When Lorde made her comeback “Solar Power” (the lead single from her third studio album of the same name), Billboard described it as “a fresh chapter in a riveting book, and Lorde fans should be thrilled to meet this new author”. Both the debut single and the recently-released “Mood Ring” provide listeners a glimpse into what the full “Solar Power” universe feels like.
“The album is a celebration of the natural world, an attempt at immortalising the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I’m outdoors. In times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, I look to the natural world for answers. I’ve learned to breathe out, and tune in. This is what came through,” says the Grammy winner of the LP.
We recently caught up with the 24-year-old singer-songwriter in a Southeast Asia press conference via Zoom. Check out what went down where we talk to Lorde about how she’s evolved over the years, being called the “Queen of Renewable Energy” and more.
What is the inspiration behind “Mood Ring”?
When I was unpacking wellness and all the different kinds of systems that we used to feel well and connected in our modern world, I was thinking about the things that my girlfriends and I do. It consisted of little things whether it’s keeping a crystal around, lighting some sage or reading our horoscopes. So, I was trying to put it all together.
How do you keep the balance between being true to your music and following what is the pulse of the moment?
I try not to be concerned with the things happening currently because I really want my albums to feel current for a really long time and not just at the moment they get released. So, often, my inspiration comes from all different decades of genres or periods of time to try and make something that feels permanent.
Your single, “Solar Power”, tells us about nature and how we should treat nature. What message do you want to address based on the flower-child way of living?
This album is a celebration of the natural world and I’ve always thought about the changing climate and how different our environment would look for my children, for example. I think of myself as being environmentally conscious. Making this album and thinking about the parallels between our time and the 60s, specifically, the flower-child movement where they’ve also thought about the environment in a really focused way enabled me to make really conscious decisions through that framework. We’ve only got one planet and we have to take care of it!
What was the very first thing that inspired you to make this album?
Well, I was actually walking in the park by my house with my dog. I would wake up every morning to do that and through that routine, I saw the seasons changing for the first time as well as the morning light. I started feeling the magic of nature and the outside world just by going to a park. I’ve also been on a trip to Antarctica and the name “Solar Power” popped up into my head.
There is an undeniable fact that when you hear music, you see colours too. We love how you’ve described your albums of colours and helped us to see and feel the things you do. Since this record is gold, can we expect the same colour as the rest of the record?
I wanted everything to look like gold or yellow. That was how I knew it sounded like the sun and sunshine. There are a couple of greens and blues but for the most part, a gold record.
How is “Solar Power” the album representative of your growth as Lorde and as Ella?
I made the album as a response to the pop star life that I had. Up to that point, I had a busy, crazy life, filled with tours and when I came out of that phase, I became quiet and mystic. I found that to be transformative and I’ve realised that I need to retreat from being a pop star and make something that has a transformation — something new. It showed me who I am and was indeed a big check to my life.
Fresh. pure and also wild! Would this be what we would expect throughout the album or are there any other feelings you’d want to convey?
The album is varied. There are moments that are big and joyful. Some are quiet, introspective moments. I have thought about the past and future, loss, moving on. These are deep and have lots of different emotions in some sad songs that I’ve included in the album. But those songs sound like nature to me.
It seems like the world is slowly opening. How confident are you that next year would be a lot safer for us to have live concerts?
I am listening to the general guidance and I’d love to be safe next year. No one is going to host concerts without feeling like it’s truly safe. For my fans, I think of them as my kids and I really hope we can do it next year. That would be a huge relief for people.
It has been 4 years since you’ve released “Melodrama”. Why did it take so long to release another album?
Albums mostly take 2 years to write, record and produce. I do it almost all by myself with the help of another person. This includes the merchandise and the videos. It’s a very intense process. I’ve finished touring for the last one, in 2018 and I started writing “Solar Power” within the first few months of 2019. I don’t really have much downtime and it seems like a headlock. Albums take a really long time and I want to really undergo a personal transformation between albums and that would take a while too.
Describe the sound you’re going with for this album.
Well, I really wanted to combine a tiny bit of the 60s, 70s Californian folk with the music of my youth, in the early 2000s which was radio pop. Both sounds capture how it feels like to be on the outside so I took elements from both of them and put them through my specific lens. I wanted it to feel light and free as though I’d want to float away.
Between creating music and recording the songs, which process do you enjoy the most?
I love everything about being in the studio. Creating music and recording the songs happen all at once, so, I keep writing when I’m in the booth, even.
You’ve talked about your reverence for pop music and how it has reached so many people. Did making “Solar Power” make you feel any reservations towards this?
Well, I think definitely, by making this record, albeit not being my most personal record, I made it just for me without really thinking what was really happening in the greater kind of music industry. In pop culture, it was a new experience for me. Growing older, so much of it is about context and now, I understand that more. If these projects don’t exist in a vacuum, it’s in conversation with cultures and current events. That can be both a good thing and a weird thing. I really can’t decide what people are going to be like when they get the album.
