Ella aka. Lorde, with her drawing.
Long story short: This post may as well be titled, ‘One time back in December I sat down and interviewed Lorde for an hour, but then got distracted and didn’t ask half my questions but I recorded the whole thing and here it is (well, most of it anyway)’.
Short story long: Lorde, in case you aren’t already aware, is the pseudonym for a young (16 years young, to be specific) Takapuna Grammar student by the name of Ella Yelich-O’Connor. She’s a musician. She can sing, she can write. And before you go ahead and start thinking she’s some semi-good talent quest contestant, think again. Lorde has serious talent, as evidenced by this song that you must listen to before you read the rest of this interview, and the rest of her EP, ‘The Love Club‘. Download (for free!) and tell me you disagree – I dare you.
I discovered Lorde via the internet (as one does in this day and age), and after some extreme Facebook stalking on my part, and a bit of prodding at her now record label, Universal (thanks Justin!), I found myself sitting at a shared table in Little & Friday with her in the flesh, right next to me. I had planned to interview her in the way I usually interview models, but it turns out I am a useless interviewer because I got incredibly distracted and we ended up just having a good chat instead which, in my opinion, was much more engaging and interesting and fun. She was a delight. This is how it went down. (Warning: This is really, really long. Get comfortable):
Okay, so Ella. Hi.
Are you sure you don’t want anything else to eat?
Nope this is good!
Okay cool. First proper question. Music. You’re doing it. You’re young. Is what you’ve always wanted to do? Music? And you’re 16! How long have you wanted to do it for?
I’ve always sung and I’ve always written, whereas songwriting is new to me in the last like, 3-4 years. I’ve always wanted to marry the two. Kind of. I don’t know, it just took me a while, then I started writing and stuff and once you start… you can’t–
Wait… You wrote all those songs?!
Wow, I didn’t know that. I thought maybe you were a product of.. some kind of record label thing.
[Laughs] Lots of people are surprised, they’re like, “so you wrote them?!”
That’s so awesome. So this is your dream? You’re living the dream?!
It’s a big question… Yeah, I guess so! [Silence] …There’s going to be all these nibbling sounds in the middle of your recording.
To be honest I don’t really ever record things on my iPhone so I don’t even know if I’ll be able to hear half of it but it’s okay.
So, back to music. Inspirations. Is there anyone in the world doing what you want to do? Who’s doing what you want to be doing?
I reckon people like the Weeknd and Frank Ocean have a really good mix of being in the mainstream and being just fucking cool artists. I think they play it really smart. I just think they have the right kind of ‘fame’ I guess? I like what they do.
So you go to Takapuna Grammar? Are you going to finish school?
Yeah and yeah I am. I think my mum would kill me if I didn’t finish. I’m doing International Baccalaureate, which is a hard out school system.
I’ve heard of that, it means you can study anywhere right?
Yeah, it’s the most full on education system. That coupled with being really busy with this… [Laughs]
How did this whole thing start?
Well, I sang in my school talent show in Intermediate. It got video-ed, and it got to a guy at Universal.
Yeah, and then they and I started having meetings with my parents. It was weird because I was 12 or 13, and you don’t know what you want to do when you’re 12 or 13.
So you weren’t thinking about it as a career then?
I really enjoyed singing and making music and stuff, but never considered it as a possibility.
So your dream job is to be a singer? A performer?
A musician. A singer means you don’t write and stuff!
Sorry, I’ll remember that for next time! So, what do you love about being a musician?
I like, um… [Laughs] Um… What do I like about my music… Well, my producer’s name is Joel. And we tend to work – usually we work through my school holidays and everyone’s like, “Wouldn’t that be shit? You don’t get a holiday” but I’m like, no – I’m stressed out the whole term and I get here and I’m like it’s such a release. It’s so cathartic and it’s like you get into a zone and you have 10 hours of mean productivity. And it’s just the best. You go home completely shattered but it’s the best and you can’t wait to get back in there again.
What don’t you like about it?
The bad part? Having to play your music to people you’re close to. That’s terrible! I can’t be in the room with them while they listen, it’s so hard.
Okay these are the real easy questions now.
Sashimi tuna. I’m going to say it. I’m gonna go there.
I don’t want to be one of those people who says black when it’s not actually a colour, so I’m going to say this colour [points to her sweater] – grey marl.
Good answer, no one’s said that yet. Do you have a favourite place?
Tough call. I really like the museum.
The Auckland museum?
Is there a trend that you hate?
Oh, god, what’s even on trend? Oh shit, I hate blonde on the bottom of the hair and brunette at the top. That is fucked.
Ombre. It’s called ombre. What about musicians you love? If you were running a festival and you could -
Can I have five headliners?
Yeah okay, five.
