by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
When I was 20 years old, I hadn't yet traveled outside of North America, or eaten sushi, or seen a Broadway musical, and I had barely come out to a few select friends and family. In contrast, 20 year-old Troye Sivan is an internationally-known musician who released both a full-length album (Blue Neighbourhood) and EP (Wild) in the same year, 2015 to be exact, and who sold out many of his concerts, such as his upcoming performance at The Showbox SoDo in Seattle (February 4) in a matter of hours. He's also appeared in a blockbuster movie, as a young James Howlett in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and starred in two regional theater productions in his native Australia. And at the age of 15, Sivan came out to his family, followed by a public announcement to his fans via YouTube three years later in which he delivered the same message, that he was Gay.
If you haven't heard of Troye Sivan, you're on the late show because Taylor Swift is a fan and Adele mentioned him on Twitter a couple of months ago after hearing him cover 'Hello.' Reached by phone, while in LA on his way to grab coffee and avocado toast, I caught up with the young artist. Here's what he had to say when we spoke this past week.
Albert Rodriguez: You were in Seattle a few months ago. Do you have any impressions of the city from your previous stop here?
Troye Sivan: To be honest, I was just so nervous because it was my first ever show I played in Seattle. I don't even remember the night. I remember the venue blurrily in my mind. But I feel like my adrenaline kicked in and then I kind of blacked out. I remember it being very, very pretty. It was really green. And I remember thinking of how insane it was that I was somewhere I'd never been before to play music for people.
Rodriguez: Is the set list from that show going to be the same as the upcoming show, or will it be entirely different?
Sivan: It's different. The songs I played in that set, we're playing a lot of those as well, but in general it's a different show.
Rodriguez: Are you playing with a band, or do you have backup music?
Sivan: We've got the same band that I had last time, plus an extra member. I rehearsed the show for the first time from beginning to end yesterday, and it really does feel like such an insane set up from the last time, even down to the light show. I can't wait for people to see it! I think last time it was me getting up on stage and really kind of introducing myself to people in a live context, and now that that's out of the way, I feel like I could go out there and totally put on a real show that is longer than 45 minutes, that feels substantial; I just want people to walk away and really have had an amazing night.
Rodriguez: For anyone that hasn't seen you in concert, describe the Troye Sivan live experience - is it high energy, is there dancing, etc.?
Sivan: I do think it's high energy, which is strange because I wouldn't have expected that from the songs, but the energy in the room tends to be so intense and amazing. I'd call it a really personal experience. Every night I go out and I can feel that energy, the love from the crowd. I played a show in Sydney the other day and throughout one of the songs, the crowd held up these signs that said '#becauseoftroy' and little things that had happened to them in relation to me; it just felt really special. It was everything from '#becauseof troy I'm at my first ever show' or '#becauseoftroy I came out to my mom' and stuff like that. It felt like there was such a sense of connection and unity.
Rodriguez: You came out to your family at the age of 15 and to fans on YouTube a few years later. What prompted you to tell them?
Sivan: The first thing I did was come out to myself, which was about 14 when I did that. Once I did that, I realized that I started to get more comfortable with myself - that was the first big step - and then I went online and started watching these coming out stories on YouTube and those radically changed my life. They gave me a sense of hope because I realized there were other people who had felt the same way I felt and actually made it to the other side; some of them had bad experiences, some of them had really, really good experiences. At the time, a lot of them had managed to find a much, much, much brighter alternative to themselves, which was being out and finding people who would accept them, who would love them. I went online and looked at forums for LGBT teens and really immersed myself into finding a community online. Once I had that, it got to the point that that's all I could think about; so finally one night I was talking to my dad and just decided it was time and then I told the rest of my family. Thankfully, my entire family has been super accepting and very, very sweet about the whole thing. And now, my family considers it a really positive thing that's happened to us; it's opened our minds and made us so much stronger.
