Labrinth on Helping Zendaya Return to the Stage at Coachella and Writing an Album ‘Full of Love Songs to My Mrs.’
The past few weeks, Labrinth has been riding a high.
Last month, the artist, producer and Emmy-winning “Euphoria” composer delivered the biggest performances of his career at Coachella. One of the most talked about sets of the festival, Labrinth surprised fans with special guests both weekends: Billie Eilish came out during Weekend 1 to sing their buzzy collaboration “Never Felt So Alone”, and the second weekend brought Sia and Maddie Ziegler for “Thunderclouds” as well as “Euphoria” star Zendaya, who hadn’t sang live since 2015 (when she briefly pursued a music career). Their rousing rendition of “I’m Tired” and “All for Us,” both songs from the hit HBO series, instantly blew up on social media.
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“I just love how brave she is, because I was in the same position as her — I hadn’t done a big show like that for 10 years,” Labrinth tells Variety. “So I was like, I don’t even know what to expect. And then when she came and did it, I was like, ‘Yo, you’re a G, man.’ The way she just stepped up and went for it, to me that was inspiring.”
He then dropped his third studio album, “Ends & Begins,” on April 28, and jetted off to New York City the following Monday to attend his first Met Gala, dressed in Valentino and Cartier. “It’s kind of like ‘Alice goes down the rabbit hole’ — it’s this world that you see in magazines and on TV and you’re sitting in it,” he says of the star-studded event.
Below, Labrinth chats with Variety about the ethos behind his new album, writing love songs with his wife and if he’s started working on “Euphoria” Season 3 yet.
You had one of the best-received Coachella sets this year. What was going through your mind before that first show?
I thought there was going to be, like, two lines of an audience inside the tent… I don’t have insane expectations, and it’s not that I don’t value what I do, but I don’t expect anything from anybody. And then when I went on stage and I couldn’t see the end of the crowd, that was just like, “Oh shit, this is way more than I thought.” And the whole set, everybody knew every single song. And mind you, I haven’t really performed a lot of what I’ve created over the last few years on stage, so I didn’t really know how much people loved the songs. It was just an overwhelming, but really joyous and jovial moment.
How did you make your surprise guests happen?
I held them at gunpoint, and was like, if you don’t do this… [Laughs.] No, I shared my vision with everyone that I had come on the show, and I wanted [my guests to be] women that I really respected. And all of them, to me personally, are so talented and have inspired me at some point. So I shared that with them and I was like, “I would love for you to perform at the show.” They all, in their own way, were like, “Yes, of course, let’s do it.”
I was pretty surprised, because sometimes in this music industry, everything’s about clout and how many numbers you’re getting and how famous you are. And I feel like the people that I have around me are like, “We respect your talent and what you’re bringing to the world, so we’re cheerleading you all the way.” It felt like I had a family on stage cheering me on. So when I dreamed up these ideas, I was like, I want people to lose their minds when they see these people come on stage. So with Billie, Zendaya and Sia, the way that I wanted them to arrive was like they’re superheroes, you know? I feel like I had the Avengers on stage.
You recently attended your first Met Gala. What’s it like to finally know what goes on behind those doors?
My Mrs. was like, “So you’re going into ‘Eyes Wide Shut,'” you know, with Nicole Kidman. I was like “Babe, it was nothing like that, don’t worry.”
And Nicole Kidman was there!
Oh, was she there? I didn’t see her! I’m still realizing how many people were there… I was like, let me just sit back and watch all this stuff happen, you know? Lizzo performed and she’s sick, man, she totally killed it.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration for your new album, “Ends & Begins.”
I was supposed to release it before Season 2 of “Euphoria.” I actually wrote it right after Season 1, and then we just held onto it because it never felt like it was time. And then once we got to Coachella, it was like, “I think this is a moment.”
I wanted to write an album that was close to my heart; I wanted to write an album full of love songs to my Mrs. Every song is inspired by memories that I’ve had with her. It wasn’t specific to those moments, like I wasn’t like [sings] “You broke my heart in 2016.” But all of these moments inspired the songs, and I just wanted to go, “Here’s another chapter of the story of what I do as an artist.”
The album kicks off with “The Feels,” featuring Zendaya. The song captures a very specific feeling, what inspired it and how did Zendaya come on board?
