Who are some of your favorite performers to watch? We talked about Arcade Fire and Phoenix…
Yeah, I love watching both those bands. I love watching James Blake. He’s super restrained; and he doesn’t really even do anything, but I think that makes small things magnified. I think Grace Jones is so cool. I’ve never actually seen her live, but all the footage I’ve seen is incredible. Of course Stevie Nicks. Justin Vernon from Bon Iver is super cool to see live as well. And I almost forgot about Taylor! Fuck! Taylor is like—you’ve seen her, right?
Unbelievable. I love the part when the guy’s playing the drums that light up but, like, on the wires? And moving in the air? I was like, This is the best. And she is so good as a performer. I don’t think people realize how difficult a stadium is to perform in. You have to change how you move and how you talk to accommodate that scale, and she is SO good at that. It feels natural when she does it. I’m so in awe of her ability, it’s insane.
I’m very thankful for your music, because there isn’t anything else about being a teenager that I can listen to where there isn’t also a voice in the back of my head going, “But you have a life outside high school, quit complaining.” But you talk about the suburbs and high school, but from the perspective of someone who, as all the listeners know, has a life outside of that. As we said, you have very smart fans, and they’re aware of your life. Where do you go from here, do you think?
It’s true—if I wrote my next record about the same stuff I wrote my first record about, I think people listening would be able to tell that I didn’t believe it. I’m in a weird position, because obviously I am experiencing being able to buy things that I couldn’t afford before. And I have sat in the back of a car with tinted windows and wanted to unroll the windows but couldn’t. And there is a loneliness that comes with that, but then I worry that I’m gonna sound like people who are like, “I’m in a jacuzzi with champagne, but I’m really sad!” So I’m in an interesting place creatively. But I think people would appreciate me writing honestly rather than writing something that would be very easy for everyone to relate to.
But I feel like that same loneliness could also be felt by someone who’s not doing the same stuff you are, necessarily, but who, for example, feels like all of her friends and family expect her to be happy all the time. You know what I mean? People relate through emotion, not specific experience. The New Yorker profile of Taylor Swift touched on the way she continued to build on and write about her high school experience after high school and how she got a lot of flak for it, and she said something like, “What am I supposed to write about, marketing meetings?” So I do think there’s something to be said for pulling from these other kinds of experiences, ’cause these things are still yours.
Another thing that I had never experienced before this year is traveling and seeing a bunch of places. That has just been so inspiring to me, just walking around a foreign city. I’ve felt really creative and written some cool stuff as a result of being in new places.
I love songs like “Still Sane” and “Bravado” because they are about those moments where you’re missing your old life and anticipating this new one, and there’s this tug-of-war between your ambition to share yourself with the world and a hesitance to be in the public eye. I myself have had to abandon the attitude that it’s somehow noble to aim not to be seen.
That’s so interesting that you say that, oh my god. When I first put my music out, I didn’t release a photo of myself. It was six months before anyone even knew what I looked like. I’d always been really inspired by electronic music, and I appreciated how that genre was faceless and how there was no constant critique of what someone’s legs looked like or how big someone’s boobs were. Also, I was in high school, so I was just trying to rebel against that side of things. Then I started to get played on Top 40 situations and I started to feel like, maybe I should be out there saying, “This is what I look like, this is who I am.” I had to rethink visibility and being present in the culture and that sort of stuff.
I don’t know any men who think, Oh, but the noble thing is to try to not share my work, or to make sure it’s only shared with a certain niche of people. I only know girls and women who talk themselves out of aiming to be successful with this belief that it’s somehow more pure. So I appreciate that you don’t do that, and you do hear a bit of that inner back and forth in songs like “Bravado.”
A couple of months ago I was performing on Jimmy Fallon and doing heaps of press for my record and someone said to me, “If it’s just about making music for you, why do you bother with any of this?” Which is like a classic…I don’t know if anyone would say that to a dude, but whatever. I was like, “I actually really care about this record, and I want people to hear it.” But, yeah, it’s a weird thing to realize that you shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting your stuff to do well. I definitely had that experience.