CHICAGO — Backstage at Lollapalooza, 17-year-old Lorde (given name Ella Yelich-O'Connor) may seem like any other teenager, curled up on a couch with her cellphone by her side, wearing a comfortable, matching striped shirt and pants. But this one holds a Billboard record, for the longest-standing No. 1 by a female artist on the alternative chart, with megahit Royals.
That she has become an outspoken role model for young fans — "It would be naïve of me not to try be their (representative) as best as I can and be a realistic voice for them as well," she says — and has been tapped to curate the soundtrack for TheHunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 in just over a year is par for the course.
"Everyone is just so drawn to the films and the books," says Lorde of the project, out this fall, announced a day ahead of her set Friday night at Lollapalooza. "And every artist I reached out to was like, 'I love The Hunger Games.' "
While she won't name names regarding the artists she has approached for the project, Lorde says she consciously highlighted up-and-comers. "I did notice myself gravitating toward a lot of young artists because it's a movie about young people, and the energy in it is volatile and aggressive and impulsive and just feels very youthful."
She had previously contributed a song to the franchise's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a cover of Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World. For the forthcoming film, she has penned the lead single, co-written with producer Joel Little. When writing for a soundtrack, "you're always going to tap into something that you didn't with your own music — you know, it's quite a specific state of mind," she says. "All the characters are in quite a special kind of headspace, so I think you can kind of hear that in the song. But it was important to me that it stood apart from the film as well, like it would be a single that I'd release, and I think it works."
In addition to choosing the artists, Lorde says she also steered the general vibe of the soundtrack. "Sonically, I had a very specific thing that I had tapped into when writing the single and I was listening to a bunch of different references that were all kind of the same vibe. … So I knew musically exactly the kind of viewpoint that I wanted."
While Lorde has been busy touring — she embarks on her third North American tour Sept. 5 in Philadelphia — she has also been working on new material. "I've been writing a bunch for all different kinds of purposes and all different voices and not necessarily just my vibe," she says. "And I think the album will take a second, for me to get out of this headspace and, like, start attacking that."
As for what to expect on this next album, Lorde says her songwriting has grown, alongside with her music-listening palette. "I changed a lot, because in the last 16, 17 months, all the music I've been listening to has changed a lot," she says. "Just like lots more music, lots more different music — I'm seeking out music that's difficult to listen to as opposed to just listening to fun (stuff) all the time, which I think affects you as a writer."