Lauv Reveals the Most Raw Version of Himself on ‘All 4 Nothing’

Written by Catherine Walthall

Videos by American Songwriter

Lauv, born Ari Leff, was really into the “emo and screamo stuff” growing up, a fascinating fact considering the artist’s dreamy and often fantastical trademark pop style. It’s near impossible to miss that hit of serotonin when one of Lauv’s songs comes on—a far cry from his early infatuation with emo music and the hard rockers of Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. But that’s how the young singer got hooked on music, and it turned out that learning Green Day tabs was a gateway to songwriting. 

Fast forward to 2017, and Lauv was an artist divided. He spent 50 percent of his time writing music for other artists and 50 percent of his time writing music for himself. When he wrote for others, he had significant success, penning the Cheat Codes song “No Promises,” which features Demi Lovato, and the Charli XCX song “Boys.”

Then Lauv dropped his song “I Like Me Better,” and things looked different for the singer/songwriter. “I Like Me Better” spent more than six months on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a part of the fabric that clothes popular culture. “I think that song taking off really solidified me just being an artist, and doing my own thing in writing solely my own music,” Lauv tells American Songwriter. “I think over time, I delved further into that. Because for a while, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it as an artist.” 

Now, several EPs, singles, and a studio album later, Lauv takes a step back to see how far he’s come. “[On] my first songs as a kid, I would spend weeks or months trying to write a single song because I didn’t understand what the creative process was,” Lauv says. “Now, on my most recent album… it’s been very freestyled. I learned to just let go.” 

Lauv’s recent album, All 4 Nothing, dropped in August 2022 as “the most raw version” of himself. It’s the 13-track result of Lauv rediscovering his confidence. “I started going into the studio and making these songs that were super different for me and having this different process that felt so transcendent of the mind. I felt like I just wasn’t thinking at all,” Lauv says. “I started becoming obsessed with that process of trusting yourself… and with the idea of confidence.”

This line of thinking led Lauv to remember himself as a child and all the freedoms that come with being blissfully ignorant. Lauv set out to capture that youthfulness and heal his inner child. Using the meditative practice of inner child visualization, Lauv worked through the questions, “Who was I back then? How am I different now? How can I get back those parts of me? What parts of that younger version of me still need to be healed so that I can today be a more confident person?” 

It was a wild journey that led Lauv to songs like “Kids Are Born Stars,” a delightful, retrospective conversation between a young Lauv and the singer/songwriter today. Other songs on the record fall into the category of honest-to-goodness love songs. The title track, in particular, swirls with a sweetness that’s difficult to match. Then, in the middle of the record, Lauv punctures the honeyed lyricism with the track “Hey Ari.” 

“I’m trying to take care of my mental health and I’m trying to become a better version of myself,” Lauv explains of “Hey Ari.”  “But I’m also self-destructive in a lot of ways, and let’s check in on that. I wanted to slot that in the middle, towards the middle of the album, because some of the songs before it are ‘Summer Nights’ or ‘Time After Time,’ and you’re just losing yourself in this insanity. And [‘Hey Ari’] is a sobering moment.”

Rewinding to the opener is “26,” which is the “prelude to the album,” according to Lauv. “That was one of those very much freestyled ones where I was writing all of the lyrics in the moment without thinking about it on the microphone, just recording them. [I was] like, ‘Did I just say that? Is that how I feel?’ I feel like that was like a big moment of realizing like, ‘Yeah, I have this sneaking suspicion that something’s not right in my life, and I’ve been really anxious about it,’” he says.

With these varying forms of pop music, Lauv achieves an overarching feel of healing on All 4 Nothing. “I realized in the making of this album, that [life’s] really not about arriving at being fully healed. It’s just about recognizing it’s always going to be a process and there are different aspects to it.” 

Oh, and if Lauv could visit with his teenaged, emo music-loving self today? “I think he would be pretty blown away [by this album]. I want to give him a high five.”

Photo by Sam Fisher / The Oriel

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