The Kid Laroi’s “Stay,” his monster hit with Justin Bieber, is creeping up on 1 billion on-demand streams, per data from Luminate, with its official music video racking 546 million views on YouTube and counting. To say that Laroi has officially arrived would be an understatement.
At only 18 years old, the Australian singer-songwriter has accomplished what many musicians aspire to in a lifetime: signed to Columbia Records, whose roster includes Adele, Bruce Springsteen and Harry Styles; been nominated for a Grammy; performed on “Saturday Night Live” (alongside Miley Cyrus for his breakout hit, “Without You”); and collaborated with his idol, the late Juice WRLD.
Laroi’s most recent release, “Thousand Miles,” written about his current girlfriend before they started dating, made another big splash when it debuted in April, thanks in large part to a TikTok promoting the record, which featured images of Laroi’s former manager Scooter Braun, implying that Braun was a “mistake.” (Braun was in on the hoax, he later revealed; and Laroi has since parted with his most recent representative, Adam Leber.)
Variety spoke with Laroi in Culver City, Calif., where he was performing virtually for Kid Cudi’s Encore app. He next heads to his hometown of Sydney to kick off his End of the World tour on May 26. As for this forthcoming album, the follow-up to 2020’s “F*CK LOVE,” details remain scant, but Laroi confirmed that “Kids Are Growing Up” is likely not the title.
Tell us about the experience of performing on Encore?
In the beginning, I’d heard of the app, [but] didn’t know much about it. They explained that it’s basically a hangout with the fans, as opposed to putting on a big concert. That’s really cool. It’s something my fans have always loved me doing: when I’m coming, just hanging, talking out of my ass and not really saying anything — as opposed to the big fake-looking stuff. I really fuck with that. It’s a good platform for artists to come and do that, and for fans to come and meet [them]. It’s my first time looking at it today, and it looked pretty fucking cool.
You appeared on the cover of Vogue Australia with your girlfriend and she’s also the focus of “Thousand Miles.” Can you tell us about the genesis of the song?
It’s basically saying, “You better stay 1,000 miles away from me, because I don’t know if I’m ready for that.” It was when I realized I really liked her. I had to mentally be prepared for it, first. I had to ask myself a lot of questions over a couple months — like, “Do I really want to do this?” And I did. I always go with my gut feeling.
How does she feel about the song?
Well, she tells me she likes it. I hope she’s not lying.
“Stay” with Justin Bieber has surpassed half a billion views on YouTube alone. What’s it like seeing those numbers?
It’s cool as fuck. I think that’s the only way I can say it. It doesn’t feel real.
You can see in the video that there’s a good chemistry between you and Justin.
He’s one of the coolest dudes that I know. As a kid, I always fucked with him. There was the phase in primary school, when he first came out, where all the dudes would act like they didn’t like him, but they secretly looked up to him. I was always very vocal, like, “Oh, I fuck with this dude.” People used to always look at me kinda crazy, even though they low-key fucked with him.
So he’s someone I looked up to when I was super young. Meeting him, I was really scared because it’s that whole thing of meeting your idols, them not living up to it. But he was 100% way cooler than I even could’ve thought. Just a really humble and nice dude.
You moved to America at 15 years old; Justin was also 15 when he saw his first taste of success. What was that time in your life like?
I was just, like, “Fuck yeah, this is hectic. This is sick. This is amazing.” And I had already felt like, “OK, I’m successful now.” That was already my measure of success as a kid. You make it to America, sign a record deal, you’re successful, which I still think is definitely the case.
TikTok has played a significant role in your career. Do you spend a lot of time online?
I am on the internet, but I don’t really like it that much. I’m on it because I have to be on it; it’s a vital part of having a career or whatever. But I’m not the biggest fan. I try to take breaks. I have a time limit on my phone set so I don’t spend more than 40 minutes a day on it.
Columbia Records chairman Ron Perry personally signed you to the label; clearly you guys clicked…
I honestly didn’t care for the guy that much. [Laughs] No, I’m just playing. I love Ron; he’s a great guy. He was also on “South Park,” which makes him way cooler.
It was recently revealed that you and Post Malone tattooed each other. Was that your first experience inking someone else?
Yes. I think it was more painful for him than it was for me. Because he’s done it before, [and] I was a little heavy-handed and still had to over-line it a couple times. It was really faded.
You guys just decided to be spontaneous?
Yeah. That’s basically how I make loads of my decisions, for better or for worse. [Laughs] … He was, like, “What do you want?” I said, “I don’t know, do whatever you want.” He said, “All right, I’ll do a stick figure.” We’re in the studio and everyone was chiming in like, “Oh, what if he had a hat?” Great idea! Then clogs; we came to the conclusion of a cowboy stick figure with clogs, wings, a feather in the hat. Honestly, it didn’t really mean anything.
Ed Sheeran, Olivia Rodrigo, Elton John… who’s been your wildest cosign?
Honestly, when I first met Juice. Just opening the hotel door and seeing him come in. I was a real fan before we’d even met. I loved everything he was doing. That was crazy. And obviously, Justin, too. Seeing him on TV your whole life then seeing him in the flesh, you’re, like, “Damn!” That was cool as fuck.
What can we expect from your next album?
It’s probably my most personal project so far. I’ve been trying to experiment as much as possible with different sounds and different ways of making music. [I] tried to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and forced myself to talk about things that I haven’t really wanted to talk about in the past. That’s why I’m so attached to it, and very passionate about it. I hope anyone else who hears it can hear that in me and [have it] resonate the same way.