Lorde may be the most recognizable 17-year-old girl on the planet. The alt-pop singer better known to her friends as Ella Yelich-O'Connor has two Grammy Awards and nearly 7 million followers on social media, yet somehow manages to maintain a typical teenager's lifestyle.
"I still live at home," she says, calling from her parents' residence in Devonport, New Zealand. "I'm sitting on top of my bed with my laptop and my sneakers on, doing the same things I was doing a year ago."
This fall's coast-to-coast U.S. tour, which includes her first Cleveland appearance Sept. 24 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, is just another example of Lorde's rising fame. After getting discovered from a video of her middle school talent show and signing with Universal Music Group at age 12, Lorde's five-song EP The Love Club was released for free on SoundCloud in New Zealand in November 2012. Pure Heroine, a commercial full-length album, followed in the U.S. in 2013. The single "Royals" rocketed to the top of the U.S. charts in less than two months.
The breakout hit, which mocks a generation fixated on fame and fortune, was originally written with her peers in mind but found an audience among older listeners as well.
"It was a surprise for me that it wasn't just teenagers listening," she says. "I definitely didn't expect it. It's a weird state of mind to be in. I feel like I'm on the outside looking in at this industry and all the stuff that becomes common at this level."
Her second single, "Tennis Court," caught the attention of Elton John, who told USA Today it was "one of the most touching things on earth. You just open your mouth in wonder."
Hearing the quote for the first time, she gushes: "Oh my God, are you serious? That's so lovely. He's Elton John. Holy crap. I feel like you're punking me right now. I'm speechless ... that's so nice. My whole day's made."
With support from her parents, who filled the house with Burt Bacharach tunes and fostered a love of books, Lorde says she'll continue her vocally based songwriting on an upcoming album.
"I have a process, but the process isn't always followed through on," she says. "I was just in the studio and a lyric was totally evading me. I began to hum something and wrote to the hum. Any time I put something out, I want it to be super different."