“The Prototype for tomorrow’s global pop star” is how The New York Times described YouTuber-turned-popstar Troye Sivan. And it’s easy to see why: Troye’s Blue Neighbourhood album has received rave reviews, his last tour sold out months in advance and now he’s being tapped as the pick for Best New Artist at The GRAMMYs.
All this from a young, gay man who got his start on YouTube.
We chatted with Troye about how he got his start, his music and, of course, his upcoming show in St. Louis.
How did you discover YouTube?
There was a girl whose video was featured on the front page and she had a million views. I couldn’t even fathom that. I saw that she was replying to comments so I said, “Hey, I’m 12. I want to be a singer when I get older.” She told me to upload a music video of me singing her song. So I did, and that’s how I got started.
So it was always your plan to leap from YouTube to a music career?
Yes. For me YouTube was a place that I knew I could sing for more people than I could in real life. I ended up getting a couple hundred views on that first video overnight, and that was already more people than I had performed for in real life. It kind of clicked in my head that this was the way to be heard.
Do you think it’s necessary for YouTube stars to eventually make that leap?
For me it has been a combination of the two, between new and old media. I do a lot of stuff online, but then I also wanted to something in the traditional route and be able to go to awards shows and put out full-length albums. Those are the things that I still value and appreciate. For me, I wanted to do a mixer of both new and old media, but I think that you can completely have a very fulfilling and successful career these days solely online.
Do you see a shift in how people consume music?
Music is in its most exciting space that it has ever been. It is more accessible to people then ever. It’s now more about personal taste. We are not being shoved with music that we are supposed to like. You can venture online and find music that you like personally, and build your playlist from there. Without radio, an artist can still have really meaningful success and strike a chord with people.
I think it was more of a natural reaction. I am really thankful that I came out before I started making music professionally. It meant that I could write honestly. Only one of the songs on the album is LGBT-themed (Heaven). It’s about coming out. Most of the album is pop songs about relationships, family and friends. People tend to put them in the LGBT category because I’m gay, but those songs aren’t necessarily about that. I completely understand and appreciate it. I’m really thankful that by just singing openly about what’s going on in my gay life, it’s helpful to other people.
You mentioned that the inspiration for your lyrics come from relationships, family and friends, but what about your sound?
In terms of sound, I listen to a lot of music. I get overwhelmed when I realize how much amazing music is out there. There are so many artists—classic artists—that I haven’t heard about and I have yet to discover. I finally got around to listening to Joni Mitchell a couple months ago and I fell in love. The whole world knew about Joni Mitchell except for me. When I think about that, I get really overwhelmed because there’s amazing music in the world that I want to consume, but I need to just keeping doing it. So, I think that my music is a combination of every influence in my life from really big ones to very small ones.
Joni’s also been a main stay at The GRAMMY Awards, and word is you’re the hot pick for Best New Artist category.
It’s so weird because I haven’t even thought about that. I get nervous, and I don’t want to jinx it. You’re the second person who has spoken to me about it in twenty minutes. S Now my hands are sweating at the thought. I don’t even know what to say.
How do you feel being nominated as a musician after being well known for so long just through your YouTube career?
That category has changed a lot over the years. I can’t remember that exact definition, but I get it: I still feel like a new artist. I’m changing so much and growing so much that I need to keep reintroducing myself. I want my second album to sound completely different than my first. I want to keep growing.
Creatively, it really laid the groundwork for the album. It took me a second to figure out what I wanted the album to be. I needed to take that time. I really like EPs. I feel really comfortable in them because I feel like you can get across, in six tracks for example, a sound, a message and a vibe, but there is absolutely zero filler. I like the idea of being in sync and tactful. The album was just an extrapolated version of that where I felt like I could really express myself, tell an entire story and paint an entire picture.
I saw that you performed at the Billboard Awards. Was that your first major awards show performance?
It actually was my first time even attending an awards show. It was really overwhelming. I cried before and after the performance. It was probably one of the best days of my life. It’s almost been a month since it happened, and it still feels like it happened yesterday. I’m still trying to process it. I haven’t actually watched the performance though, I don’t know if I ever will. Maybe later, but I get nervous just to even watch it.
Was that a sample of what people can expect from your upcoming tour?
Well, we are going to be playing more songs. I think visually, as well, this tour is going to be such a huge step up. That is one of my main goals; I want this to be mind-blowing to people.
What artist would you compare your shows to?
The show is actually very individual and different from anything that is out there. It feels really intimate to me. I have a very strong connection with my audience and every night is completely different. Experiencing that, I feel like that’s what really sets it apart: the vibe. You have to come and feel and see it to know what I mean. I’m really proud of it.
I know you’re donating a portion of your sales to The Ally Coalition, which I’d never heard of. What are your plans on tying them in with the tour?
I don’t want to say anything because we haven’t confirmed or figured out the logistics. We have really cool ideas to have ways to help out the local LGBT community in each city that we visit. I know that we want to have gender-neutral bathrooms backstage at all the venues for my band and crew. There is a range of different ways that we can make it the safest and most helpful place.
Probably “Heaven,” which I wrote about my coming out experience. Looking out into the crowd and singing that song every night is definitely something that has actually changed me as a person.
Is that different than your favorite song on the album?
“Heaven” wasn’t necessarily my favorite song on the album when I wrote it. I think after putting it out and seeing the response and feeling the reaction to that song, in hindsight, it’s the most important song that I have ever written.
What about Halloween in Australia? Do you have any Halloween stories?
Halloween in Australia is so lame. Like, it doesn’t exist. I tried to trick-or-treat when I was younger, and people would just slam the door in your face. Halloween is an American holiday. Some people would be nice and get us chewing gum or something. I definitely want to experience a real American Halloween.
I want to touch on the fact that your show here in St. Louis is on Halloween night. Any thoughts on dressing up?
That didn’t click in my head until you just said it, and I just got so excited. I am going to start talking to my manager and devising a plan. I am really excited about that now!
And we’re excited to see what you come up with, Troye.
The Suburbia Tour stops at The Pageant on Monday, October 31.. Tickets at ThePageant.com. V
by Jimmy No Show