Blue Neighbourhood

Blue Neighbourhood

“I look back on it with such joy and pride,” Troye Sivan tells Apple Music of his debut album. The Johannesburg-born, Perth-raised singer-songwriter was 20 when it came out. He’d already found fame as a YouTuber, and publicly came out as gay on the platform in 2013. Blue Neighbourhood followed two years later. “As a whole, it was about my first relationship and its breakdown,” he says. “I’d never been in a relationship before, so I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. I was so new to everything, from the process of writing the album to doing my first TV performance, filming music videos and doing promo. It was just such a whirlwind. Only now in hindsight can I look back and really appreciate what a special time it was.” With its personal stories about his first experiences with love and with embracing his identity, the album cemented Sivan as a new queer voice in pop music. “One of my favourite things about music in general is the way that people apply it to their own lives,” he says. “You don’t realise it until you have those moments where you meet someone and realise that a particular song or album or tour meant something completely different to them than it did to you. I think it's the goal really, it's why we do what we do.” Below, Sivan talks through the stories behind each track on Blue Neighbourhood. WILD “I worked with Alex Hope, who is an incredible Australian writer-producer. We really got along as friends; it felt like two kids hanging out with no adults around. ‘WILD’ was Alex's first time fully producing a song. I just had to throw shit at the wall and see what would stick. We tried everything; we wrote so many bad songs. That exploration and curiosity is something I feel so fond of now, and I actively try to push myself now to get there.” BITE “It was my first time going to a gay club. I went in South Africa with friends. I have a very vivid memory of walking in and having to peel my feet off the floor because the floor was so sticky. It was the moment where my mind just expanded and exploded. It was about that hesitation and trepidation and fear, and the excitement and curiosity and wide-eyed joy to be around people who felt like me, and to be in a space where I didn't have to worry that I was going to get bashed for wanting to kiss a boy. I think it's such a special moment for any queer person, the first time they step into a queer space. It’s euphoric and scary at the same time.” FOOLS “‘FOOLS’ was from a session with me and Alex and [Australian producer] Pip Norman. I remember writing a really bad song that day. At the time I’d put my entire self-worth on what I wrote that day. I was still very unsure if I could do it, if I’d even made the right decision signing a record deal. I just really doubted myself. At the end of the day, Pip was like, ‘Let's just write something in the last 20 minutes. If it's cool, it's cool. If it's not, whatever, we'll go home.’ I said to him, ‘Play the saddest chords you can think of.’ He played the opening chords of ‘FOOLS’ and we just ran with it.” EASE (feat. Broods) “This is probably my favourite song on the album and one of my favourite songs that I've ever been a part of. I was really star-struck and nervous. I had a really hard time singing the vocals; I think I was sick or something. So Georgia [Nott, Broods singer] put down some background vocals and I sang on top of them. Just hearing her voice on the song literally made me want to cry. I had been in LA for a bit at that point, and we all bonded over the fact that we felt like we were missing something back home in Australia, New Zealand, our part of the world.” THE QUIET “I wrote that one by myself. I was going through a falling-out with a friend, which never really happens in my life, so it was weird. There wasn't a fight, just this space between us that hadn't been there before and I couldn't understand why. So it was very train-of-thought, flowing and conversational. I wasn't really thinking much about trying to make it poetic.” DKLA (feat. Tkay Maidza) “The track is about protecting yourself, but also how that’s harmful when you shut off any potential love or relationship. I remember falling in love with the production. I still get so excited when the drums come in. And I’m a huge Tkay Maidza fan. I feel cool just by my association with her.” TALK ME DOWN “It’s about that one person who can come just when you need them and can talk you down from a tough moment. Sometimes someone will write a melody where I'm like, ‘Are you sure that this isn't something else? This could be mine? We can call it a Troye Sivan song and have that melody on it?’ I fell so in love with that one specific melody.” COOL “Looking back, it's still completely relevant to me. Similar themes about feeling a bit out of place in LA are still there. At the time, it was such a fresh feeling of being swept up and really being in awe and so wide-eyed, like, this is not Australia. This is not real life at all. And I literally died [when Kylie Minogue covered the song in 2020 for Apple Music’s At Home With sessions]. One day my phone lit up and she was just so casual and chill. She was like, ‘Hey babe, what are the lyrics to the bridge of “COOL”?’ And I was like, ‘My song “COOL”? Why? What did I do? Why do you want this information from me?’ I just got so excited.” HEAVEN (feat. Betty Who) “I think the reason I didn't write about coming out was because it was just unbelievably daunting. It's such a huge experience in a queer person's life. I couldn't find a way to write about it that didn't feel like it was underplaying it or overplaying it or turning it into something cheesy, and I wanted it to feel real and down-to-earth. It was such an important moment in my life, so I had to talk about it in the right way. It was Alex, Jack Antonoff and myself, and weirdly, Grimes is on that song, just a vocal sample at the beginning. Jack was messing around with samples and he put it in, and then afterwards, he's like, ‘Oh, by the way, that's Grimes' voice.’ I was really star-struck by [Antonoff]. I love him. He's a sweet Jewish boy who reminds me of a lot of people I know in my personal life. He completely put us at ease. I remember me and Alex being like, ‘We can't fuck this up.’ And I'm really, really happy with it.” YOUTH “I remember having brief moments of excitement about this song, but I’d get over it really quickly. Honestly, it was one of those moments where other people liked the song, so I trusted them, put it out, and it changed my life. I still have mixed emotions, but I'm also totally at peace with it and I appreciate it for what it is and what it's meant to me and my career.” LOST BOY “I’d never been in a relationship before, so I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. I knew something didn't feel right, but I had nothing to compare it with. In a real dick move, I stayed for too long and could have been more communicative up front. I just didn't know what I was doing. Some of these songs were written while I was still in that relationship. I’d go to the studio and write down all my feelings and then go back home and try to navigate the whole situation. ‘LOST BOY’ was me putting down that confusion and mixed emotions. ‘I have doubts, but it's really nice, maybe this is what every relationship feels like.’” for him. (feat. Allday) “I think it's indicative of how back-and-forth I was in my head. I really had a great time in that relationship; there was so much to love. Looking back, the whole relationship was just really lovely. I wanted to write a really personal song for it. The plan wasn't actually to put it out on anything. I wanted to do it as a little gift. But people were responding to it and liking it and I decided to put it on the album.” SUBURBIA “If I ask myself what has shaped me more as a person, my five or six years in LA or my 18 years in Perth, I still 100% feel like it's Perth, because that really formed me as a person. I love the place, but above all, I just love my community, my family and my friends. That feeling of missing home and trying to find your place overseas is tough. LA is very, very, very far away from Perth.” TOO GOOD “That was about when you meet someone new and you're like, ‘This feels too good to be true,’ and the exhilaration of leaning into it anyway, especially at that age of 19 or 20 when I was working on the album and experiencing so much for the first time. It’s such an intoxicating feeling.” BLUE (feat. Alex Hope) “‘BLUE’ was a heartbreak song. For me, it's a push to make something happy. I can do it, but it just takes a little bit more, because I never want to do anything that feels cheesy or tacky. Often me and Alex would try something poppy and fun and happy, and then, as a little reward, we’d let ourselves be absolutely down, as down as it can go, and this was one of those moments.” WILD (feat. Alessia Cara) “I think that Alessia is freakishly talented, I really, really do. I just remember being so excited about her being on the song. It feels very, very youthful and fun, and when I look back at the music video, we were actual kids. It's just very sweet to look back on.”

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