The NY Times had an awesome idea, doing a simultaneous interview of two singer-songwriters who actually admire each other: Conor Oberst and Lorde,… who would have thought? Not me! But Conor is apparently a Lorde fan and Lorde had a quotation from him in her Twitter bio, ‘No, I am not singing for you’, her ‘mantra in life’ she said,… wow that’s true love! This is barely an interview, rather a chat between the two about songwriting and fame among other things, and they seemed to be so in tune with each other that the conversation took a very friendly turn.
How did Lorde discover Conor exactly? Well, that was easy:’ I knew about Bright Eyes because everyone at my school was obsessed with Bright Eyes. But I didn’t really have a supergood understanding of who you were. Then my current boyfriend introduced me to you — he’s an O.G., hard-core fan, like he had a forum in 2005 for you guys.’
And then Lorde cannot shut up about her admiration for Conor’s writing that she finds ‘childlike’ and describes like this: ‘It’s fierce and honest and intense, and you’re kind of defying people to say that they didn’t feel the same way as you. Everyone has those feelings that they don’t quite want to admit, but which you do, in songwriting.’ To what Conor answers : ‘I had a similar reaction when I heard your music. So much stuff at your level, in the Top 40 world, is just like vapor: You hear a song and maybe you can hum the melody but you walk away with zero ideas having been communicated. And with your writing, you can do it all at once. You can have this amazing pop anthem that the whole world’s going to sing, and you can still communicate solid, concrete ideas and paint this very vivid picture of lost teenagers in this faraway place.’ You get it. this is a total love fest and it goes on and on, with Lorde’s reply, gushing about Conor’s amazing writing: ‘But that’s another thing that I really love about your writing, the little visual thing that just stays with you. I wrote one down — the line: “People in the pool like a drowning army, the smoke alarm emotes and the hotel lobby glows.” I was like, that is perfect!’
Ha ha, nothing is perfect, and you can tell Conor is flattered about the whole thing, adding he likes to find original words he doesn’t normally hear in songs, like ‘oscilloscope’. That was a good one Conor, and I have many like this one if you want, stroboscope, spectroscope, endoscope…
Later, Lorde admits she can’t play guitar and is pretty bad at piano, and is only using her voice to write songs. ‘But up to this point, I’ve been writing vocally and coming up with chord progressions vocally, she said’… Surprisingly Conor proceeds the same way, ‘When I’m writing, I usually have to get the vocal melody first, so I just sing kind of like gobbledygook, just sounds, to get the melody.’ When it comes to writing songs, these two are totally in phase, ‘What I find challenging is having a really strong idea of what I want to say and worrying that it’s going to be polluted or complicated by what I do musically. So I’m always making everything supersimple,’ says Lorde,…’ With a lot of records I’ve made, I call it leaving it in the oven too long — stuffing it with too many ideas, and then you lose the essence. That’s a skill, to realize less is more’, adds Conor.
Are all songs autobiographical? Lorde admits her songs are indeed autobiographical at 85%, while Conor doesn’t know what he is writing about until he realizes it, … which also works for her. Are they are identical twins separated at birth or what? They seem to be the kind to finish each other’s sentences, and I feel like a fly on the wall… and it doesn’t stop there, they also bond over childhood, New Zealand for Lorde and Nebraska for Conor where there was nothing to do expect going to the big city to see gigs or start up bands.
Conor is amazed he is still doing this business for a living, ‘I always assumed that the well would run dry at some point, and I would have to get a real job. It took me a while to reconcile that this is my job. I want to do this because I’m compelled to do this, because I want to make art, but in the world we live in, you have to sell stuff and you have to make shirts with your name on it, and that’s not my first impulse.’ And naturally, Lorde feels the same, but she understands the game to play, just like Oberst: ‘…I really am not interested in all that comes along with being a girl and writing pop music. But I definitely had to come to terms with the fact that what I was trying to do would have more power if I kind of showed myself and became someone that people could attach thoughts to.’
Conor, filled with admiration for the young artist, even throws a paternal ‘You’re going to be fine’ advise, you know, life goes fast and ‘they’ll just keep calling you young and then one day, you’re, like, over the hill’,… come on Oberst! You are like 34, and such an old young man! Now when are we going to see a Conor Oberst-Lorde collaboration?
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