Staring out into the sprawling sea of bodies — a crowd so dense that it spilled over into the neighboring stage’s real estate — Lorde took time out in the middle of her maiden Lollapalooza performance to sit on the edge of the stage and breathe in the impressive scene.
“I’m at a loss for words,” she told the shoulder-to-shoulder audience members packed like sardines by the stage. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
One could hardly blame her for the rare bout of speechlessness. Lorde’s early-evening Lolla set attracted a field of followers that eclipsed nearly every other performer — including the Arctic Monkeys, who would headline on the very same stage two hours later. Not that the precocious 17-year-old felt particularly daunted by the task of entertaining an audience that was larger than the entire population of her quaint New Zealand hometown.
“I definitely do get stage fright pre show, but once I get out there it’s like… I’ve done this,” Lorde says after the show, curled up on a leather sofa in an unadorned artist trailer. “I’ve played to so many people on different occasions that no crowd can shock me anymore.”
Pure Heroine, the haunting debut album that put Lorde on the international music map, is still less than 1 year old, but the raven-haired singer is carefully plotting some new moves. On July 31, one day before she hit the Lolla stage, word surfaced that Lorde is curating the soundtrack to Mockingjay Pt. 1, the next film in the epic Hunger Games franchise (set for release on Nov. 21).
The project will also find Lorde releasing her first original music since Pure Heronie hit the charts. What can we expect from Lorde’s cinematic endeavor, and what might this mean for more new projects — and new music — down the road? Billboard caught up with the teen queen after her triumphant Lollapalooza set to find out.
Billboard: Spearheading an entire soundtrack, especially for a film as hotly anticipated as Mockingjay, is a pretty tall order, especially for someone still early in their career.
Lorde: Yeah, I was just saying that I literally watched the second film (2013’s Catching Fire) in a movie theater in New Zealand like a year ago. And now I get to curate the soundtrack. It’s crazy.
How did it all come together?
It came to me through my publisher, who is always bringing me really cool, weird opportunities. He was like, do you want to do the end credits song for the film? And I said, “Oh yeah that would be awesome. Um … what are they doing for their soundtrack, just out of interest?” And he was like, "I don’t know I can find it out." I was really keen to curate it. I had this idea that it would be really cool and I think I know what is the right sound for the project. So they were really into it and it just started happening. It’s really been my baby, which is awesome. It’s so rewarding, but it blows my mind that this massive studio has just handed the reigns over to a 17-year-old. I’ve literally been doing it by myself, contacting every artist, sorting everything out.
Can you tell us some other artists that are involved?
I don’t know if I want to tell you anything yet! It’s very new. But there are some people on there that you’re going to be super surprised by. You’ll be like, what? I haven’t heard form them in ages… but in a great way.
OK, we’ll stay in suspense. Was there anything specific about the Hunger Games series that attracted you to the project?
Yeah, I think there’s something about the Hunger Games that makes it a very modern-feeling blockbuster franchise. Often you get a heroine in a movie like that and they’re just not cool characters. They’re kind of sappy or kind of boring. But Jennifer (Lawrence) perfectly embodies Katniss Everdeen and you can’t not be interested in that character. She’s so smart and so tough and so brave, but she’s also like, I’m really confused and I don’t know which guy I want to date but like … hold on dude. There’s more important things to do than think about dating. I’ve got to save the world right now. It’s very fresh and modern which I like, but it’s also super youth based. It’s a good set of films.
The Mockingjay song will be the first original music we’ve heard from you since Pure Heroine blew up. Are you writing a lot of new tunes these days?
I’m definitely writing new stuff. I don’t know how everything will end up. The first period of writing after you have recorded an album, it all sounds like the album before it. I’m trying to get that out of my system and move it to a new place. But I’ve been writing with some good people and just doing weird, cool stuff -- which is always good for being creative.
So much has happened for you in such a relatively short period of time. What’s the biggest way you think that your success has changed you as an artist?
I think now when I’m doing stuff I think much more about a project as a whole. I try to make every little part really strong — like the live show, which I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into right now and just making it like the inside of my brain on the stage. Before I would just kind of do something. Now I am super methodically planning everything and making sure everything links up and how that will tie into the next album and the album after that. I’m looking at the big picture much more.
You received the ultimate pop-star compliment recently when ‘Weird Al" Yankovic parodied “Royals” for his new album.
"Weird Al" is so cool! I’m so psyched to be on it. He asked ages ago if he could do it and I was like “PLEASE! Please, can you do something with “Royals.” I was listening to "Weird Al" parodies when I was like 10 — especially that one that he did of "Confessions" by Usher. How could I have been listening to that while I was young and … that’s me now.
There are artists who work a lifetime hoping to get even a fraction of the success you’ve had…
I know. I always feel bad. The timeline I’m on is just mental.
But having reached this peak, how much more do you have to climb? Have all your dreams already been fulfilled?
I feel like I’ve achieved a really healthy amount based on how much life experience I have. In terms of being creative, based on a really small amount of time being old enough to have experiences and think about stuff, it’s only been a couple of years in the scheme of things. So I feel like with that in mind I’m doing well. I’ve definitely hit a lot of my personal goals. But that being said, every day I’m so aware that there’s so much more for me to do. It’s so exciting to me that there’s so much space to be filled.
Lorde’s Lollapalooza set list:
“Glory and Gore”
“White Teeth Teens”
“Easy (Son Lux Cover) ”
“A World Alone”
Additional reporting by Chris Payne