Now, just in time for summer, singer-songwriter Lorde is releasing a new album -- and talking with our Anthony Mason in one of her favorite places:
One of the most anticipated albums of the year had its inspiration underground, in the New York City subway.
For nearly a year, Lorde used the F Train as her mobile office: "I love this train; it's my favorite," she said. "I think it's okay to have a favorite train!"
"Did you actually do writing down here on the subway?" Mason asked.
"Every day. Twice a day. I, like, thanked the subway in my album notes, because I wouldn't have been able to make the record without it. I found it such an amazing space to kind of be around people."
On her daily ride to the recording studio (usually unrecognized), the New Zealand-born singer worked on the words and music for "Melodrama" (below), the album she'll finally release this week.
"On the train there would be a lot of coming up with an idea and singing it into my phone, kind of as quietly as I could so no one would hear me."
Mason asked, "Did you freak out at all during the making of this record?"
"I definitely had real moments of true despair, like, This is terrible. I shouldn't be allowed to do this."
The pressure was so great it took her four years to follow up the record that literally changed pop music: "Royals."
Ella Yellich O'Connor (Lorde's real name) was 15 and still turning in homework when she wrote "Royals." It spent nine weeks at #1 and earned her two Grammys.
David Bowie said listening to her music felt "like listening to tomorrow." But Lorde found the sudden fame an odd fit, claiming she's not very good at being famous.
"I'm not!" she laughed. "It's hard. It's all body language and, like, the subtlety, the angles -- I don't know the angles."
She aspired to be an artist, not a star. Ella, who grew up in a suburb of Auckland, was fronting the high school band at age 12 and devouring books. "Yeah, I had no friends and I read a ton of books," she laughed.
Her father is a civil engineer; her mother, a poet laureate.
"I remember being two and lying awake in my Mum's bed talking about our favorite fruits and why we love them," she laughed. "There's a lyric on the album where I say, 'I am my mother's child.' I don't think I was ever going to be anything but an artist because of my Mum!"
Sonia Yellich still accompanies her 20-year-old daughter on her travels. She's remarked that Ella's head is always on fire. "Oh, great!" Lorde laughed.
Is it true? "I don't know about on fire. It's definitely, there's such a current around me all the time.
"The way I go through the world and the way I see things, it's so, it's like in Technicolor. It's like magic to me and I feel like I have to get people to see what it is I'm seeing."
Her sensitivity is heightened by a neurological condition called synesthesia, where sounds conjure colors and textures in her mind.
"And you see or feel what?" Mason asked.
"It's like a colored gas that fills the room. It's pretty cool. It's pretty crazy!"
"Does it help your writing?"
"I think it definitely sends the writing in a certain direction. I think that I make the choices that I make with songs, in part, because of the synesthesia."
To watch Lorde perform "Green Light," from her album "Melodrama," click on the video player below.
Mason asked, "While you were making this record, you had a pretty big breakup."
"Yeah. I was able to make a record about being alone, and celebrating that, and absolutely hating that. But being solitary was the thing that really unlocked the process."
To watch Lorde perform "Liability," from her album "Melodrama," click on the video player below.
"You yourself have said this record in spots is a little weird," Mason said.
"It is kind of weird, yeah. I think about someone like David Bowie, and every record was such a pivot. And you know, you almost felt afraid of pressing play on a new record -- Am I gonna even understand this? And I think that throwing people into that sort of fear is, like, the most important thing you can do as an artist, long-term."
The day Mason joined Lorde, she was headed to a rehearsal studio, where she began by jumping online to release her latest single.
"It's all happening, Anthony! It's up on Twitter. So weird!"
She was rehearsing for her appearance at last weekend's Governor's Ball Festival.
"Are you as happy on stage as you are in the studio?" Mason asked.
"I think I'm happiest in the studio. Stage is different because I get so nervous that it's like a weird trance," Lorde said. "When I'm on stage I feel myself go right to the edge of the cliff, so to speak. If I broke my arm on stage, I wouldn't know, I don't think, because you're just so dialed into this crazy environment."
After nearly four years away from that "crazy environment," with her album release, Lorde returns this week.
"Do you feel ready to be back, if you will?"
"I don't know if I'll ever feel ready -- 'being back' is that thing we talked about of not being a very good famous person? But no. I'm ready to be in conversation with the world again."
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