Growing up, Ari Staprans Leff spent many summers in Latvia with his family and has some very fond memories of the country–his first name also means “lion” in a few different languages. So when it came time for the San Francisco-born artist to decide on a stage name, he took inspiration from the Latvian word for “lion,” which is technically spelled “lauve.” Now, the singer-songwriter performs under the moniker LAUV, and since graduating New York University in 2016, he’s found success both behind the scenes as well as on stage.
Leff co-wrote Charli XCX’s newest single “Boys” and co-wrote and co-produced the Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato hit “No Promises.” He was also recently added to this year’s Billboard Hot 100 festival lineup in Jones Beach. So Less may be coolly familiar with both ends of the creative process, but his approach is by no means root in anything but truth.
Leff’s musical style revolves around his unique ability to be vulnerable. “I can be candid and honest about myself and what’s going on in my life,” Leff says of his lyrics. “I want listeners to feel like they can accept who they are, totally.”
When he began writing music, Leff was immediately drawn to the theme of romance and as he admits: the resulting songs were sad for a long time. “Since I was 14, before I ever had a girlfriend, I would write romantic break-up songs,” Leff shares. “I love really hurting, longing, nostalgic-feeling music. At least one or two nights a week I just jam to all that shit,” he adds. And although listening to LAUV’s newest single, “I Like Me Better,” you get the sense that Leff is taking a turn towards a more upbeat sound, his sound ultimately remains in romance.
“I Like My Better” focuses on being young and in love in New York City and according to Leff, that’s his hometown, despite being born in California. “I moved around a lot growing up, so I never got too attached to any one place,” he says. “I struggled a lot with where I associated with or why I didn’t feel a sense of pride for any town. I felt like I was from nowhere.”
Looking back on attending NYU, Leff sees New York City as the city that makes the most sense for him. “There are so many people from different places, all lost together,” he explains. “Everyone is trying to figure out who they are or trying to find themselves. I felt very close to that,” he reveals. Leff studied music technology and upon graduation, moved to Los Angeles. Although he says he will always feel a nostalgic longing for the Big Apple.
Catch Ari Leff performing in his self-proclaimed hometown at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival later this month.