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New Zealand’s Indy Is Forging Her Own Pop Path

Last month, a new indie pop star emerged — and she’s making the main character anthems of everyone’s dreams. After nearly four years of writing, workshopping, and recording music, New Zealand’s Indy made her big debut with “Threads,” a sweeping, sparkling song that captures the chaos of being in love and watching a relationship unravel.

It’s just the beginning for the 23-year-old artist, who has dreamt of pursuing music since she was in primary school. She grew up surrounded by artists: her mother Sonja Yelich is a poet and her sister Ella, known best as Lorde, became a pop phenomenon at age 16. Indy has dabbled in both worlds, publishing two poetry books and exploring her skills as a songwriter with an impressive host of collaborators since she was 19.

“It just took a while to figure out what I wanted to say,” Indy says during a conversation with Rolling Stone over Zoom. She lives in New York these days, but at the moment, she’s in Auckland, visiting her family.

Born India Yelich-O’Connor, Indy describes her childhood self as “loud and bubbly.” She was initially drawn to acting, which she pursued and studied from age seven to 18. She also loved reading her mom’s collection of books, and she was especially fond of the authors Enid Blyton and Jane Austen. Eventually, she started writing herself, experimenting with poetry and noodling on the guitar.

“My mom was instrumental with that,” the singer recalls. Over the last few years, the interest became more serious, and Indy ended up releasing two poetry volumes: 2018’s Sticky Notes and 2022’s Dudette. “Creativity was really instilled in me from a young age,” she says.

Indy was also a huge music fan and found herself drawn to the sounds of Bon Iver, James Taylor and Annie Lennox (she says that the last two are her mom’s influence.) She eventually joined a rock band that covered Led Zeppelin and AC/DC before moving towards a more pop-rock, Paramore-inspired sound. She started pursuing guitar more seriously — “I had a cute guitar teacher so that really motivated me to learn,” she admits — and gravitated to a more acoustic style, similar to some of her musical heroes.

Then, at 18, Indy moved to Los Angeles to study acting, her first love, only to realize she felt more at home as a storyteller.

“I found it hard to connect to scripts that were written for me,” she explains. “I was always drawn to making my own story, so that naturally progressed into songwriting.”

She met her manager while she was still living on the west coast and decided to relocate to New York. There, across years of writing and recording sessions, Indy began to really explore who she was. The anonymity of living in a new, large city where she didn’t know anyone opened her eyes and fast-tracked her own journey of self-discovery. 

“I just didn’t know who I was at all,” she says. “The upbeat, fast-paced lifestyle really helped me find my sound. It really cleared out the space in my head for me to figure out the writing.”

The final product of all that time and discovery is a six-song EP coming early next year. According to Indy, all the tracks “define the grit” of her early twenties. The oldest song on the project, a tribute to her suburban roots, took three years to perfect with co-writer Casey Smith (who also co-wrote “Jealousy, Jealousy” with Olivia Rodrigo). 

As Indy found her voice, she worked with acclaimed hitmakers such as Diplo, Trackside, and the Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth. “It’s a collection of people I’ve met and really vibe with,” she says. “There’s been no pressure and from that, I’ve been able to form cool stuff.”

Later this fall, she’ll release her second single “Killer,” which she worked on with producer Phil Scully (Diplo, Zayn, Dillion Francis). The pair were doing a session at Diplo’s house, where they came up with a catchy bop about “accepting the negative parts of yourself and knowing that they’re not going to go away,” she explains. 

There are no collaborations with her big sister on the EP. Still, Indy says Lorde has shared both advice and admiration as she settles into her career. Indy initially refused to play her music for her family until she felt they were ready. “It’s really important for me to forge my own path but she’s great with advice,” Indy says of Lorde. “She’s really intelligent and she’s my sister! We’re really good mates.”

Indy is also getting ready to release some visuals she filmed and wants to start performing her songs on stage soon. More than anything, she hopes she’s created music her listeners can deeply relate to — and sing along loudly along with in their cars or bedrooms. 

“Your twenties are pretty brutal,” she says. “It’s amazing to be able to live in a little world that I’ve created. It feels really cathartic and cool to now be known as a singer.”

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