Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It felt like a well-timed visit, Troye Sivan “dipping in and out” of Manila just a few days after Pride weekend. So naturally I had to ask him, how had he been celebrating Pride month?
“I had multiple pride weekends because I’ve been in a couple of different places,” he says, just right after he wrapped up shooting for SM Youth’s new campaign. “[At] LA Pride I walked in … there was a resistance march that I attended. [At] New York Pride, I was there [in the city but] didn’t go out because I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in. What else have I done? I’ve been out just to the clubs and stuff like that. I went out in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago and went gay clubbing there, yeah … it’s just been a good couple of weeks. [Laughs]”
Sivan was flown in exclusively for the SM Youth shoot for their newest line Smyth (he was photographed by his ‘twin’ BJ Pascual for the campaign) and spent about 24 hours in the city. The singer and actor has been having a great two years since he pivoted from being a YouTube personality into a bonafide pop star. He was picked up by a major record label after the success of his original song “The Fault in Our Stars,” inspired by the John Green’s novel of the same name. Prior to his music career, he starred in the “Spud” trilogy as well as in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
His first album, “Blue Neighborhood” peaked at the seventh spot on the US Billboard 200 charts. He has since performed at the Billboard Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” “Ellen,” as well as several campaigns for American Eagle Outfitters, Calvin Klein, and Saint Laurent.
In April 2017, he was given the Stephen F. Kolzak Award by the Gay and Lesbians Against Defamation (GLAAD) for his contributions in promoting equality and acceptance. He came out to his fans through a YouTube video in 2013.
It felt a bit surreal seeing Sivan — who actually has a hit song called “Youth” — around without a performance in tow. Fans eventually spotted him in Makati and promptly asked “Is Troye Sivan really in Manila?” There were no announcements, no publicity at all. Sivan was working on a little surprise for his Filipino fans and soon we’ll see him on billboards donning goods from a local clothing line.
But Sivan will return, hopefully next year, he says, for a tour. He’s working hard on his follow up to his successful first album, “Blue Neighborhood,” and couldn’t be more excited to share it with everyone.
CNN Philippines Life sat down with the Australian pop star and talked about LGBT characters in media, his second album, and being a small part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
You said that you basically grew up in the internet, which means most of your life just exists out there. Have you ever watched your old videos? How do you feel that you can just access any part of your life online?
I haven’t done it yet. Because I’m not brave enough, I don’t think. [Laughs] I haven’t rewatched any of my old videos or anything in so long. So yeah, maybe I’ll be able to answer that in a couple of years but right now it’s too close for comfort that it’s still too … cringe-y. I’ll watch my old videos when I’m a bit older.
Did you imagine what life would be like if you’re a pop star? How does it compare to what was in your head to actually living it now?
I definitely imagined it. But whether or not it would actually come true is a completely different thing. I always understood that the chances of what I wanted to happen, the chances of them actually happening, [were] so so slim … that I kind of had to keep myself in check a little bit but the thing is that the main reason why I just kept going was because I loved it so much.
I didn’t really think about it too much, like “Oh, this is probably not gonna work out so I should stop” or whatever. I just loved it so I kept going and then, it was almost like I turned around and then one day, it was all happening. It was my job all of a sudden, and it was not something that I was doing for fun, it was something that people were interested in. I’m so lucky that’s happened.
Was there ever a point that you thought making music is now a very serious thing and not just for fun anymore?
Um … I have that almost every day, I’d say yeah. [Laughs] I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about it so much, even just coming here, just on the plane and stuff like that … Life is just so, so crazy, and I’m so lucky. I’m just having the best time … I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy, yeah … I’m just a very lucky boy.
What do you do to be creative?
I take breaks. I take so many breaks in the studio. I, like, as soon as we hit any sort of, not any sort of block, because sometimes it’s worth sitting and pushing through, but you can just feel in the room when everyone’s like at a limit, and there’s no sunlight in studios. So for me, I’ll go outside, I’ll be like “Let’s go buy a pack of chewing gum” or something. Then we’ll go for a walk, buy some gum, maybe a bottle of water or something like that. By the time we come back, we’ll listen to the song, and firstly, it’ll sound a million times better when you left because you haven’t been listening to it on loop for like three hours anymore. You come back and “Wait, this is actually really good, it’s so obvious that this is what we should do.” And it just sort of falls into place.
