By Casey Lewis
What would you say if we told you that the next big pop star is still in high school, has never been to America, and was discovered at a talent show? 'Good Lorde,' perhaps? Thanks to her insta-hit "Royals," an infectious pop tune that's topped the charts in New Zealand for months (and is speedily on its way to doing the same in America), Ella Yelich O'Connor has become this year's queen of summer radio.
The 16-year-old took a break from recording her album in Auckland to talk about her sudden fame, fashion icon status, and love of hip-hop.
In the last few months, you've caught the attention of everyone from New York magazine to The Guardian. How does this sudden fame feel?
To be honest, I've been quite sheltered from it because I've been in the studio in New Zealand working on the album. But it's been rad. I'm happy that people are taking to what I'm doing.
How'd you get discovered?
I sang in the school talent show when I was 12, and a video of it ended up with a record company.
What inspires your songs?
A lot of it is just from hanging out with my friends, and things that I see and hear in those situations. I think young people are the most creative and the coolest—people that we should be learning from. Even when I'm at a party, I'm analyzing it and thinking about it in the context of how I would write about it. That side of me never switches off.
When did you start writing music?
I think it would've been about 13 that I properly started writing, but before that, I wrote short fiction. That's my first love.
What was the concept behind the music video for "Royals"? It's so great.
Teenage life, in New Zealand anyway, can be so mundane and so boring. You feel like it's the waiting period of your life. We can't get into bars, we can't drive or anything so it can be frustrating sometimes and I wanted to portray that instead of just, like, 'yay!'
You're still in high school, so what do your classmates think about all of this?
People are pretty good about it. My friends don't treat me any differently. But a lot of young boys are super weird about it. They'll just, like, run up to me on the street.
What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Everyone always says 'I listen to everything,' but I do listen to a lot of music. I listen to heaps of electronic music, heaps of hip-hop, and straight up Top 40 pop music as well.
Who would you say inspires your sound?
Musicians like James Blake were a big influence on me. How he uses his vocals is amazing. And then Yeasayer and Animal Collective, who aren't pop bands exactly, but they do something that is so catchy and undeniable and so much fun. The idea of being able to do something that is super fun and that you can dance to—but in the smart way—has always been really appealing to me.
You said you listen to a lot of hip-hop. Have you heard the mashup of your song "The Love Club" with Biggie's "Can I Get Witcha"? It's brilliant.
Yeah! I've heard that. It's rad!
You've become a bit of a style icon. Are you into fashion?
I've always loved clothes. I'm not super clued up on brands, because it's expensive! But I love clothes and I have a Tumblr, and I'm always looking at stuff I want to get or want to try to make.
What kind of clothes do you like?
If I'm going to dress up, I like things that are quite long and classic. I like feeling dressed up and like a lady. But then at the same time, I've been having this love affair with pants at the moment. I've never really worn pants before, but now I just want to wear pants all the time!
What do you like to wear on stage?
A lot of long dresses, and I also have this obsession with disgustingly chunky sneakers and shoes. That's what stagewear is about for me—I've got to feel strong and feel like I can command attention.
We all know teens love social media. How do you feel about Twitter and Instagram?
I actually love Twitter and Instagram. I do think it's so strange to think that 20 years ago, people would never have known personal stuff about musicians and actors, but I like it. As long as I don't obsessively overshare, it's OK. And when I do overshare, it's just like me saying, "I've got $7 in my bank account!"
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