pop star troye sivan is helping other people express their sexuality
He came out on YouTube, and is using the internet to break down pop music's barriers.
Troye Sivan is truly a pop star for the social media era. The 20-year-old Australian made his name on YouTube, documenting the minutiae of his life in a series of charmingly chatty videos that have racked up nearly 200m views. He also used it to come out. He's super-prominent on Twitter, where he communicates daily with his 2.9m followers, and Snapchat, where he posts as frequently as your most flirtatious mate. Now he's outlining his credentials as a credible singer-songwriter with Wild, an emotionally literate EP of "dark alternative pop music" inspired by Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean. i-D met up with Troye recently to find out more about his unique musical and online life.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs? What do you write about?
I've written some stuff that wasn't about my life -- I wrote a song about John Green's book The Fault In Our Stars -- but mostly it's all autobiographical. I think the cool thing about songwriting is having an experience and writing quite specifically about it, but then seeing on Tumblr that people are interpreting what the song means in completely different ways. I think that's what songwriting is all about taking an experience and finding a cool, refreshing way to express it so that it can be decoded in so many different ways by so many different people.
Because you share so much on YouTube, does that make it easier to open up in your songs?
It's weird actually, because I'm open about different things in my songs. On YouTube and Twitter I'm open about, like, what I had for lunch, but I won't be open about stuff like relationships or family. And those are the things that I write almost exclusively about in my songs. I think music is such an emotional form of communication -- like, it's got such a direct tie to my emotions -- so the really important stuff goes into the music. Whereas Snapchat is, like, for what I'm eating.
Olly from Years & Years has said it's sad that more gay male pop stars don't use male pronouns in their songs. As an out gay singer-songwriter, is that something that's important to you?
Yeah, because to me music is about honesty and truth and experiences and stories. I mean, all my songs are about boys, so yeah, I sing about boys! Wild is about that very first day or two of being in a relationship, just waking up and, like, not wanting to text him for a couple of hours so you don't seem too keen -- flirting basically! But I understand why people didn't do it in the past because the world was a less accepting place and I'm incredibly grateful to people like Olly and Sam Smith who are breaking down those barriers by being open pop stars.
Are you worried that as you become better known as a singer, you won't have as much time to make YouTube videos?
Yeah. It's important for me to keep the connection going. I work really hard to make sure I'm talking to my followers on a daily basis, whether it's through Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram or whatever. Sure, there might not be as many YouTube videos, but to me it's about the conversation. As long as that conversation stays open, I'm happy, but ideally I'd like to keep making as many videos as I can.
What is the 'conversation' between you and your followers? What do you talk about?
It's super-personal and connected. You know, I don't necessarily like it when artists say, 'My fans are my friends', but really these are the people I talk to, like, multiple times a day. When I'm alone in a hotel room in the middle of night, I'll go on Twitter and feel like I've got all these people I can chat with and they're all hilarious and we all share the same sense of humor. It really does feel like I'm talking to friends, it's like one big group text or something.
You came out online two years after you came out 'in real life'. What made you want to take the leap and come out to your followers?
It was a really similar feeling to the one I had in real life when I came out, which was just that it became this all-consuming thing not to be out. I remember there was this breaking point where I saw a photo of Harry Styles looking amazing in yellow shorts, and I really wanted to tweet about it but knew I couldn't. Obviously I was incredibly nervous before I posted my coming out video, because you never know what's going to happen, but I did feel like people would get it and not freak out. So I just decided to go for it, really.
What was the reaction like?
Overwhelmingly positive. You know, I still get messages about that video every single day. It's my favorite YouTube video I've ever made for sure.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility now? Do you feel like a role model?
I mean, I definitely feel the responsibility. It's just whether or not I like the tag 'role model'. The internet is such an incredible place for education -- look at the trans movement, the leaps that it's made in the last year, that could have taken 50 years without the internet. Of course, that's also huge thanks to Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner and people like that. But you know, for me to have this huge platform, I do feel the responsibility to try and educate people and also to educate myself. I just want to help make the world a less shit place, basically.
How have you used the internet to educate yourself?
Before I came out, I anonymously signed up to a lot of gay teen forums and I watched a lot of coming out videos on YouTube. Like, all of them! I remember watching Lady Gaga give a speech at Washington Pride and there were all these thousands of people there with her, so I remember thinking, if my family and friends don't accept me and kick me out, at least I can go to Washington and hang out with Lady Gaga all these thousands of people. For me, the internet was an incredible place of comfort and reassurance, it told me I was going to be OK, so now I try and provide that for people who are in the same position as I was.
Text Nick Levine