The musical sensation and VMAN40 cover star inherits the prince-of-pop throne.
The musical sensation and VMAN40 cover star inherits the prince-of-pop throne.
This interview appears in the pages of VMAN40: The New Vanguard Issue, hitting newsstands August 23. Pre-order your copy today at shop.vmagazine.com!
With a sophomore album following his summer smash hit with Ariana Grande, Troye Sivan is becoming the fresh face of mainstream pop—thereby turning the long-heteronormative genre on its ear. Now, in the hard-hitting drama Boy Erased, he’s bringing his progressive values to the big screen opposite Lucas Hedges—who chats with the singer about everything from body image and self-love to what “Bloom” is really about.
LUCAS HEDGES I miss you, how are you?
TROYE SIVAN I miss you, too. I’m good. I’m in LA. I’m going to Singapore tonight, which I’m very excited about. I’m gonna do some signings of my CDs and interviews, then I’m going to Australia and New Zealand.
LH Jesus. So we did a movie together called Boy Erased. Did you feel like getting to explore acting as a craft expanded your sense of your art outside your musical life? Or are they completely different art forms and muscles?
TS Totally. Acting is one of those things where I know what feels right, but I have nowhere near enough experience. It was really cool, but super, super terrifying. I don’t know what my face looks like when it feels a certain way. Sometimes I’ll watch something back and I’ll be like, why do I look so angry? Boy Erased is gonna be the defining thing. If I feel good enough about this, then I’m sure I’ll want to keep going because I had such a good time.
LH When you do your concerts, you have to bring your text to life—kind of the same as acting in many ways, but I imagine some of the words directly came from you and some didn’t; you have people who you write songs with. And you have to find a way to make it come from you every single performance.
TS I’ve written songs about stuff that happened five years ago. For me, acting is the same sort of process. You’re taking a feeling that maybe you’re not feeling in that very present moment. When you’re acting, maybe that experience never happened to you. It’s scary because in music, I feel really comfortable and confident that I’ll be able to get what I want in the end. But with acting, you’ve got a set shoot day, the schedule is not run by you, you have to get it in that time. You kind of have to hope for the best, and also trust the people around you so much. I’m so lucky I got to work with all of you guys on Boy Erased, because I just feel so safe with the whole crew.
LH Aw! That’s such a testament to you, though. I was just really amazed by how down-to-earth you are. I got no sense of ego in a single second of my time with you. I was really blown away. For somebody who means so much to the world, you just really seem to have retained so much of your humanity. It’s really beautiful. What do you encounter from the audience that either scares the shit out of you, or completely drops you into yourself? When I was acting in school, I’d do a monologue for my class, I’d see a kid yawning or scratching his face, and it’d completely take me out of it.
TS Both of those things happen all the time. The scariest thing is a still crowd. For me, that’s always been a sign of, oh no, this isn’t going well. I’m trying to get over that because I saw Perfume Genius play at Coachella and he was so fucking good. For the first few songs, he seemed really shy. Then, on the third song, the production came in with a huge, massive drum hit, and he just threw himself into the most incredible dance moves. I realized that wasn’t him being nervous. That was him completely controlling the room. I felt duped by him, in a really cool way—like, oh shit, this guy had me in the palm of his hand.
LH Wow. Yeah, it’s an art form. What is “Bloom” about to you?
TS I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about, but I just knew that I felt in a really, really good place in my life. I really value home, routine, and love, and I felt like I had all of those things. I got settled in L.A. and was super happy in my relationship. I’d never written happy music, because music is normally something I turn to when I’m sad, as kind of a coping mechanism. So I was like, what does “happy me” sound like? I started just writing these songs. It was sort of love letter after love letter to my boyfriend, house, family, community, and nights out. The word “bloom” I had saved in my phone for so long, because it was really how I was feeling. My first album was almost a coming of age, and this album is when you’re sort of at your fullest form.
LH Do you feel a lot of pressure from the music industry, or from anybody of power in your life, to just constantly be putting out content, even when there’s no need or desire to from your end?
TS I definitely feel that pressure. My relationship with social media has sort of shifted. When I was younger, I really, really needed social media. Growing up in a very small Jewish community in Perth, I knew I didn’t 100 percent t into that. I didn’t really know where to look or who to turn to. I went on the Internet a lot. I was on my laptop literally eight hours a day. I was home-schooled and would get my work done, and sit on Tumblr the rest of the day. That was my starting point with social media. As I’ve gotten a little older, sometimes I get stressed out by it, so I’ll stay off it for a little while. If you spend too much time thinking about what other people are sharing, it kind of bogs you down.
LH Do you feel like there is a character, a persona, you play onstage? Is that liberating?
TS More so over time. When I first started making music, I still felt very much like I was myself: a very normal, kind of self-conscious, skinny Jewish boy from Australia. But over time, in my personal life, I’d feel these little sparks of a more confident version of myself, where maybe I’m out for a night and I have one too many drinks and I’m suddenly dancing like crazy. Or maybe I go to a Pride parade and feel super unabashedly gay for the first time. That’s a big move for me. Or in certain moments, I feel really sexual or sexy in my own personal life. It’s about trying to use the acting part of my brain again, to re-access when making music videos or when in the studio writing a song, to give a bit more variety and range to the music and visuals I’m making. I’ll close my eyes on a music video set right before I do something and I’m like, Okay, just for a second, humor yourself and say that you have not a care in the world, so you feel like you can wear this thing, or you feel like you can move like that or whatever. Through that, I’ve started having so much fun. It’s been the most liberating thing. I used to see people wearing certain clothes and I’d be like, Fuck they are so cool, I would never wear that. But why not? Who’s stopping you? I think realizing that unlocked a different side of myself. It’s a skill set I’m trying to get better at where I’m like, Fuck all of that, stop being so hard on yourself, and just for a second let yourself be there. Let yourself live this fantasy.
LH “Bloom” is one of the most beautiful music videos I’ve ever seen. What did it do to you and your sense of self, putting on those clothes and makeup?
TS It was really scary, actually. I thought I was ready—I was in a place in my life where I felt like I could own it. Then, I got all dressed up, put the makeup on and everything, and I had this crazy moment where I looked in the mirror and I was like, Oh shit, am I really about to do this? Can I pull this off? I had this weird moment of crazy self-doubt. I felt like I was 15 again and just super, super scared. I just closed my eyes and was like, Who can say what you are or what you can be but yourself? No one can. The only person that’s holding me back from this is myself. Everyone around me is ready to make this happen and I feel ready in my heart to make this happen, but I’m getting in my own way. You’ve gotta sort of push through that, and I’m so glad that I did. The person I see in the video is this idealized version of myself, who I’m trying to be and who I want to be one day. It ended up being a really liberating experience.
LH What do you think distinguishes our generation from previous groups?
TS I think the biggest difference is probably social media. I don’t think we’ve ever had a global conversation in the way that we are having it now. I know this sounds so crazy, but even something like memes. The fact that there is a joke going around between millions and millions of people. That is so crazy to me. I think that the result of that is that young people are just getting on the same page. I’m excited to see how it all plays out.