Lorde shot to pop stardom when she was only 17. As she turns 20, her live sound engineer Philip J. Harvey shares his memories of touring with the young star.
Chosen by Time magazine as one of the most influential figures of her generation, Lorde (neé Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor) gained worldwide recognition in 2013 with her first single “Royals” and the multi-platinum debut album Pure Heroine. In 2014, the New Zealand singer and songwriter won two Grammys for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year.
Live sound engineer Philip J. Harvey spent most of that year behind the front-of-house mixing console of Lorde’s first world tour. To celebrate the singer’s 20th birthday, we asked him to take us behind the scenes of Lorde’s spectacular rise to the top of the music scene.
Waves: You spent a year on the road with a very young artist going through her worldwide breakthrough. Was it a different experience from tours with older, more established artists?
Philip J. Harvey: “Honestly, no. Ella is definitely captain of the ship. She has the creative vision of how the show should look, sound and develop. She would take time with each member of the production team to guide them through ideas or experiment with the show’s evolution. When I started working with Lorde she was 17 years old, but it was easy to forget she was such a young artist because of her mature outlook and communication skills, even though it was her first major world tour.”
Over this short but intense period of time, did you observe her go through any growth or development?
“I think Lorde really found her footing as her own artist in the short time we worked together. As the year progressed, she seemed to get more confident and comfortable with her performances even with the pressure of such great success.”
What in your opinion are her biggest strengths as an artist?
“First and foremost her genuine down-to-earth character, then, as a close second, her vocal prowess. In my opinion the former is why she has gotten to where she is today, marching to the beat of her own drum and having the courage to make the music her own. And the latter has been the key to her successful shows and tours.”
Did you stay in touch in the two years that passed since the tour ended? Did you hear any new songs from her?
“We did not stay in touch over the last two years. She has had so much on her plate with writing and recording the new album from a new perspective of her first album’s popularity, that I get the feeling all involved thought it better that she be sequestered to the studio to work undisturbed. There were no Lorde shows booked for these past years and she only had a limited number of live appearances for events like the Brit Awards’ Bowie Tribute. I haven’t heard any new material. She is keeping me in suspense just like everyone else.”
Lorde covering David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” at the Brit awards, 2016
What is your fondest memory from a Lorde concert or from the tour?
“Probably how the tour had a really warm family vibe to it. Getting to know Ella and other members of her family who would join the tour for a while and the feeling that we were all welcomed as members of that extended family even though it was quite a large production.”
What would you like to wish her on her 20th birthday?
“I wish Ella all the best! I hope she is feeling inspired and satisfied with all of her hard work, and I hope the new album will shatter all expectations. Admiration and warmest regards to her and her family. Happy Birthday, Lorde!”
Want to read more behind-the-scenes insights from live sound engineers about the artists they’ve worked with? Check out Dave Aron on Snoop Dogg and Gerard Albo on Amy Winehouse.