[Long silence] Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Radiohead.. And then maybe like, a rapper. I need a rapper in there. Oh this is so hard! I feel like I need a female as well. I’m all over the show. [Silence] I saw Grizzly Bear the other day and they were incredible live so I have to say them. A rapper… Oh, okay this is really obscure but you know Shyheim? Wu Tang? The really little kid. He just has this one album from when he was a kid. That is my favourite, so just him – but not when he’s old, when he’s 12 or whatever. I’d just get him to perform that one little kid album!
What were you doing at 9.15pm last night?
The dishes, I think. Yeah… Sunday night…
What did you have for breakfast?
Nothing. Breakfast is the worst.
I don’t eat breakfast either!
I can’t do it, it’s too early to think about eating stuff.
Same! I never have time.
I have time, I just look at food in the morning and think ‘ugh’.
So are you a morning person then, or an night person?
What’s your favourite subject?
English. I came first in English this year. So random.
That is awesome. Well done. Do you have siblings?
I have two sisters and a brother. I’m second oldest. I have an older sister and younger sister and brother.
What star sign are you?
I’m a Scorpio.
Same! Oh wait, I already knew you were because I got told it was your 16th birthday recently and I stalked you on Facebook and saw it.
[Laughs] Yeah, I wanted to release my EP before I was 16 because I wrote it all when I was 15.
I actually talked to Universal about this, what’s the next thing you’re doing?
The music video will be the next thing to come out and then in the studio all next week and most of January writing my next EP.
Who’s doing your video?
I don’t know if I can say that yet!
Pick two of these three. I know you read my blog so I bet you already know what I’m going to ask*.
I do! I’m going to say good looking, and the one that isn’t emotionally stable. Intelligent.
If you won a million dollars right now what would you do with it?
What can you do with a million? Everything I want either costs $50 or $200 billion.
What costs $200 billion?!
I don’t know, cryogenics. I could bring back like, awesome people. A million dollars…
Yeah, if someone just gave you a million dollars right now.
Okay, I would probably buy one of those epic Ivy league schools with the mean grounds and stuff so I could live in like, a Stanford or whatever because I love the buildings and the romance behind it you know? But then everyone who went to Stanford would hate me.
And that would probably cost more than a million dollars.
See?! That’s what I mean! Everything I want is really cheap or really expensive!
I would buy a house.
That would be pretty stable. That’s really stable.
[Laughs] How old are you?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mom says this thing, she says “remember your place at the table” because in my family, the adults sit in a certain place and the kids are kind of at the end. So when I came from the music awards, she just looked at me and was like, “remember your place at the table!” So that just keeps me… not thinking I’m cool or anything!
Were you just there to watch?
Yeah, the label just said come along so I did.
Did you enjoy it? I’ve never been.
Yeah, but it’s so much more budget than it looks! If you’re VIP you’re seated and there’s slightly less VIP and then there’s the very top. They don’t give you dinner they give you these weird little salads in plastic glasses. And these dumplings in baskets… I was just watching. No one knows who I am, so… [laughs]. It’s funny. It’s weird seeing who you’ve only seen on TV before. Like, I saw the Ridges. I was like ‘woah’ – they were like Cinderella in my eyes.
[Laughs] Did you say hi?
No, they looked through me… [Laughs] They’re so beautiful though. They’re perfect.
Oh, they were so beautiful. Did you watch the show?
Nah, I was overseas, I missed it.
Oh man, I watched the whole thing. It was terrible but so beautiful. I love watching them. That’s definitely secret. You know, watch it on demand so no one knows…
Is it your favourite TV show?
No! I love Mad Men and The Sopranos. Two favourites. I’m not a Breaking Bad person. Mad Men and Sopranos all the way.
What? Breaking Bad is good! Have you started it at all?
I’ve tried twice but it was like, 2am so I’ve fallen asleep both times.
That’s like me with The Wire.
That’s the thing about good tv shows. There’s really little exposition at the start. They let you figure it out, which makes you feel really stupid for the first four episodes, but then you get it and it’s awesome.
I haven’t watched the Sopranos but I will. I can’t watch too many shows at once, you know? I watch everything.
I started watching Mad Men early last year, I watched like, four seasons in two months – I didn’t go out or anything, it was mental.
I watch SO MANY TV SHOWS.
What do you watch?
Everything. EVERYTHING. I’ve watched Mad Men Weeds, Gossip Girl, Breaking Bad, Glee, THE GLEE PROJECT, Girls, It’s always Sunny in Philidelphia… The Office, Parks and Recreation–
Yes! It’s bad, but it’s good, but it’s so bad…
I know! But every now and then Schmidt comes up with a line and it’s so good!
I watch everything.
Are you a Game of Thrones person?
