She was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Her father, an Irish-New Zealander, is a civil engineer, and her mother, Sonja Yelich, a Croatian-New Zealander, is a prize-winning poet. She was raised in Devonport, a suburb of Auckland.
At the age of 12, she was spotted by A&R scout Scott Maclachlan when he saw her singing in a video of a talent show at her school, Belmont Intermediate. Later, when Yelich-O’Connor was 13, Maclachlan signed her to Universal Music and, at the age of 14, she began working with their songwriters in 2012.
Officially released digitally in March 2013 and on CD in May 2013, The Love Club EP features five songs, including the number one hit “Royals”. On May 27 2013, “Royals” was covered on national television on the New Zealand version of The X Factor by all-girl group Gap 5, mentored by Melanie Blatt of the All Saints. “Royals” débuted as a single at number 1 on the New Zealand Top 40 on 15 March 2013 and remained in the top position for three weeks. In the U.S. it peaked at number 1 on the Hot 100 and number 1 on both the Alternative charts (making Lorde the first female artist since Tracy Bonham to reach the top) and number 1 on the Rock charts, making her the first female artist to top the charts as a lead singer.