Troye is on the cover of the newest, special edition issue of GQ Australia. High quality photos from the photoshoot have been added to the gallery, along with some behind the scenes photos and the issue cover. Make sure to check them out! You can also watch the behind the scenes video below. The magazine is on sale now, and ships worldwide! To read the web-exclusive article, click “Continue Reading”
Behind the Scenes
Troye Sivan GQ Exclusive: “I’ve Made The Album I Always Wanted To Make”
Fame can take you many places. Red carpets. Fancy parties. Late-night talkshows. But right now, it has taken Troye Sivan to a parking lot, somewhere in an industrial area of Sydney.
We are outside in the blazing sun of a summer morning and Troye, who is dressed head to toe in Prada, is holding a samurai sword that people have to keep reminding him is both very real and very sharp.
At 22, Troye remains boyishly slim. He is tall and pale and, with his hair bleached to a platinum blond, is almost completely colourless except for his eyes, which are luminous and blue.
He has arrived at the shoot with a small entourage – his manager and label rep; his sister and her boyfriend; a security guard who is eyeing the sword with some concern; and his boyfriend, American model Jacob Bixenman, who is so tall and slim it’s hard to understand the mechanics keeping him upright.
Jacob is 23 and is wearing a backwards cap and a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘If you don’t like Hank Jr, You can kiss my’, with a picture of a donkey underneath. He is busy taking photos of Troye with a Polaroid camera. And when he’s not doing that, he watches him with a look that is hard to describe, except that it’s a look anyone would want from someone they love – a mixture of pride and adoration.
Music is blaring from a portable speaker as Troye moves and dances, playing up for the camera. His management is careful to remind us how excited he is about the shoot, but to be honest, he seems excited about pretty much everything – and anxious that he doesn’t look excited enough.
“Sometimes I can get a bit focused, and I worry that I’m not expressing anything on my face and come across a bit sombre,” he says, sounding truly concerned. “But in reality, I’m having a really good time.”
This is all the more remarkable because Troye has landed in Australia off the back of a press tour in the US and UK. He also arrived at today’s shoot at 7:30am and this is his second full day of doing press.
Yesterday, he did Sunrise and a bunch of radio and newspaper interviews, and he’ll do more after he’s done with us.
We’re about to move inside to the studio, but the photographer wants one more shot out here in the parking lot – a photo of Troye taking the sword and cutting the white backdrop we’re shooting him against. Sure, he says, why not?
Troye takes the sword and, as Beyoncé belts out the lyrics to ‘Drunk in Love’ over the speaker, turns his back to the photographer, raises the sword and delivers a perfect diagonal slash, right through the middle of the sheet. “We be all night,” sings Beyoncé, approvingly.
Troye stands for a moment in wide-eyed disbelief, amazed at how he’s confounded even his own expectations of what he’s been able to achieve, which is pretty much the story of being Troye Sivan over the last couple of years, and perhaps forever.
Troye Sivan was born in South Africa but moved to Perth when he was two years old. He grew up in a tight-knit Jewish community that felt, in his own telling, exactly as you might imagine a small Jewish community in one of the more remote cites on earth to feel. Isolated, to say the least.
Perth is one of those places that people tend to either leave as soon as they can or stay in forever. But early on, Troye found a third option, an escape that let him explore the world from his own home.
In 2007, Troye – whose surname is actually Mellet; Sivan is his middle name – launched his own YouTube channel.
Early videos see a chipmunk-faced 12-year-old performing song covers, but before long, his channel turned confessional, a place where he talked to his growing fan base about his life and what he was doing, his friends and his siblings.
Then in 2013, two years after he’d revealed it to his own family, he told them he was gay. Two months after that, his channel hit one million subscribers, and his videos have now been seen almost 250 million times.
“I don’t even know the person I would be without the internet,” he says. “Growing up in Perth and feeling so far away from the rest of the world, I needed the internet to survive”.
“Obviously, there are crazy people on there,” he adds. “But one of the positive things is that it makes the world so much smaller. You can meet your first gay friend online, and it can change the way you see gay people. That’s making for a more empathetic society.”
Today, influencers are everywhere.
Former Vine star Cameron Dallas is walking runway shows for European designers, and YouTuber Logan Paul is sparking various kinds of outrage for an audience of tens of millions.