No… I haven’t tried. Just like The Wire. I just haven’t tried. I just sleep badly. I can’t sleep often, so I just watch tv shows all night. I stream the worst shit. I was on the plane and I was watching this really weird show… there were only four episodes. I was like, ‘this sucks’ but then it got really amazing… kind of, it’s called ‘Hart of Dixie’. It’s got – do you know The OC?
No, I think I’m too young for that. It was like, early 2000s…
Oh. Well it’s got Rachel Bilson in it. She is a surgeon in New York and then they make her go to middle America. And she’s a doctor in a small town but she’s from New York and everyone in the town hates her and I watched four episodes and now I love it.
I got into that show, Friday Night Lights for a while.
I’ve watched all of it.
I started watching it, but then I got part through season 2 and then I stopped. I don’t know why.
Did you get bored? I got a little bored.
Yeah kind of, also I had read all the synopsis so I was like, ‘I know none of this is going to last’ [Laughs]
This guy Isaac, he’s -
I read his blog as well.
Oh, well Isaac was all ‘it’s the best show ever‘ so we started watching it together. He started rewatching it with me. He loves it. Wait – do you know him? Have you met him?
No, but I’ve read his blog for years! One time I saw him in the street and I was like, ‘this is the person I READ, this is weird’.
That is cool. He is coming back for a visit soon. He’s coming to Get Low! Me and my friend Imogen were trying to get you to perform at it – this party thing at Rakinos we host.
Yeah! But I didn’t really work out, too rushed. I wanted to get David Dallas, and then I wasn’t sure how it was going to work and it just didn’t.
I’d seriously be keen to do that.
Okay! I’ll keep it in mind. I’ll hit up your record label.
I’ve been sending your songs to people I know. I’ve played ‘Royals’ a lot of times. I sent it to Dave’s girlfriend, she said he liked it. And my friend Ben who is the Red Bull Studios engineer guy. All the music people I know, just to see what they think. Everyone loves it.
That’s cool because you just don’t know what people will think about it before you put it out. Because it’s only been heard by like, two of your friends and your family and record company people.
How much input do you have into the songs? Are they all yours?
They’re all mine. Okay, me and my producer Joel – I feel like I’m downplaying his role. All the lyrics and stuff are mine but we’ll come up with melodies and musical ideas and stuff together, then the beats will be both of us. It’s the production. We’ll have hour long fights over the snare patterns or something. And then someone from the label will listen and make a comment and we either take their advice onboard or not… [Laughs].
Cool because I don’t really know how it all works. So you sign to a label, but do you sign everything away? I wasn’t sure if you were one of the products of a record label if you know what I mean? Like, just a singer. A pawn. Like, they found you and they were going to take you and make you into the next Florence Welsch or whatever.
They like what I’m doing, rather than what they could do for me, you know? That’s how it is. They’re so good, I love everyone there, they’re so good they let me do what I want. They’re not trying to screw me over or anything!
That’s good because you hear–
You hear terrible record label stories about people having their lives ruined and stuff?
I feel like I’ve heard them too!
Maybe I’ve watched too many reality tv shows. Do you have a secret talent?
I have a really good memory. Like, a freaky good memory. And that helps me well in tests and stuff. I’m not actually smart, I just have a good memory.
If you could have a secret power or talent you don’t already have, what would it be? A lot of people actually answer that they wish they could sing.
Yeah, well I can’t sing. I wish I could sing. If you’re good you can be good at karaoke and stuff!
Everytime I play singstar I get ‘wannabe’ and everyone laughs at me! I wish I could cook, because I’m a terrible cook. My mum is an amazing cook.
You can learn that.
I’ve heard if your parents are good at cooking you never learn because you don’t really have to.
That sounds about right. It’s pretty easy to learn. People also tell me they want the power to be invisible.
It’d be pretty sweet to live underwater. Imagine making a house underwater! The good thing about that is not everyone could come to your house all the time.
Do you like people?
Yeah… I’m really bad at small interactions like talking to a waiter or going to a neighbour’s house and talking to them.
I’m really good with waiters for some weird reason. Pretty much anyone that serves me. It’s weird.
People I have to talk about menial shit with… I just…
You hate small talk?
You’re going to have to do heaps of it now for when you get famous.
I just don’t though! I just sit there and let everyone else talk for me.
Do you have a favourite book?
I’m going to say… Okay this isn’t a book but I’m going to say the collected stories of Raymond Carver, do you know Raymond Carver is?
He writes short stories. He was alive in like, the 60s. Everyone who writes short stories reads Raymond Carver and gets influenced, he’s really minimalist in how he writes. You should read Raymond Carver.
Okay I will look him up. Can you draw me a picture?
