Concrete Journal photo shoot and interview with Troye Sivan
Photos: Neon Theory
Interview: Alyssa Cavanagh
Meeting Troye Sivan at EMI HQ, he is everything you would expect him to be like; polite, charming, articulate and immaculately stylish. The photo shoot was first, and Troye got straight into posing without being awkward. I swear I don’t have a single bad frame of him from the 200 photos I fired off in the allocated 30 minutes of shooting time! Afterwards, we sat down for a chat, covering all things – Cat Cafe’s, the Spice Girls, romance and of course his hugely anticipated ‘WILD’ album release. This is our full conversation:
Alyssa: Hi Troye, thanks for chatting with Concrete Journal today. How are you?
Troye: I’m good thanks. I’m really, really good.
Alyssa: ‘WILD’ is about to blow up the Internet on September 4th. Are you excited about the release?
Troye: I’m so excited I’ve been waiting for September 4th for a really long time, so yeah; it feels like it’s been a long time coming.
Alyssa: How did you come up with the title ‘WILD’ and what does it represent to you?
Troye: So basically ‘Wild’ was the last song that we wrote for the project. When we wrote it, it just felt like a moment. It felt really important to me personally and to what I’m trying to achieve here. Which is essentially just making really cool, interesting pop songs. I feel like ‘Wild’ is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written.
Alyssa: So basically it’s your baby, and it seemed fitting to name it after that?
Troye: Yes, totally.
Alyssa: I really like how ‘WILD’ delves into quite a pop-y territory, yet it still remains very ‘Troye’.
Troye: Right, thank you that was what we’re trying to go for. I think this time around I found collaborators really early on that I trusted and loved working with. Once you find that trust, you can explore so much more (pauses) because you feel safe with them so you know that you’re gonna end up with something cool regardless of what happens. You know what I mean? The song that I wrote with Alex Hope, who I’ve written well over half the album with, was just her and I in her studio in Sydney. We were in our ideal comfort zone, and it just felt like a safe environment to try out that ‘poppier’ side of me and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Alyssa: When did you realise that you wanted to get into music?
Troye: I was probably like 2! (laughs) I just really loved singing around the house. I used to sing The Spice Girls and stuff like that. Any opportunity where there was anything that looked remotely like a stage I would jump on it, probably like tables and things like that. I was just always, always, always trying to sing for people. It’s always existed in my life in different forms. When I was 8 it was just singing lessons, then I started doing corporate events. When I was 13 my voice started breaking, so I then completely became a recluse musically. That’s when I started working in my bedroom and how I ended up writing ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, which is the song that got me signed when I was 17 or 18 so it’s always been there but in different forms, and now it’s like my main schtick.
Alyssa: That’s awesome! I forget how young you are, you would’ve been about 2 when the Spice Girls became big. I was quite young also, but they pretty much blew my mind.
Troye: Yeah, well I had Spice World on VHS and it was the one with them on top of that red bus. I haven’t seen it since I was like 4 or 5 or whatever, but I still remember it. Also, a Michael Jackson concert that my dad taped over are my memories of music as I was younger.
Alyssa: Do you think you were attracted to that kind of lifestyle? Do you think being exposed to that influenced you?
Troye: Yeah it just seemed like such an attractive thing to me, the music, first and foremost. I used to just be absolutely mesmerised by what I now recognise as the arrangements of a song for live. All the big build ups, the long intros and stuff like that. I would watch and think how cool Michael Jackson was. He would hype up a song for 3 minutes and stand there while the crowd would scream. All that stuff was so interesting to me, and I feel like I know why now. It makes sense.
Alyssa: What’s your favourite part of the job?
Troye: Ummm, songwriting. I’ve only been songwriting for 2 years now but it’s fast become everything I do.
Alyssa: What has been the most surreal moment of your career so far?
Troye: The most surreal moment was Grammy night. Probably because I’d met Sam Smith before and we kinda like became mates a little bit. So I spent a lot of Grammy night just hanging out with him, and we went to a party that was full of everyone that I had ever listened to growing up. I was just like “oh look, there’s Taylor Swift walking by, and there’s Katy Perry having a drink.” It was just absolutely 100% out of the movies. So, that was so surreal, yep, I’ve never seen anything like it. Rihanna… just like everyone was there –
Alyssa: Oh wow, so everyone was just chillin’?
Troye: Yeah hanging out, that was the weirdest thing! Everyone was just hanging out. The weirdest part was that it was quite, like a lame party, no one was dancing (laughs). I was just like completely wide-eyed the whole night.