Troye is around the same age as them, but he built a following long before they did – part of the first generation of kids who were truly internet famous. But this was a particular kind of fame – more of a spotlight than a floodlight – that saw him develop a core group of online followers while pretty much no one else had any idea who he was.
Gradually, that began to change. Troye chalked up a series of minor film roles – in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a trio of teenage Spud films. Then in 2015, he released his debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, which gained universally positive reviews, won him an ARIA for Song of the Year, and landed him spots performing on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Ellen.
Troye now has some 16 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, alone. And if even 10 percent of them listen to what he says or watch what he does, his audience is more than double that of Australia’s two biggest morning TV shows combined. Still, he says this has felt more like a slow burn than an explosion.
“Every now and again, there will be something that’s a bit of a shock to the system,” he says. “The first time there were photographers at the airport – that was a real moment. But that’s still a rarity, so it still feels weird. So far, it’s been a nice, gradual shift.”
As most people quickly find out, fame may change your life, but it doesn’t do it for free. Achieving a certain level of celebrity requires certain things in exchange – privacy is chief among them.
Troye knows this better than most. A decade growing up on the internet has made him wise to the business of sharing, which is really the business of not sharing. Curating an online persona is about the things you tell people as much as it is about the things you don’t.
“The limits have definitely come naturally to me,” he says. “But sometimes I’ll say or do something that will feel like it’s too much to give away, so I’ll reel it back a little bit.”
The things he is most protective of are the things he cares about the most, such as his family and his relationship with Jacob. But for two people with such a strong online following – Jacob has well over a quarter of a million Instagram followers himself – there is precious little of them online. No loved-up selfies together. No gushing birthday or anniversary posts. Almost nothing at all, in fact.
“If I had it my way, it would be something that was almost completely private,” says Troye. “But I think it’s just so obvious that we’re together. So I’m completely fine with everyone knowing who I’m in a relationship with, but then it’s up to me to protect the ins and outs.”
“People see photos of us together, but the relationship itself – the conversations, or the way we talk to each other or the way we look at each other – the actual substance is almost completely private. And that is comforting to me.”
It’s a savvy move. Overexposure can be brutal – for proof, you need only look at the collective eye-rolling that greets pretty much anything done by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, the latter of whom Troye has met a handful of times and counts as a mentor of sorts.
“A lot of the bad press doesn’t make sense to me,” he says. “Taylor Swift has always been really lovely to me – super-kind and generous. We have hung out only a couple of times, but she’s just been so open and forthcoming and answered all my questions, because I’m always really interested in what it’s like to be Taylor Swift.”
But online backlash is a phenomenon hardly saved for the biggest stars. After all, it’s 2018 and people are outraged by everything, all the time. Online fame is a fickle business, and the tide of popularity can turn with as little as a poorly worded tweet or mistimed Instagram post. Troye has resigned himself to the fact that he will eventually slip up.
“I’ve come to terms with that already,” he says. “We share so much and people are only human. The important thing is how you respond to those situations and how you grow and learn from them.”
Troye has had a taste of it already, with a couple of small run-ins. The first happened earlier this year when he was in New York with Jacob and ended up splashed across gossip website Just Jared.
“I threw away some flowers that a fan had given me,” he explains. “Three days had gone by, but the way it was framed was that I was given them and then immediately threw them away. People got upset about that.”
Troye let it pass and, sure enough, it did.
The other minor incident was around Call Me by Your Name, a book and film that Troye enjoyed very much. An interviewer asked him if he would have liked to play Elio, the role that landed Timothée Chalamet an Oscar nomination earlier this year.
Of course, Troye said, he wished he could have played him. But by the time this appeared in print, it looked as if Troye had practically plotted to march on to set and take the role from Chalamet, Tonya Harding-style. Not the case, he says.
“Timothée Chalamet did a brilliant job and 100 percent he was the right person to play the role,” he clarifies now. “But, sure, in an alternate universe, that would have been a cool thing for me to do.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever watched a TV show or a movie and thought, ‘Wow, that person really is a lot like me’,” he says. “On quite a simple, physical level, he’s as skinny as me and as pale as me and has tiny nipples like me and he’s gay. And he has a crush on an older guy and that’s something I can relate to. It was weird for me to really feel like I was watching myself on screen.”
In an alternate universe, it’s not hard to see how Troye could have ended up with the role. Indeed, he somehow found time to shoot Boy Erased, a film directed by Joel Edgerton and starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Xavier Dolan. The film tells the story of a boy sent to a gay conversion therapy camp. It’s in cinemas later this year.