I’m so bad at drawing. I’m so bad.
You can make it a stick figure!
I’m so bad!
It’s going to be you in five years time. I can show you some of the ones the models I’ve interviewed have done and you won’t feel as nervous.
[Flicks through notepad] Look at this one!
Yeah, models huh.
Beautiful people ay. I just get so starstruck by good looking people. It’s like anything bad that they do, just gets overlooked in my mind.
I’m kind of like that as well…
It’s kind of embarrassing, it’s just, I get starstruck!
So tell me, you go by Lorde. How did that come about?
I just made it up really. I really like the way it looks, the way it sounds. I like the way it’s kind of feminine, but it’s a Lord – it’s a male position of power you know? The e softens it too, it’s a combination of things. I mean, I like to read a lot. I’m really into how words look and sound, so that was important to me. But also I’m really obsessed with all kind of royalty and rulers, all those old school rulers like, in the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette and her husband. At the beginning of the twentieth century the last Tsar of Russia and his family – you know about this right? – They all got executed by the Bolsheviks at the end of the first world war!
Is this a new interest?
No way! Since I was tiny, I’ve read all about them and I know all the family trees and stuff.
Wow. Are you wearing a crown in your music video then?
Ummmm I don’t know yet… We did shoot… There might be a two dollar shop crown.
It could be a thing. An actual thing. You could introduce them as merch, people would probably buy them.
Haha, I just love royals! Napoleon! Napoleon was mental. He came in at the end of the French revolution when they had been under this really oppressive rule for ages and he was saving the people and then he crowned himself Emperor! I mean, what the hell Napoleon! That’s not what you’re supposed to do!
You’re one of the most well spoken 16 year olds I’ve ever met.
Maybe it’s because I usually interview models with small talk questions and now I’m used to short simple answers.
So I just got instagram yesterday. I don’t really know how to use it. I got twitter too, and I’m just learning the etiquette. For a while I was retweeting nice things that people said about me, and then I realised you shouldn’t do that you should just ‘favourite’ the tweets.
Oh, I don’t know, you can still do it…
Well I read on Yimmy Yayo’s feed that you shouldn’t do it!
Haha, I wouldn’t worry too much, I’m sure he’s not going to castrate you if you do it, he’s nice.
You’ve met him?!
A couple of times at Australian Fashion Week, he came to Auckland once.
Ah, that is so cool. Have you met many of the other bloggers?
I don’t know, I guess lots of those menswear fashiony bloggers.
Yeah, and Noah and those guys.
I want to send them some of my music but I really don’t know if they… Yeah.
You could send it, I reckon they’d listen to it. Just email it, it’ll be cool.
Did you just email Universal about me?
Well, Justin sent me a link to your site, I listened to one song and I immediately replied and I was like, “WHO IS THIS GIRL?” and then he didn’t tell me your name, and I figured they were being secretive so I went on this massive Nancy Drew Facebook stalk, to your page, through all the commenters… I won’t tell you how I did it but I found your real name, then I tweeted you and I was going to just straight up find you, but then I thought maybe I should go through the proper avenues and I just hit Justin [from Universal Music] up instead because you’re young… And he’s nice to me.
[Laughs] Yeah, don’t screw over a record label guy.
Well you know, this is good for you guys too, but mainly good for me. I mean, I’m doing this interview, you’re going to be famous, and then everyone’s going to be googling you and then my interview will come up, and then I’ll get all this traffic…
Haha, more like the other way around.
Nah, it’ll be interesting to see how this all goes. I’ve noticed you haven’t been really ‘pushing’ your music, it’s been mostly word of mouth.
Well, yeah, I mean, I started a Facebook Page and then invited some of my friends to like it and no-one else, then their friends did…
Is it just an experiment to see how it all goes?
What do you mean, do you mean releasing for free?
Well, releasing your EP online for free yes, but also not getting anyone to promo the hell out of you….
Basically I’m in that age of the internet, and releasing things for free – I think people feel like you’re doing something for them. They can download it and listen and see if they like it. People my age, I mean, so many people download illegally and I just think, why not let people have these for free?
Like David Dallas, how he released that whole album for free then sold a deluxe version with extra songs. I think that was cool, and it was successful.
Yeah, I like that. That David Dallas album was cool. That was a cool album. I don’t think there’s any way you have to do it. Release to iTunes, whatever. Not all the songs are going to be on U Live or whatever, you know? I would rather do it in a way that… If your friends like it… In the end I make music for myself, and then my friends, and then I guess it dilutes out a bit. I’m not going to be able to release in a way that everyone will like. I’ve never thought of this overtly being about strategy, you know? I just want to make music!
*The question I usually ask is: Pick two of these three – Good looking, Intelligent, Emotionally Stable.