Sometimes I worry that people think I’m constantly trying to make a statement by putting a boy in my music videos, but it’s also just my truth.
You’ve collaborated with young artists in your first album. Who else do you want to collaborate with?
I’ve said this a bunch the last album but Lorde for me is such a big one. I think her second album is so gorgeous and I still love to write with her. I’ll just keep saying it until it happens. [Laughs] Even kind of just ask her opinion on what I’m doing and stuff like that.
I met her finally, which was a nice thing. We just had a really nice chat, but I’d love to sit down and play some [of my] music and just be like, “What do you think?” kind of like, just musician to musician kind of thing because I respect her so much.
Funny you mentioned Lorde since I was going to ask about the parallelisms between your first albums. Lorde’s was thriving on suburban angst and so was yours. But in “Melodrama,” it was more an emotional response to what was happening around her. Do you see the same thing happening to you?
Yeah, I think so, it’s definitely the way that it’s heading. I don’t want to really say what it’s about yet but it’s definitely a different set of topics that the first album was.
How different is the second album in terms of scale?
The people that I’m working with on this album are like, dream collaborators as far as producers and writers go. I pretty much can’t think of a room of people of musicians that I haven’t gotten into that I really wanted to [work with], like all my dream producers have been into the project and have at least written something with me. Whether or not it’s gonna make it into the album, I’m not sure but I managed to get … With them so it feels a lot bigger in that way.
So when you tweeted about working on your “dream album,” it meant having all these producers that you’ve always wanted to work with …
Totally. I was with a producer the other day — I won’t name drop yet just in case it doesn’t make the album — I got this playlist and I was like, “Yeah this is my inspo,” and I was like holy shit he did half of the songs on this playlist. [Laughs] I need to not show him this. [Laughs] But I mean I did, and that’s a cool moment to be able to be like, “How did you do it?” Let’s do it again.
Do you find yourself thinking more of as a musician now more than ever?
I think so, yeah. It’s like my heart and soul, and it’s my language, and the thing that I love most in the world … except for my family, basically. [Laughs]
Are you ever worried that you’re hitting this too fast? You’ve done a lot of great things in the past two years: You debuted on Jimmy Fallon, you’ve had a bunch of magazine covers, posed for clothing lines, and had your record at the Billboard Top 25 …
I don’t think so only [because] I’ve got a really great team around me who help me make sure that my life is very centered … as crazy as it’s been, I took off from November until March and had just like a couple of months doing absolutely nothing. I feel like I’ve got a really well-rounded life. If I didn’t, I’d say, then yeah, it’s all happening too fast. It’s all happening very quickly, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
Would you ever consider going back to acting?
I don’t know. I’ve thought about it. I think if the right role comes around, I would do it. We’ll see.
And in a small way, you’re part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because you were the young James Howlett in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.
I know. That’s really cool to me. That’s something I’ll ever be proud of.
Your first three music videos were very cinematic. And you’ve followed those up with some pretty fun ones. Which video did you enjoy doing the most?
Probably the trilogy. Yeah, that was such an ambitious project and also I feel like I didn’t when I didn’t necessarily have the resources that I have now so it was very D.I.Y., throwing together … and it was a great small team that took on this humongous thing of making three music videos in three days … and it was … I’m so proud of how the videos came out and I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved. People speak to me about those videos all the time so I’m really proud that we did that.
Was it ever meant to make a statement?
I think I just saw an opportunity, a need for LGBT stories to be told and I will continue to try and fill that need. And it’s also … sometimes I worry that people think I’m constantly trying to make a statement by putting a boy in my music videos, but it’s also just my truth. It’s what it is. I don’t know what else to do besides that. So yeah I guess you can expect a lot more of that from me.
When you were growing up, did you ever see yourself in a character in a movie or a T.V. show?
I don’t actually think I ever did. And I think that’s a real issue ... I’m trying to think of any ... [Pauses] There was a gay guy on “Degrassi” but even so … I never saw someone like “That’s like me. That’s what I am.”
So is that part of the reason why you always want your truth on your music videos?
Exactly, yeah. I wanna try and be that for someone. I’m only gonna be that for a certain amount of people so the more queer people we can get in the media, the better, I think.