Everything has changed for AURORA, born Aurora Aksnes, the Norwegian singer-songwriter. It’s a story everyone knows: an artist becomes an overnight sensation, skyrockets to the rarified heights of stardom, and sees that life is different from above. Despite the sudden change in altitude though, Aurora still seems very much down to earth.
Now twenty years old, Aurora began writing songs at the precocious age of nine. Yet over the course of the decade, she can clearly trace a line from then to now. “My mood, themes, and essence in the music is still quite the same,” she says to TGA. “It changes more with the seasons than with my age.” In an era of technological ubiquity, Aurora finds inspiration in “nature, sounds that come from things like doors, breath, walking, wind, and bugs.”
Her tunes are like glass prisms set inside snow globes. There is a propulsive electronic undercurrent to the beat, and Aurora happily confesses to being influenced by Massive Attack, the Chemical Brothers, Enya, and Wardruna, a Nordic ambient folk group. “There’s no recipe to songwriting,” she says. “It’s just something that happens naturally and it depends on what mood you’re in, what instruments you have in front of you, and what story you suddenly have an urge to tell.” What makes Aurora stand apart is a voice for the ages. Her idiosyncratic cadence is propelled forward by sudden graceful leaps into another octave. The effect is startling, sweet, and soaring.
Nowhere is this clearer than on “Runaway,” which was a big success last year in the UK on Spotify, streaming over a million times in just a matter of weeks. The midway breakdown is a glittering demonstration of her potential. Hearing it is to think she is Björk, evolved. The festival circuit has reinforced Aurora’s reputation as a singular performer, where she wowed the crowd at Glastonbury this year with her set.
Visually distinctive, with a lithe frame and short platinum blond hair, it’s easy to imagine Aurora as a Targaryan presiding over the halls of Valhalla. She has recently collaborated with the directorial duo Arni & Kinski for her latest single “I Went Too Far.” Long term collaborators with Sigur Rós, their metaphor laden style meshes well with Aurora’s aesthetic. In the video, her personality is split in two. When she sings, her appendages take on a life of their own, possessed by jerky yet fluid movements. “The music is inside of me, the visuals are something I have to draw out of the music,” she says.
This summer Aurora will be part of the lineups at Latitude, Festival No. 6, and Bestival. In October, she’ll be headlining a number of shows around the UK, including at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire. She travels a lot these days. Earlier this year she performed the rousing “Conqueror” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. In the past few weeks, she has done a cover of Bowie’s “Life on Mars” on The Howard Stern Show and performed “I Went Too Far” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
“I have a limelight following me most of the time. And I don’t see friends and family that often.” Her universe is now populated by “musicians, people from labels, management, newspapers, blogs, and booking managements! It’s a strange world. Luckily I haven’t changed much.” Where this environment might adversely affect some artists, especially at such a young age, Aurora says she’s evolved into becoming the person she was meant to be. That person is equally self-described as childish, imaginative, calm, wild, and musical.
It’s clear that everything else takes a backseat to the music. “I’m learning more and more about what the music hides inside of me,” Aurora says. “I’m still trying to make it sound like it does inside my head. That’s the most difficult and exciting task of them all.” As for what the future holds, or what progress can be made once she reaches the top of the mountain, she’s less sure. “The wind seems to take me to places I didn’t even know existed.” Be prepared for new discoveries.
Her album, All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend, is available now.
Stephen M. Tonic