But there was something else about Chalamet’s performance that resonated with many people. As the youngest person to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in nearly 80 years, he captured a certain mood.
It’s a feeling that young people – for all the talk of their spending too much time on Instagram and too much money on smashed avo – are the ones changing the world for the better. Millennials overwhelmingly voted against Brexit and Trump; they backed same-sex marriage in Australia and, after years of those in power doing nothing, many have been driving the gun control debate in the US.
Troye says it’s an exciting time to be young.
“It’s a combination of the fact the political climate in the US doesn’t reflect a lot of young people’s mindsets, as well as the internet,” he says. “Those two things have made for a really active youth. But I don’t really worry that much about the future. In general, it’s really encouraging – except for a few ups and downs. The general direction is a really positive one.”
After the shoot, we meet Troye back at the office of his record label in Sydney. He’s wearing a brown suede jacket by Coach 1941, which has prints by Keith Haring on it; a pair of jeans from Topman; and black leather boots from Saint Laurent, one of his favourite labels. They’re the same pair he wore in the video clip for his new song, ‘My My My!’.
He recently performed the song for the first time on the TV show Saturday Night Live, and last month, the video clip soared past 20 million views on YouTube.
“It’s been absolutely insane,” he says of the reaction. “The day after I released ‘My My My!’ was probably one of the happiest days of my life. I wasn’t sure how people were going to react, but it feels like there has been universal love for it.”
Blue Neighbourhood was a nice album but felt more pleasant than personal. His upcoming album is different. It feels grown-up, the work of someone who’s found more confidence being in his own skin.
“I’ve made the album I always wanted to make,” says Troye. “I would have made this album last time, but I just didn’t know how to do it.”
‘My My My!’ is important to Troye not simply because it’s the first chance most people have to hear his new music, but because he wrote it about his relationship with Jacob. “We don’t really talk about what the songs are about, but he was really excited,” Troye says. “I was in a writing mode and writing about everything, my personal life included. Maybe it was normal at that point – I’d written so many songs, a lot about him and a lot not.”
“I’ve got my tongue between your teeth,” Troye sings on the track. “Go slow, no, no, go fast.”
“The song is about lust more than it is about love – it’s about that instant attraction,” he says. “That is fairly normal subject matter for a pop song, but I guess people feel like it’s something new because it’s a same-sex thing. The thing about being an openly gay artist that I’m finding is that you can sort of do anything, and chances are, it hasn’t been done that many times before.”
The album features an appearance from someone else dear to Troye – Ariana Grande, who he first met at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and who features on mellow dance track ‘Dance to This’.
“She’s a really good friend,” he says. “I wasn’t sure there were going to be any features on the album because it felt so personal”.
“But I had this one song and I thought this song really needs Ariana Grande on it. I hate asking people for things, but I plucked up the courage to ask – and I had it like two days later.”
Troye recently bought a place in LA, after years of travelling back and forth. And besides the fact it’s easily the best music he’s made, it’s not hard to feel that his upcoming album marks a turning point for him. A moment after which he might one day look back and see when everything in his life really started to change.
“I’ve had to ask myself before I started releasing this music: what is it I want to achieve as an artist?” he says. “Humungous mainstream success is one of the lower ones on the list for me. It’s something that I see as a really, really nice bonus and a nice stroke of the ego, but I’m so overjoyed with where I am.”
“I get to make music with people I’ve always wanted to I get to write some of my album on the beach in LA and in Sweden, and then I’m going to be playing shows later this year. But as long as I get to keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll be really happy. Anything else above that is a bonus.”
It all sounds very nice. But surely he has bigger ambitions than just doing what he’s doing? There must be goals he wants to tick off the list? Dreams he still wants to achieve?
Troye takes a moment to think.
“I would love to be nominated for a Grammy. That would be really cool,” he says eventually.
“No, no, no. Maybe before I’m, like… 50? But I’m curious to see what happens. I don’t know what the next five years of my life will look like, so I’m just on the ride, you know?”
Tomorrow, Troye will leave Sydney and head back to LA. Beyond that, he’s just taking things as they come – he’s old enough now to know that trying to predict what lies ahead is a fool’s game. But he’s still young enough that not knowing what the future holds is nothing to be scared of. Not knowing is the exciting part.