From school bench to Grammy stage

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014

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Just over a year ago, Lorde did not exist - at least not outside the mind of Ella Yelich-O'Connor, a 16-year old school girl from Auckland.

Today, the Kiwi pop star is one year older and in Los Angeles, as a nominee and performer at the Grammys.

Lorde, the unlikely latest mouthpiece for teenage angst, has been nominated for four awards at the American music industry awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album.

With an estimated television audience of 30 million people, her performance will be on a line-up that includes Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Pink, Kendrick Lamar, and Imagine Dragons.

She missed out on a nomination for Best New Artist, despite her potential for success in that category.

But although Lorde's rise to fame seems to have happened at light speed, Yelich-O'Connor was producing music long before the world knew her name.

In 2009, the then-12-year-old won her intermediate school talent show, which a friend's parent recorded and sent in to Universal Music Group, the biggest label in the world.

After being approached by Universal, Yelich-O'Connor signed a development deal, and so began a chain of events that led to her chart-topping infamy.

On November 20, 2012, Yelich-O'Connor and her manager Scott Maclachlan launched Lorde online via social media.

Her first EP, The Love Club, (co-written with Auckland-based Joel Little) was free to download from SoundCloud before it was released for digital sale in March 2013.

In September that year, shortly before Grammy nominations were made, the album Pure Heroine was released.

Since then, her accolades have been numerous and record-breaking, making her the most acclaimed new artist of the year. A win today, however, could top all that.

Little tweeted after the nominations were confirmed on December 7: "A song that Ella & I made to give away for free just got nominated for 3 Grammys & the album got one too. Whaat. So proud of @lordemusic."

Given her age, nationality, and left-field approach, Yelich-O'Connor will today be an outsider amongst big-name competition including Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Pink, Daft Punk,and Robin Thicke.

This month she revealed in an interview with online magazine Rookie how she deals with that status: "Throughout my high school years and my intermediate school experience-which is like the two years before high school-everyone would tease me for wearing weird clothes and reading weird books and liking stuff that other people didn't like, and that was hard for me, but I also had this attitude of, like, "I'm above these people.""

There have been at least 10 Grammy wins for New Zealand, with the most recent and perhaps most impressive being Kimbra, who last year took out record of the year and best pop duo/group with Australian musician Gotye.

The earliest win was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa for The Marriage of Figaro, in 1984.

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Others include Wellington-based composers Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement in 2008, The Lord of the Rings screenwriter Fran Walsh in 2005 for the lyrics to Into the West, and jazz arranger Alan Broadbent in the 1990s.

The Grammys will be broadcast live from 2pm (NZ time) on TV2, followed by delayed coverage later in the evening. If you're stuck in front of a computer Stuff will keep you up to date with a live-blog.

- Stuff

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