Alyssa: Did you try and get people dancing?
Troye: No! I was so busy just looking around. I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous because I just literally couldn’t stop looking around.
Alyssa: I can picture you just looking around like a meerkat –
Troye: I was just trying to stay calm, and cool, and collected, and failing miserably probably (laughs).
Alyssa: I’m sure you were fine, they were probably freaking out about you!
Troye: (Laughs) no way…
Alyssa: Who are your biggest influences?
Troye: The person who made me really want to write music was Amy Winehouse. I was just so obsessed, I listened to how conversational her lyrics are, and how real they are. She didn’t embellish things to make it relatable to the masses or whatever. She sang about such specific experiences in her life that it was such a form of therapy for her. That just seemed really really attractive and appealing to me. I basically wanted to try and do it for myself. I started listening to music really differently when I was 14 or 15, and started hearing the individual elements in a song rather than just listening and thinking “that’s a good song.” I started to really listen to production, listen to lyrics, listen to melody and figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like. I always loved it (music), and I didn’t know why. I only really discovered what I liked in music when I started this educational process.
Alyssa: I feel like that’s generally the process for any artist. You generally just immerse yourself into it and start teaching yourself things. You can only become a true artist if you’re growing and learning –
Troye: Mmm, right.
Alyssa: Which brings me to my next question – In your music, you write about love, loneliness and friendship. Do you feel as though music has been a therapeutic process for you?
Troye: Yeah music is a very direct line to my emotions. My emotions are very accessible through music y’know? I don’t cry or anything like that, but if there’s something that makes me cry it’s music. It’s just always been very attached to my emotions and how I feel.
Alyssa: Yeah I love that, when you listen to something and it really just touches you on an emotional level, and you get chills.
Troye: If I’m crying in a movie it’s because they’ve used the perfect song at the perfect moment. So I’m like “ok, yep cool, I’m just done.”
Alyssa: Now that your life has changed in a pretty big way, could you walk us through a typical day in the life of Troye?
Troye: The thing is that there’s no such thing as a typical day, it’s different every day. I think that’s why I like it so much, but it completely depends where I am. If I’m in Perth then it’s completely normal. I wake up and hang out with my friends and chill with my family because there’s not much that I can really do there. But, somewhere like here (Sydney), I’ll wake up and have 12 interviews, photo shoots and Spotify listening sessions and stuff like that.
Alyssa: Fun! Yeah that sounds really hectic!
Troye: Yeah it’s fun though. I got to go to a cat café today! So like, That’s my job…
Alyssa: In Sydney?
Troye: Catmosphere in Surry Hills, Yeah I was filming stuff there.
Alyssa: I’m not leaving until tomorrow afternoon; I need to find this cat café.
Troye: Where are you from?
Alyssa: I’m from Adelaide, I flew here for our shoot/interview.
Troye: Oh awesome! Thank you!
Alyssa: ‘WILD’ is a brave, bold, and ambitious statement of intimacy, romance, and the intensity in between. Would you say you’re a romantic person?
Troye: (pauses) Yeah… just not necessarily in the… I can’t stand cheese, I don’t like cheesy romance. You know what I mean? Like I’m not going to be the guy that shows up with a dozen red roses, but I definitely believe in love.
Alyssa: Yeah I don’t believe in puke-worthy romance.
Troye: No I’m not into like kinda stuff. Romance to me is like Netflix and Indian food/takeaway.
Alyssa: Yep, that’s pretty much me as well, I love Netflix.
Troye: It’s so relaxing.
Alyssa: I get goosebumps listening to ‘Bite.’ It’s my favourite track –
Troye: Oh, that’s awesome thank you!
Alyssa: So, ‘Bite’ is basically about your first time going to a gay bar. Could you talk us through your creative process? And would you say WILD is autobiographical?
Troye: Yeah ‘WILD’ is definitely autobiographical. With ‘Bite,’ I went into the studio with Allie X and Leland, who are both artists, and a producer called Bram Inscore. We’d been working together for a couple of months. Allie started playing that little piano melody and it was creepy and haunting, but really innocent and childlike at the same time. It sounded like a fucked up nightmare from a little kid. We started talking and I told them about how I had been out and started describing it to them… Some of the best nights of my life have been at gay clubs, yet at the same time there was definitely a strange kind of concoction of emotions, I felt really vulnerable. I never felt more like a little kid when I was there. I felt like I was this tiny innocent 18-year-old, and everyone else was so much older and bigger than me. But I loved it. So, for me it was like capturing some of that curiosity, but also that vulnerability and the chaos of the experience.
