As kids his age are still trying to figure out what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives, 19-year-old Troye Sivan seems to have it all figured out. Actor, YouTuber and a singer-songwriter, it’s like he’s already living the dream.
Born in South Africa but raised in Australia, Sivan first cut his teeth into show business by taking on the role of a young Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine when he was 12. Having since worked with the likes of legendary actor John Cleese in the Spud trilogy films, Sivan has recently been trying to establish a footing in the music world. Luckily for him though, he has the internet to thank for all his success.
With over 2.6 million followers on YouTube and an active presence on social media, the teen quickly gained the attention of major record labels after his song “The Fault In Our Stars” (based on the John Green book of the same name) went viral on YouTube in 2013. Now signed to major record label EMI Australia, Sivan seems well on his way to stardom with his recently released EP TRXYE, which debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200.
Currently dominating the airwaves with his latest single, “Happy Little Pill,” Sivan chatted with ANDPOP via phone while he was in Los Angeles promoting his EP. Having just attended the MTV Video Music Awards two days prior, he opened up about his music, talked about watching Beyoncé’s glorious VMAs performance live and swooned over baby Blue Ivy.
What was the biggest highlight for you at the VMAs?
Oh my gosh, 100 per cent the Beyoncé performance. I think that she is so great and her visuals and everything just blew me away. She is such a great entertainer. It just made me realize why she is where she is. She’s just like… not even human.
Did you shed a tear when Blue Ivy went on stage?
I was emotional when Jay and Blue first walked in. I don’t even think they were on TV at that point. I was pretty close to everyone so I was freaking out at Blue Ivy. She looked SO CUTE. I was just trippin’ out. It was an amazing moment for me.
Now onto the topic of your music. First of all, congratulations on making the Billboard 200. What did you do when you found out you were in the Top 5?
Oh my gosh…where even was I? I was in America. I woke up to a text from a guy from my record label and I don’t know…it’s so hard to grasp things. But that was one of the things where I was like,”Oh my gosh. This is like actually happening. This is real!” It was certainly a humbling and cool moment.
[People on the Internet] are really, really funny and they’re cool. They’re like friends. I think when the music came around, it was an awesome head start [because] I’ve got this community ready to listen to whatever I wanted to put out.
Did you do anything to celebrate?
I didn’t really. I’ve had a lot of meetings this week so I probably just like, celebrated by sitting in someone’s office. But it was still a cool moment.
Do you think being an active presence on the internet, in terms of YouTube and Tumblr, has helped with your success?
Oh, for sure. Definitely. I’ve got such a supportive and active community online that it [has become] a platform that a lot of musicians would die for. I’m really, really appreciative of it. I think it’s the coolest thing in the world that I’ve got this really excited community of people where I can get immediate feedback. I can put anything up at any time and get responses and support. I think it’s just 100 per cent monumental in the whole process for me.
How has social media been a helpful outlet to you?
It was never really that calculated to me. I didn’t think, “I wanna be a musician so let me start up my social media or whatever.” I think as a 19-year-old, I’ve grown up with Facebook and I’ve grown up with Twitter. For me, it’s just natural to have all of that and use it. I started to build up a profile and realized how amazing it felt and how amazing it was to be able to have that community to bounce things off of and to communicate with. [People on the Internet] are really, really funny and they’re cool. They’re like friends. I think when the music came around, it was an awesome headstart [because] I’ve got this community ready to listen to whatever I wanted to put out.
Is there a theme for your EP, TRXYE?
Not really. Other than I wrote or co-wrote all of the songs. That’s really the only thing that ties them together. As far as that subject matter goes, there’s no real link to them.
Why did you replace the ‘O’ with an ‘X’ in your name for the title?
For me, I’ve seen around a lot on the internet people censoring swear words with an ‘x’ or an asterisk. It was just an interesting concept to me. I felt the words looked really, really cool as well. It was visually striking.
And I felt for a while a little bit censored because I’m so used to sharing everything with the internet and, all of a sudden, I was having all these experiences in my personal life that are too personal to share. Also, I had signed this record deal and was working on this music, the sound and developing the visuals. It was consuming my entire life. I couldn’t talk to anyone online until the day pre-orders went live on my website. I felt like there was all this stuff that we were hiding from everyone, so I thought,”I’m going to censor my name, and I’m going to cover my face on the cover art.” If people want to know what it’s all about, they can listen to the music and not be distracted by anything else.
