 'All 4 Nothing' One of pop music's main advocates of normalizing mental health issues, Lauv released a new album on Friday; it's called All 4 Nothing.

Lauv longs for the happiness of childhood on 'All 4 Nothing'

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

There's been an interesting trend in pop music recently - an honesty about struggling with mental health. The rapper Logic had a hit with a song titled after the suicide hotline number. And there's a hit on the charts right now called "Numb Little Bug." Some of it goes, do you ever get a little bit tired of life, like you're not really happy, but you don't want to die? There are loads of other examples. Well, one of the artists at the forefront of normalizing mental health issues in this way goes by the name Lauv.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE ME BETTER")

LAUV: (Singing) I like me better when I'm with you.

MARTINEZ: Lauv is Ari Leff. This song, "I Like Me Better," has been streamed more than 1.4 billion times on Spotify. His new album dropped on Friday. It's called "All 4 Nothing."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRANGER")

LAUV: (Singing) So what if this is it? What if it falls apart in front of my face? I wouldn't be surprised 'cause it happens every time.

MARTINEZ: On the album, Lauv often writes about the happiness and confidence of his younger days - something he hadn't been feeling at the time.

LAUV: I was extremely anxious. I felt really disconnected from myself. I felt like my life had changed so rapidly over the - you know, the past few years before it, you know, largely due to my career and moving out to LA. And I felt like I had lost touch with myself a bit and was so caught up in this dream that I had of being a big musician that I kind of forgot who I was deep down a little bit, you know? And so this album was, like, really kind of, like, rediscovering my, like, true self again.

MARTINEZ: Did that first song, the one that probably everyone knows you by, "I Like Me Better" - are songs like that that become, you know, hits right away - are they a little bit of a curse, too, in addition to being a blessing?

LAUV: I mean, it's hard for me to see it as a curse 'cause it's like - it's the thing that's kind of gotten me the whole life that I have right now. I'm lucky that I haven't gotten to, like, a jaded point or anything like that.

MARTINEZ: You say that, right? And then I think of the lyrics from "26." Can I tell you a story about a boy who broke his own heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "26")

LAUV: (Singing) And he always blamed everybody else. But the truth is that he did it to himself. Made a couple songs, and they got big - and thought that he could do whatever he wanted. But it all left him with a hole in his heart.

MARTINEZ: That sounds like you're getting jaded right there.

LAUV: That's fair. I mean, that was more, like - it's just, like, sadness. I was just - I thought for so much of my, like, early life, like, you know, as a teenager and stuff - like, I thought, like, I'll just finally feel good with myself if I, like, get successful at what I do. And then I realized it didn't make me feel better about myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "26")

LAUV: (Singing) And I'll never admit it, but I wish that I was younger. Yeah, 26 and rich. How the hell did it come to this?

MARTINEZ: What is it about childhood that makes it seem like a better time than now? I mean, I guess if you had a nice childhood - if you had a nice one, everyone would love to go back to it. But what is it about childhood that makes it seem like it's always better than wherever you are now?

LAUV: I just remember a time, you know, before I feel like I picked up anxiety and before I picked up all these social cues that taught me what's cool and what's this, and how am I going to get love? And there was just, like, a freedom and, like, an innocence and, like, a light that I think we're all born with that over time, it's easy to kind of lose touch with and just start becoming, like, the robot version of yourself. And I don't want to be that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KIDS ARE BORN STARS")

LAUV: (Singing) Yeah, I've been all alone and thinkin' way back to that eighth grade dance. Oh, that dance sucked 'cause girl, just kiss me, before you miss me. Said, someday, I'm gonna be a really big star, uh-uh-uh.

MARTINEZ: Midway through the interview, we got a reminder of how life has changed for a lot of us in the past few years. I talked to Lauv on Zoom. He was at home with his two dogs, and they just wouldn't leave him alone.

LAUV: Hold on. Sorry, one second. My dogs are going crazy.

MARTINEZ: When one would crawl into his lap, Lauv would calmly remove the dog mid-answer. Then another dog would take his place.

LAUV: This is too much.

MARTINEZ: There was some expert dog juggling going on.

LAUV: Doggies, I guess I need you to - you guys got to go out there.

MARTINEZ: I got to say, Lauv, it's refreshing to know that even a - even a star artist deals with doggie issues, deals with dog troubles.

LAUV: (Laughter) Yeah. These guys are really rambunctious. They're two small little teacup Poms. But when they get activated...

MARTINEZ: Oh, really?

LAUV: ...They're just activated.

MARTINEZ: What are their names?

LAUV: Billy and Harry.

MARTINEZ: Are they very attached to you? Like...

LAUV: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: ...What - are they, like, wiggling around too much?

LAUV: Oh, yeah. They would follow me everywhere if they could.

MARTINEZ: Once Billy and Harry were banished to another room, Lauv and I got back in our feelings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I (DON’T) HAVE A PROBLEM")

LAUV: (Singing) But I love you. I need you. But I hate you, even when I say that I'm gonna walk away, yeah. I come back 'cause I need to. I don’t want to. Yeah, I always say that I'm gonna walk away, but here I am again.

MARTINEZ: One of the songs on the album is "I (Don't) Have A Problem." The don't is in parentheses. It's about using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with some of those struggles.

LAUV: Yeah. I mean, that song is super emotional for me. I mean, that came from this place where, you know, I was struggling with relying on certain substances for a sense of confidence. There's one lyric in the song where I basically say, like, maybe it's just because I'm not that confident. I don't know if anyone else can relate to this, but it's a painful thing to want to feel confident and to feel like you don't have that in yourself - like imposter syndrome or feeling like you're supposed to be more than you are, you know? And, like, that is such a dangerous feeling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I (DON’T) HAVE A PROBLEM")

LAUV: (Singing) I can't put a finger on it. There's no reason that I do it. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm not that confident. But I love you.

MARTINEZ: When it comes to just being open in your art about mental health - I mean, I - artists right now are being super honest and open about these things. Maybe I don't remember ever having an - a group of artists just be so open about this. What do you think it is about this time that's allowing that space?

LAUV: That's a great question. I mean, I think that a lot of people are, you know, feeling that sense of hopelessness. Overall, you know, people are more open about mental health. I think it's awesome that there's just so much more transparency now - to be able to acknowledge that sometimes, yeah, we have feelings that are, like, very, very, very extreme doesn't necessarily mean that that's actually the reality I want to live. I just need to express it in this moment. And then, you know, other people can feel that too and relate to it.

MARTINEZ: That's Lauv and his Poms, Billy and Harry. His new album is called "All 4 Nothing."

Lauv, thanks a lot.

LAUV: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY ARI")

LAUV: (Singing) I see through the pills you take. I see through the face you make.

MARTINEZ: If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY ARI")

LAUV: (Singing) It doesn’t make you cool. Hey, Ari.

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