Rodriguez: You've written or co-written all the songs on Blue Neighbourhood. Where and when do you write songs?
Sivan: Basically, writing is a huge part of my life. I always make time for writing. I just feel like I need to write a lot and it's one of my favorite things that I do. With this album, I had the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible producers in the world and ended up really, really liking a couple of them and built a relationship with a few of them, so I scaled it down in terms of the amount of people I was working with and it turned out that a lot of them were working out of apartments, garages, or tiny little studios and stuff. So a lot of the album was written in very homely environments; I guess that's my ideal writing environment.
Rodriguez: Australia is a long way from America. What do you do on such a long plane ride?
Sivan: I'm very good at doing that particular flight because I do it like once a month, pretty much. I go into this weird, sub-human space. I just completely veg out. I actually really enjoy it, because, often as well, it's at the end of a trip to America, where I'm like super exhausted and want to get home and sleep, and then you get on the plane and no one can talk to me, no one can ask me to do anything, so I'll sleep like 10 out of the 14 hours.
Rodriguez: What's your favorite American thing to eat or drink?
Sivan: It's probably a really, really bad thing that I'm about to say, but The Cheesecake Factory is my go-to spot. I feel like you can't go wrong with The Cheesecake Factory, and we don't have anything like that in Australia, where the menu is a short novel and you can literally get anything from Asian food to pasta to burgers.
Rodriguez: The Grammy Awards are coming up and I wanted to ask if you had a personal favorite or prediction for Album of the Year; the nominees are Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Chris Stapleton and Alabama Shakes.
Sivan: It's really hard. To be honest, I think it's between Kendrick (Lamar) and Taylor Swift. I really have no idea out of the two who's going to win. I think they both made really, really incredible albums - they all did - but those two especially are like career-defining albums. I think Taylor Swift really deserves it, but I also think Kendrick does. I'm very torn between those two.
Rodriguez: Are you active on social media, and if so where can we follow you?
Sivan: I'm extremely active on social media. I am on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Snapchat.
Rodriguez: When you're on tour, you're gone for weeks at a time. What are absolute must-items that you pack? Anything that goes into the suitcase first so that it isn't left behind?
Sivan: I have a little checklist. But the first thing I've learned from traveling is not to over pack because it is the most annoying thing in the world having to re-pack when you've over packed. So I force myself to pack only a week's worth of stuff and then do laundry and buy clothes along the way if I want something new. And then I go through the list and pack important things, like passport, money and phone - those are the most important things - and then after that, it's the laptop, laptop charger, phone charger, headphones, and I make sure I've got some movies downloaded on my hard drive, and that's pretty much it. I also bring candles now, so that everywhere I go can smell the same.
Rodriguez: Do you have any plans to return to acting?
Sivan: Maybe. It's always been something that I've said I wanted to explore between albums, and technically I am between albums now. With acting, there are things that just have to come together - you have to find the right part that shoots at the right time that doesn't clash with anything else and the director actually wants to cast you. There's just so much that has to be right, so if that happens then I'll take it and do that, and if it doesn't happen then I'll wait a while longer for something to come along.
Rodriguez: Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Sivan: I'm in love with Matty (Healy) from The 1975 and I'm in love with James Bay. The first celebrity I ever had a crush on, though, when I was younger, was Zac Efron.
Rodriguez: What's the weirdest thing you've encountered in America - food, tradition, or a phrase people use?
Sivan: It's probably when they ask you with a meal if you want fries or fruit. Fruit in Australia is like a dessert, you would have that after your meal; you would never eat your meal with fruit, so that always weirds me out.
Rodriguez: Has anyone in the industry been particularly supportive or had nice things to say to you?
Sivan: Yeah, well, Taylor Swift gave me a really, really awesome shout-out online and talked about my EP that I put out last year. I'd say she was probably a really big one. And Sam Smith, as well, was someone who early on seemed to like my music and has been really sweet to me.
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