I was watching your music video for “Happy Little Pill,” and it reminded me of a lot of the visuals that I see on Tumblr. Did you find your inspiration through there?
Definitely, yeah. I just think that Tumblr is the coolest place on the Internet. I follow the funniest blogs and I’ve actually got a visual blog that no one really knows about. [The site’s] just for the record label and myself to reblog anything that I think is cool visually and could potentially be used for inspiration. To be honest, I also think I’m a little desensitized to what looks “Tumblr” and what doesn’t. To me, it just kind of looks cool. I think it’s the muted colours [in the music video] that give it a Tumblrish vibe. It’s for sure an inspiration. Not really an intentional one, more just that I’ve been on Tumblr for so long that that’s what my taste has become.
You came out a year before you signed with a record label. Is it important to you to be an openly gay artist in the industry?
I was already in talks with my record label. We had started the whole negotiation process at that point and I didn’t tell them that I was going to do it. To be honest, I was mentally prepared that potentially they were not going to want to sign me anymore if I was to come out. Not because of anything they had said, but because I didn’t know how this was going to work or (whether) it was all going to be okay. I did it anyway and they sent me a big “Congratulations!” email and we just carried on making the EP.
I think it’s really, really exciting in a way that most of the time I completely forget I’m gay and that I’m open and it’s a big deal at all. It doesn’t affect me so much on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s a real reflection on where we’re at in society and in the music industry. I think that the fact that people are just listening to the music, that’s really good and promising. I think the world is in a good place about it all.
Record labels actually took notice of you after you wrote a song called ‘The Fault In Our Stars.” How did you react when you realized how quickly it became viral?
I think that video got a million views in a couple of days, which was a lot to me. John Green tweeted it, and he’s the author of the book and it was a crazy couple of days. And on top of that, I got three different emails in my inbox from different record labels and I was like, “I don’t know how legit any of these are but I’m going to follow up anyways.”
I told my parents and it was just a really, really exciting moment. The next day, one of the record label guys who ended up signing me from EMI Australia flew out to Perth and he met my family and me. We just sat and spoke about music for a couple of hours about what we liked, what we didn’t like [and] where I saw myself going as an artist. On my birthday a couple of months later, I got the contract signed.
Have you ever met John Green in person?
It’s weird because John Green’s also a YouTuber outside of writing. I’ve met him through YouTube a lot of times. I love him. He’s the best YouTuber you’ll ever meet. He’s such a nice guy, obviously really, really talented and he does so much. He’s also had really big support for my song and that meant a lot to me because obviously, his book [and] his characters have inspired me. And I guess indirectly, if it wasn’t for his book, I wouldn’t have ended up being signed to my record label. I owe a lot to him and he’s an amazing guy.
You’ve also done some work as an actor. Do have any projects lined up at the moment or are you mostly focusing on your singing career?
Music is definitely the priority right now. I am constantly auditioning for things and I’d love to do acting again one day. But yeah, music is for sure the priority at the moment.
I have to know this. Did you ever meet Hugh Jackman? (Sivan played a younger version of the Australian actor in Wolverine.)
I did, and he was amazing and lovely and tall and just a really, really good person.
What was working on a film with him like?
I think I was 13 or 14 at the time when I auditioned. It was my first ever acting audition and I got the part. It was this crazy two weeks of shooting at FOX studios in Sydney and we got to hang out with him in the studio for an hour. It was a really, really cool two weeks and an amazing welcome to the acting world because I’ve never really considered acting before that audition came around.
Since we’re edging towards the end of the interview, I’m just going to throw out some random quick fire questions.
Cool. Sounds good.
One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer?
Whoa. 5 Seconds of Summer because they’re Australian and they’re on my record label.
Singing or acting?
Singing at the moment.
Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj?
But you like Nicki Minaj too, right?
I love Nicki! Nicki followed me on Twitter the other day so don’t tweet this interview or else I’m just going to get in trouble!
Tumblr or YouTube?
John Cleese or Hugh Jackman?
WHOAA. John Cleese. He’s a lovely man. I love him.
And your favourite thing on the internet right now?
Well, that would have to be my Tumblr page! My tumblr page: troyesivan.tumblr.com. You should go follow it. It’s amazing. I have to get the self-promotion in somewhere!
Troye Sivan’s EP TRXYE is available on iTunes now.
**This interview has been condensed and edited.