Alyssa: So yeah, I guess that’s part of the human experience. Any first time experience you feel yourself revert back to your childlike state of mind. That kind of lullaby, almost nursery rhyme vibe that’s in that song is so good.
Troye: I’m so nervous that this isn’t recording? Is it?? (picking up the voice recorder)
Alyssa: It is.
Troye: Ok cool, I just wanted to check sorry.
Alyssa: I checked like 5 times (nervous laughter).
Troye: (laughs) Cool sorry what was the question?
Alyssa: How do you feel about your fans knowing you on such an intimate level?
Troye: I’m fine with it. I’ve been online since I was 12-ish. That was when I uploaded my first YouTube video. I’m 20 now, so I’ve had a couple of years to figure out how much I want to share. There have been times where I’ve over shared and times when I haven’t said a word. I’ve figured out what I’m comfortable and not comfortable with… any sort of privacy goes out the window when they hear the music because we just didn’t hold back with the writing. Like I said the writing is 100% autobiographical. Everything that I would never ever, ever, talk about in a YouTube video or a tweet, are in the songs.
Alyssa: Yeah, I find your music really accessible and feel that people can really listen to it and not get too caught up in the particular things.
Troye: Well that’s the thing, obviously these are specific stories to me but also, one of the cool things about music is that it makes us realise how connected we are. That’s why listening to a song makes us think ‘”this song gets me on a personal level,” because subconsciously we apply it to our lives and that’s the coolest thing.
Alyssa: You’re basically living the dream. Your debut EP TRXYE has topped the iTunes album charts in 66 countries, and now you have an upcoming release of ‘WILD’ which has also topped the iTunes album charts in over 41 countries… and it hasn’t even been released yet! Which is actually crazy. I think every creative person would love to know, how the hell did you achieve that?
Troye: Wow. Um thanks (laughs). A lot of people don’t necessarily take me, or my music super seriously, because I started on YouTube. I do completely understand why though. Starting from YouTube is such a new way of doing things, but at the same time I wouldn’t take it back in a million years. I was born to be a musician, and I believe I was born to make music and do what I’m doing now.
Alyssa: For WILD you’ve collaborated and co-written with some really impressive ‘futurist’ musicians and producers: Tkay Maidza, BROODS, SLUMS and Allie X to name a few. How was that experience for you?
Troye: I love every single one of those people, I feel like it’s this little crew of just awesome musicians who are forward-thinking, I met every single one of them and thought ‘I really want to surround myself with people like you’ people who are open to ideas and just creatively just so exciting and I’m honoured to have worked with all of those people, I just think they’re the bees knees.
Alyssa: Your track ‘DKLA’ which is an acronym for Don’t Keep Love Around, you’ve described it as your darkest song, could you tell us why?
Troye: So the way that that song was written was we went to The Grove which is kinda like a live-in studio. It’s an hour North of Sydney and I went with SLUMS, Jia Lih and Alex (Hope). We stayed there for like 3 days and there was a lot of sleeping in until midday and then working throughout the night. It was nighttime, and it was dark and I think that’s probably why we started with the chords that we started with. Then obviously the chords kind of informed the lyric and the lyric was basically about being hurt too many times that you basically just get burnt out and you’re like done with love for now! And I think it’s a really sad song about a person who’s essentially given up y’know? That drum beat is such a fresh beat I knew that I wanted a female rapper and I couldn’t think of anyone better than Tkay. She sent a Garage Band demo in like two days and it was so so so so good. So she just went into the studio and I think she was in London and put it down. It’s now like one of my favourite moments on the whole project.
Alyssa: You especially notice how dark it is when you listen to that track and then you go back to the first track. You can hear sonically it’s so dark and you definitely pull it off.
Troye: Thank you so much.
Alyssa: Can you reveal anything about what’s next for you?
Troye: So there’s a lot of music coming out this year, ‘WILD’ and other music coming before the end of 2015. And touring as well is something that I’m really really excited about, I mean I haven’t got or announced any dates or anything like that yet but it’s definitely something that we’re working towards.
Alyssa: Very cool, like an Australian tour?
Troye: I wanna go all over with the show, yeah I just want to go everywhere.
Alyssa: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Troye: Hopefully still doing what I’m doing but just much better. I wanna keep growing.
Alyssa: Lastly, any life/career advice for people starting out in the creative industry?
Troye: I would say there’s no need to wait around anymore, because you can do a lot of it yourself ∆
‘WILD’ is available today to purchase here: www.troyesivan.com