Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Joel Little gets straight back to work after Tui wins

Award-winning producer Joel Little explains how he's moving on from the sound that made Lorde's debut album a worldwide hit.

He's just won two Tuis but Joel Little isn't taking time off to celebrate his NZ Music Awards success last night.

In fact, he's got an artist waiting in the studio for him to get back to work.

Little took home two Tuis at last night's Artisan Awards: best engineer and best producer for his work on Broods' second album Conscious.

Currently based in Los Angeles, Little wasn't able to attend last night's industry event - a precursor to November's NZ Music Awards - in Auckland but accepted his Tuis via a pre-recorded video.

In an interview with the Herald, Little said he'd be getting straight back to work on an album with Australian electronic artist Alison Wunderland.

"I'm in the studio at my house ... taking a little break," he said.

"I've been working with Alison Wonderland these last couple of weeks. She comes from a really electronic DJ world that's quite different for me."

Little, the mastermind behind Lorde's Grammy-winning debut Pure Heroine, said despite his bulging mantelpiece full of awards, Tui wins remained special to him.

"They've always been a big deal to me ever since I first dreamed of winning one with Goodnight Nurse which never ever happened. Now it's nice to have a couple of them on the mantelpiece," he said.

Little admitted Broods' Conscious, the second album from the Nelson brother-sister duo Caleb and Georgia Nott, didn't come together as easily as some might think.

"It took a while to figure out where to go with it ... to find what felt natural for all of us writing songs again," he said. "Some pretty bad songs came out initially just to clear the cobwebs, which tends to happen, and you just keep at it till you break through to the other side," he said.

"It was once we wrote Free that we figured out where we wanted to go with the album and what felt right for them."

Despite having several hit albums behind him, Little admitted he felt pressure every time he stepped into the studio with a new artist.

"I want everything I do to be really good. I do feel it but it's all self inflicted. You shouldn't expect to make something really good every day, but you always go in with that goal. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't," he said.

"You just have to accept that if you have a bad day tomorrow could be the day that you write the best song you've ever written. You just keep at it."

Little said he was working with artists across different genres to keep testing himself. They included pop act Imagine Dragons, singer Tove Lo, and a "kid" who hadn't yet released any music but "plays all his songs on acoustic guitar and lives in the middle of nowhere out in the wilderness and just writes these amazing songs".

He also came close to making a song with crooner Rod Stewart.

Little admitted he tried to stay away from recreating the sound pioneered on Lorde's debut.

"There was a time when everybody wanted everything to sound like Lorde, and there still is a little bit of that. That's why the things I'm doing now are really outside of that. If I want to do songs that sound like Lorde, I'll just do them with Lorde. I want to make sure I"m trying things and not repeating myself. We made that amazing album. I feel like we did that, so now it's time to do something different."

But he admitted he's no longer working on Lorde's second album, as she's going in a new direction.

"We wrote together, but I'm not producing the record ... This time I'm coming at it more as a fan than being super involved. I'm excited to see what she's working on."

Read more: Joel Little's Lorde album update: 'I'm not producing it'

Little admitted he was missing his friends and family back home, but his wife and children had adapted to life in Los Angeles and hadn't yet picked up an American twang to their accents.

And the best thing about having a home studio in Los Angeles?

"I can go to work in my undies. It's an ideal situation. I tend not to because there's usually other people there, but when I get the opportunity I make the most of it."

- NZ Herald

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