What do you think is the best takeaway from the first 3 albums so far?
I don’t know. It’s too soon for me to know. When making pop music, the first half is actually making it and the second half is what would people think. I wouldn’t know until a year from now.
“Solar Power”, seems to have a more timeless, folk-rock sound than your previous single, although the Lorde harmonies, make it unmistakably yours, what was the inspiration behind “Solar Power”?
I think of myself as a real shapeshifter. I come back with a different sound each time. That’s how you excite people and challenge them to make them freak out. You can’t predict what I can do. It’s an important part of who I am with putting out albums with huge changes of time in between. My taste as a listener will change and what I want out of music will change too. Last time, there was a lot of electronic pop and 80s music. It sounded like they came from big cities and the setting was mostly in the dark. Now, it’s more on the outside, during day time. This is why it sounds more different.
What was the vision when you were working on the “Solar Power” album with Jack Antonoff?
I definitely had the vision of combining the two genres of music that I mentioned. I was working on an album that celebrated the natural world so, Jack knew I was coming from that place. “Abbey Road” by the Beatles sounded like how the natural world was to me. It was a touchpoint. I ended up playing with guitars for the first time and it was indeed a huge process.
Was it hard for you to come back after a long hiatus and to promote your music during the pandemic?
It is hard and different. I spent years of my life not being a famous person and it’s cool that I have a tendency to long some part that has been missing from my life. At the moment, it’s tiring and it’s a big change and definitely, an interesting time to put my album out. With fortunate timing, because things are finally opening up, I can do some things in person. It’s also cool to do online press meetings.
We just looked up on Twitter regarding Lorde and “Solar Power” and fans are cheekily calling you the “Queen of Renewable Energy” coupled with the fact that you won’t be releasing a CD for environmental reasons. Is there an environmental message in this album?
I didn’t come to the big conclusions. This is a big topic and I’m a pop star, not a scientist. What I did do, instead is to try and reevaluate all the things I’ve done in my jobs such as making my merchandise and the CD. Over a period of time, I was conscious about my personal climate footprint and to not throw stuff away unnecessarily. I’ve even started making my own compost at home and started buying less clothing. There was this realization that I didn’t know where my merchandise comes from. It’s little systems like that that I try to reevaluate. The CD alternative in the music box is really cool as it produces a huge carbon offset.
Which of the songs mean the most to you and why?
The song which closes the album (“Oceanic Feeling”) is a real personal long song that lasts for 6 and a half minutes talks about my life in New Zealand, my little brother, my dad and what my kids would look like one day. It’s a meandering journey and a personal and special one, nonetheless.
You have said leaving the internet come with insecurities, that you could be forgotten. How did you deal with that fear?
I think it was for a moment, we moved through it because it was something that I got used to. It’s a full-time job staying connected and a lot of time taken to stay on the ball for someone like me. I felt very pressured to wear the right clothes or got to the right places to take pictures. Once I removed myself from there a little bit, it made me feel good. I actually had a private account but I stopped posting there.
A lot of your listeners treat your music as the soundtrack to their coming of age, especially, because, they grew up listening to it be it as teens in “Pure Heroine” and as adults in “Solar Power”. What does it feel like having a generation that relates to your music at such a deep level?
This was one of the craziest things that I could have ever predicted and it has gone beyond my wildest dreams. I wrote my first song because I wanted to do something that my peers could relate to and feel understood by the fact that there is a continuous past. This feels amazing to me.
If there is a film released either new or old that’s close to your heart, what song will you pair it with “Solar Power”?
I don’t watch films very frequently but I’m a big fan of the Marie Antoinette movie as it has an amazing soundtrack. I would probably include Big Star from the new album.
Since we’ve seen the tracklist, what’s the song you could resonate with the most and do you think your listeners could resonate with it well too?
“Secrets From A Girl Who’s Been It All” — is about talking to my younger self and I’ve imparted some of the stuff that I’ve learnt along the way. It’s sad, beautiful and tender.
You mentioned transformation as something to go through when writing this album, how did you transform from “Royals” to this?
I think I’ve become someone who sees the world a little bit more clearly as my upbringing was different. I lived in New Zealand, in a nice suburban place and I didn’t know much about the world. I have now seen so much and have a greater understanding. The world is a lot broader now and I have more understanding. During my teens, I was pretty tough and I’d make a snap decision usually.
Is there any artist that you wanna collaborate with?
I don’t really do collaborations very often but in an interview recently, I’ve mentioned Harry Styles. He’s such a great pop star and so charming and cool.
“Solar Power” has brought comparisons to songs by Primal Scream, and George Michaels for the song. How did it feel when both of them have praised and gave their blessings to “Solar Power”?
It was pretty crazy and I’ve never expected that a song I wrote on my keyboard has received this impact. It’s quite in the spirit of rock and roll in a way. The vibes were so good.
Lorde’s “Solar Power” is currently available on all digital music platforms and streaming services.