Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Troye Story: How Troye Sivan took over the world

Troye Sivan, on a thoroughly modern road to fame, has struggled but is following his dreams, he tells Lydia Jenkin.

Twenty-one-year-old Troye Sivan is a new kind of star - one who found an audience for his smooth voice, twinkling blue eyes, and easy-going presence via the internet, but has taken that audience and found mainstream success to the point where he's become one of the most promising pop phenomenons of 2016.

Born in South Africa, but firmly identifying himself as Western Australian, Sivan has always loved performing, whether at his local synagogue, busking on the street, or performing at corporate events from the age of 12. But it was when he discovered YouTube that things really took off.

Making a name for himself first with stripped-back cover performances and candid chat videos, he reached fans all over the globe without leaving his parents home in suburban Perth. He recorded and released two EPs on his own (one in 2007, another in 2012) and slowly garnered recognition, as well as pursuing acting and modelling careers.

But it was when he came out in a YouTube video in 2013 (his parents and close friends already knew he was gay) that his fanbase found a whole new level of affinity for Sivan, and his open-hearted connection with them. He was a shining example of someone who'd struggled and felt alienated and different, and followed his dreams anyway.

"That connection is something that's so dear to my heart, and has been a big part of me becoming who I am, so I don't want to lose it" he explains down the line from Australia.

Since then he's signed to Universal, and released two more EPs (TRXYE and Wild), which made him a household name in Australia, and one of Time magazine's Most Influential Teens of 2014 as well as garnering Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, and Adele as fans.

The end of last year saw him release his debut LP Blue Neighbourhood. Cue a Billboard #1 hit (for Wild) and many more millions of social media fans. His video for Youth has had 38 million views since February.

Sivan comes across as sweet and genuine in real life as he does in his songs and videos. But he's clearly also a smart 21-year-old. Such as when he talks about why he decided to sign to a record label, even though he'd come so far on his own.

"I think for me, that was largely a creative decision, which sounds a bit weird. I knew that having the resource of a record label behind me would be beneficial, as far as marketing and that sort of thing goes, but I also just really didn't know where to start when it came to making an album.

"I didn't know any producers or anything like that. I had the songs in my head and I'd been trying to create stuff on my laptop, and there's only so far you can go with that. But it takes me ages to try to translate what's in my head into something other people can hear so I just felt quite frustrated. So when I got the record deal offer, I saw it as an opportunity to work with other creative people who could help me bring all this stuff in my head to life."

Sivan was determined however to make sure his record stayed true to his vision, and specifically wanted to work with other young writers and producers who would understand his youthful point of view.

"Above all else I wanted the album to be very real and honest, and I think I specially felt that pressure, being openly gay and everything like that. I haven't heard enough music from that perspective throughout my lifetime, and so I didn't want to miss this opportunity to not sugar coat anything and truly write from my perspective.

"I didn't want to be working with mega producers who might make me sound like everyone else. I wanted to keep things a little more low-key and just write with friends, and write with people I could talk to about everything that's going on in my life and we could kind of turn that into something honest and real."

The music videos have been an equally important part of the release, with Sivan working with director Tim Mattia to create a trilogy of videos that follow the story of a young boy, his first gay relationship, the complications of family and society, and the depression that comes with that.

He was partly inspired by the story of Alan Turing as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, and the frustration of thinking how little things had really improved for LGBTIQ people in the past 50 years.

"Making music videos is the scariest thing to me. Feeling like I had to be in charge of all of that was daunting. But the trilogy of videos came together really easily in the end. I really enjoyed working with Tim and they conveyed everything I wanted them to in terms of all the LGBTIQ issues we still need to deal with."

Troye Sivan was determined to make sure his record stayed true to his vision, and specifically wanted to work with other young writers and producers.
Troye Sivan was determined to make sure his record stayed true to his vision, and specifically wanted to work with other young writers and producers.

Rather oddly, Sivan performed live for the first time in December last year. But the force of his already rabid fanbase has been huge, seeing him headline sell-out tours across the US, Europe, Australia and now New Zealand.

"I'd performed live a bit when I was a little kid, like singing at synagogue and doing a few corporate events, but all of those audiences were very, very different to the one I walked out to see in Seattle in December.

"I was really, really scared about what would happen when I walked out there but when I did, the screams from the crowd, and both the physical and emotional warmth, it completely numbed me for a second.

"And then I started singing - the first line from the first song - and I couldn't even hear myself because the crowd were singing so loudly with me. I had no idea it would happen but from that moment I knew I'd be okay. Even if I had to run off stage to have a quick vomit or something - and that was one of my fears - they would carry on without me."

Low down

Who: Troye Sivan
Touring: Tonight at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch; Saturday and Sunday at Auckland Town Hall.
Listen to: Blue Neighbourhood (2015), Wild EP (2015), TRXYE EP (2014)

- TimeOut

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 28 Oct 2016 04:48:22 Processing Time: 648ms