YouTuber Turned Pop Sensation: Meet Troye Sivan.
BY KATE LAWSON
20-year-old pop-prodigy, YouTube sensation and Australian singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, has emerged as the next big voice in music and a 21st century style icon - his adorable elfin meets emo look capturing the attention of Hedi Slimane who was so into him that he cast him in a Saint Laurent show. Heralded by Taylor Swift as “WILD” and ‘AWESOME” (caps lock included), his open your heart lyrics about love, home, and longing with a melancholy electro sensibility has enchanted teens around the world, spreading an important message - no stranger to LGBT issues, Sivan has used his growing fame to help break down barriers towards sexuality since first coming out online in 2013. Truly a pop star for the social media era, we caught up with him to talk fame and influence, weird encounters with fans, and what the future may hold.
You made your name on YouTube, documenting your life in videos - what made you start it all?
I basically started back in 2007 because I saw a girl on the front page of YouTube who had uploaded a video of her singing and she had a million views, that was like the most mind blowing thing in the world to me! So I made a video response to her video to try and get her to notice me, which she did, and I basically didn’t stop uploading after that.
And since then you’ve racked up millions of views for your own videos - how did it feel to have that instant connection with your followers?
I started to feel the connection immediately, because I started to get comments from all over the world, and that was really crazy when I come from Australia which is basically very very far away from everywhere, so the thought that people were engaging was really really special to me and something that I could love and appreciate. That’s why I started to connect as much as I could.
That platform obviously helped to carve out your career as a singer, will you still continue that personal connection with your followers, do you have time to?
Yes, I’m on social media every day still talking to everyone. The first video I ever uploaded was a singing video, so for me music has always been important and it all kind of started from there.
So where do you find inspiration for your songs?
Well I started to write this entire album from personal experiences, everything from friends to home and being away from home, to relationships. It’s all in there.
Do you feel because you’ve shared so much about yourself on YouTube, it’s made it easier to be open in your songwriting?
I think so yes, I came out online before I got signed, and that allowed me to write my songs completely honestly and openly.
Why did you choose to come out online back in 2013?
Well obviously I came out to my friends and family and to me being gay was not an issue at all, and I felt comfortable telling my audience things so I didn’t know why I was kind of hiding that, and when I needed help coming out I turned to the internet for everything and watched videos like mine - hundreds of them - so I thought it was my chance to give back a bit.
Were you nervous what the reaction would be, and what was it like?
I was definitely nervous, when you come out to anyone it’s a terrifying experience, and in general when you tell someone to their face you get an immediate reaction - but for me I clicked a button and then it was out there, for the whole world to find out if they wanted to and it was such a strange feeling. But in general the reaction was a wave of overwhelming support.
And what advice would you give to young LGBT people who are afraid to come out?
I would say take your time, figure out who you are and there’s no pressures to put any labels on yourself or anything like that, and if you’re in a safe environment and feel comfortable enough, then I would highly recommend getting it off your chest. It’s the most liberating feeling in the whole world.
Being so open and positive as a voice for the younger generation earned you a label as ‘one of the most influential teens in the world’ by Time Magazine - does having that kind of impact scare you in terms of the responsibility and pressure?
I think for me it was kind of a wake up call in that I had to think about what influence meant, because Time Magazine said that I have ‘it’, so what am I doing with that to make the world a better place. I spent a lot of time thinking about a platform to help others and give a voice to others who don’t have one and I’ve spent the last year and a half writing the album and making videos and going on tour finally going out and I’m just doing my best to say what I have to say.
And you’re following other openly out male artists like Sam Smith and Olly (Years and Years), who are breaking new ground for a generation by refusing to believe the myth about staying in the closet in order to sell records - your songs are honestly about boys and loving boys - why do you think it’s still so difficult to break down pop music’s barriers?
I think it’s still a big deal in some ways, you know when celebrities used to come out it was on the cover of People Magazine with a big headline saying “I’m Gay” and it changed their whole life and career, but it’s not like that anymore. It’s still a big deal to come out but I think it’s going to take more people feeling comfortable and secure to come out and be themselves and for there to be a time when it’s ok to be openly gay and sing about that and still be whoever you want to be.
So who else do you admire and would you like to collaborate with?
Taylor Swift, Lorde and I really like the producer Dev Hynes too.
Talking of Taylor, she’s obviously a huge fan having called you “WILD” and “AWESOME”, what would you call her?
A genius and talented.
And you were also on the cover of Rolling Stone Australia too, so fame has brought thousands of other adoring fans - what’s the weirdest fan encounter you’ve had so far?
The other day at a show, the entire front row started chanting something, so in the middle of a song I stopped to ask them what they were chanting, and they asked if I like slugs?!
“There’s no pressures to put any labels on yourself.”
That’s so weird.
Ok, so my next question is, would you ever date a fan.. maybe who likes slugs?
(Laughs), No! I’ve never dated a fan and wouldn’t.
Fame obviously brings money and power: what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought yourself so far?
I don’t have very lavish tastes, probably a plane ticket for my Mum and Dad. I like having them around, so they came out to Europe to see me on tour.
That’s really lovely. I was expecting you to be a bit bling and say a car or a house! Ok, what about power, you must have had a diva moment?
(Laughs) Hmm, I’m trying to think of one… well I sleep in till noon most days, so a lot of people have to try and wake me up!
Lazy kind-of diva then! So with this constant connection you have with fans and followers, is there anything you don’t share, or are you an open book at all times?
I’m a very open book, but I definitely like to have a private life too and whatever I share I’m in control of, so if I want to be private I feel like I can be.
And what do you do when you’ve got private time?
Well, the first time I went on tour, I was so exhausted from doing the shows that I spent my personal time in hotel rooms doing nothing and that upset me. So this time around, now I’m in Europe, I make sure to get out in every city and go for a walk, go to a park, see what’s going on around me.
And which city have you enjoyed seeing the most on this tour?
I really really loved Antwerp and also Madrid, it was so much fun there. I liked the social side of it, the sun sets at 9.30pm at night and everyone’s just sitting down to eat at tables out on the street and have Sangria and it’s great, I’ve never got a vibe from a city like that before.
And of course there was Paris… you walked for Saint Laurent’s Fall 2015 show, how did that come about and did you enjoy being part of the fash-yon set?
Hedi Slimane called my manager and we met for lunch and he shot me in LA for his diary and then a couple of weeks later he invited me to Paris to walk in his show. Fashion is a new space for me and one that I’m really really excited about, I love everything Hedi does and it’s unfortunate he’s not with Saint Laurent anymore, but it was a great experience.
Are you into fashion and who do you like to wear design-wise?
I buy a lot of vintage stuff and try and mix it up, and being on tour I’ve been buying lots of new pieces. I really like the new Gucci designs, and I would love to do a campaign for them if they asked me!
So apart from modelling for Gucci next, what else is coming up for you?
(Laughs) Well, more music, touring for the rest of this year and I have a lot of very very cool stuff coming out which I can’t really talk about or reveal right now!
What about the future, having grown up on the Internet, you’re a glittering example of the positive impact it can have - what do you feel you would like to achieve next in your life, and obviously share with us all?
I really feel so unbelievably content with life and I could easily imagine myself doing what I’m doing now for another 40 years. But then I can also imagine myself settling somewhere and just being a songwriter. I also want to write a children’s book at some point, but I see no urgency now to figure that stuff out. I feel the world’s been very very kind to me, so I feel relaxed about everything right now.
Ok, just before we say goodbye, because you’re a social media sensation - describe this interview as an emoticon?
I would choose the thinking face one, the one with the hand on the chin, because you’ve really made me think about some of my answers during this interview!