We recorded “The Feels” after a rehearsal for Coachella, and she recorded her verse just before Coachella. And then on my bus journey to Coachella, I started working on her verse and making it sound the way I wanted it to sound. So it was literally that short time span, which was super fun. With the production, I love classic rock records, I had some of that inspiration and I just wanted to try and write to that feeling when you meet someone and it just takes your head off — like that feeling’s so grand, so big.
“The Feels,” “Covering” and “Power Couple” were all written with your wife, Muz – how did that collaboration come to be and what does it mean to you?
We just write while we’re raising our children. People think I’m this superstar sometimes, and especially after Coachella they’re like, “Woah, you’re like a rockstar!” Like, do you know what I did after Coachella? I went home, 5 o’clock in the morning, woke up at 7 in the morning and I was changing my son’s nappie in the morning. Like, that’s the reality of our lives, which I love. I love the duality of those words. But at the same time, while we’re raising our children and we’re living this beautiful life, we’ll throw lyrics or ideas at each other, and so we have these weird writing sessions where we’re being mom and dad but we’re also writing songs together. It’s just so fun to write with someone you love and somebody you’re doing life with.
Your collaboration with Billie Eilish, “Never Felt So Alone,” is really taking off right now. The original idea was featured as a motif in Season 2 of “Euphoria” — how did it evolve into a full song with a Billie feature?
I always planned to turn it into a song, but I just didn’t get around to it. And then when it kicked off in “Euphoria”… I was like, you know what, I actually love this, let me take it to the end. Because I just think Billie’s an incredible artist, I sent it to her and I honestly expected a no, but she was like, “I love this record, so I would love to do it with you.” It was just simple, she wrote [her verse] with Finneas and both of them did an amazing job. It was a simple process, honestly as peaceful as the record feels.
Your children are also credited on the song. How did they contribute?
People don’t know this, but in some of my songs if you listen closely, you can actually hear my children outside. In one of my houses, they play outside in the garden and I’m in the studio, so you can literally hear their voices through the garden. I had my daughter come in, and she was just saying all these weird little things while I was playing the song and I was like, “I’m using that!” And my son does the same, so I just get inspired by them.
Have your children shown your same talent for music?
My daughter does the same thing as me, she can hear a melody and she just starts making songs from literally nothing. It’ll be quiet, and then all of a sudden she’s singing this wild melody that I even get inspired by. And I’ve recorded a few of her melodies, so hopefully the world will hear them soon.
That’s literally who I channeled on stage, because me and my kids have a rave every morning in the house. Everywhere I go in the world, I buy a bouncy castle and we’ll just jump in the bouncy castle and play ’90s house music or their favorite songs. Right now, my daughter’s got me dancing to “Firework” by Katy Perry.
Of course, I have to ask about “Euphoria” Season 3. What do you know, if anything?
I don’t even know if they’re writing it yet. There’s a whole writers strike, so. But hopefully, they get it together and it’s a vibe. I think me and Sam [Levinson] are supposed to talk at some point, but I’m excited. I think all of the guys that are working on the show are excited to get back into it when it’s coming around. It’s intense when it comes around, though. Once it comes around, you’re like, whew.
It’s been rumored that Season 3 will have a five-year time jump. Have you heard anything about that?
I really don’t know with Sam. Sam can write in like five seconds, so sometimes you see a script that you’ve never seen. And he works super fast so, who knows? Literally, I’m along for the ride just like you.
Does it ever get difficult to separate your artist project from your composition work on “Euphoria,” or do you find that it all blends together naturally?
Coachella was the moment where I felt like it maybe connected some of the dots for people… That’s how it feels for me. So mixing the two, I feel like they’re starting to blend more, where they’re becoming kind of synonymous with each other.
After your Coachella performance, your social media comments have been flooded with fans asking for a tour. Is that in the cards soon?
Yeah man, let me check with my accountant [laughs]. Nah, I would love to, I just have to figure out the logistics. The only thing that stops me from wanting to do it is I want to do crazy ass shows. I want to do shows that even I have never seen before. And if I wanna do that, I better find me a sugar daddy that’s going to Venmo me that money. It’s not cheap, it really isn’t. So I’d better get it together. Sugar daddy, if you’re out there…
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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