Monday, June 19, 2017

Lorde Gets Melodramatic

Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor, recently sat down for an interview with NPR in anticipation of the release of her new album, Melodrama. Here are some highlights from that interview:

Michel Martin: We would have been happy to meet you in New Zealand, but you've been working on the new album here in New York. What made New York the place to think these thoughts?

Ella Yelich-O'Connor: Well, it's interesting. I had never really had a relationship with New York before I started writing the record here — it was sort of everybody else's city to enjoy, and I kind of felt like the extent of my relationship was going from my hotel to a friend's hotel to hang out. The face of the city was a bit more abstract for me. But we started coming here because Jack lives here and has a great home studio out of his place in Brooklyn. And it happens to have one of the best vocal chains I've ever come across — the mic and the pre-amp and all the stuff that makes for this incredible recorded vocal tone.

But New Zealand and New York have [both] played kind of vital roles in the record. Obviously, I wrote [Pure Heroine] in New Zealand and hadn't really left New Zealand before, and going into writing this new one, it was like — I mean, it sounds so crazy when I say it, but I'm one of the most well-known people in New Zealand. Even now it sounds crazy, but it's like, cold hard fact. So I would sort of be, like, walking to the studio and everyone would know that it was me and that I was home working on it. I feel like I got self-conscious about the process and about, had I written an amazing song that day? No? Then it was wasted. I felt very aware of time and all this stuff.

It was almost like people could see your thought bubble somehow.

Yes, I felt deeply conspicuous. And so it was wonderful to come to New York — you know, no one cares about anyone here. It's like, you're very busy, you've got to get home. ... You know, think about a shared space like the subway. No one's interested in getting in anyone else's space, or you know, when you hear a rare conversation on the subway, they keep it to a minimum 'cause they know that everybody else has such a full life, and it's like — we'll just keep this over here so we don't have to pollute everyone else.

There's this great Virginia Woolf quote [where] she talks about how wonderful it is to go out on the street in the city between the hours of 4 and 6 and be part of this sort of swell of commuters and how wonderful that anonymity is. And yeah, I really felt that that helps the work immeasurably, to be sort of walking around with my MetroCard, working it all out. So they were both very important — [in] New Zealand I would do a lot of the stuff that the record was about, and then I would get that distance from it and come here and write those stories.

I think one of the reasons people respond to your work is that the experiences are familiar. They're things that people go through that are universal, and you give it a new voice. On the other hand, your life at this point is very different from other people's. So how do you go about having the kinds of experiences that inform the work that made you famous?

Well, I live in New Zealand because I love it, but also because I do get to just be regular — just have regular friends and I go to the same bars that everybody goes to. I don't have security or anything like that. I'm able to do this kind of stuff. ... And I think really withdrawing from everything and not doing a red carpet, not having my makeup done for three years or whatever — I was able to really lose touch with that side of who I am.

The last record was very much — there was something so outward about it because I was reaching out. I lived very far away from the world and would go on my computer and try to find people who were into the same stuff that I was, and so the sound of it is like, "Do you hear me?" Like, "I'm trying to reach you." And [for] this one, an opposite thing happened where I was like, "Oh no, I'm truly reachable enough at this point." And a lot of the things that happen on the songs take place sitting in a car with one other person, or being inside my own house while a party's going on, in the bathroom or on the dance floor, in a bedroom or whatever. The intimacy of the spaces on this record, I think, is a direct response to having my life kind of flipped inside out. And that's what I really like about this record — I think you could listen to it not knowing that I was, like, a famous person, and hopefully the emotional DNA would be the same.

Your self-determination is something that a lot of young women have come to admire. Does that feel like a burden at all — does it feel like you're a spokesperson, in some ways?

I've never felt like a spokesperson or a role model or anything like that, really — because I know how violently I rejected those figures when I was growing up. But also, I think there is no one young person that can communicate what it's like to be a young person. And I think even in the last few years since [Pure Heroine] came out, it's so wonderful that there's been such an influx of young voices and young people who are so informed and so culturally aware. And it definitely takes the pressure off me, because I don't think anyone's thinking about me anymore as, like, "Oh, we've got this one person we need to hold up." But I mean, I guess I just try and represent myself in a way where I'm gonna feel like I can live with myself when it's the end of the day and I'm alone in my room and it's just me and my thoughts — I need to know that I'll feel like I represented myself and what I believe in with dignity.

Read the full interview at NPR.

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