Aurora Talks Debut Album, Her Love of Winter & Being Her Own Hero: Idolator Interview
AURORA made our 20 Artists To Watch In 2016 list, and the young Norwegian singer is kicking off the spring season with her debut album All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend—which drops today (March 11) via Glassnote Records.
But a few months ahead of the LP’s release, we sat down with the 19-year-old artist to discuss the sonic story of the record, the seasonal inspirations of her record and what animal she relates to. Read on to see what AURORA had to say in our conversation below!
Many publications, including us, have placed you on their rising artists radar. How do you feel about all of the attention you’ve been getting?
AURORA: Oh, it’s been strange! I think it’s exciting because it means that people are enjoying what I do, and I must be doing something right—which is a good feeling—to be appreciated. But I’m a bit scared of what might happen because I think it’s very unnatural for a human to have lots and lots of attention. Like with the bigger celebrities, it must be really hard for me. But it’s fun in many ways.
I read that your music influences are Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, so how did you first get introduced to them?
AURORA: It was through my mom and dad, so their songs have been played in my house since I was born. So it reminds me of home. They write lyrics that make me feel calm and happy, and makes me think—which is very important with music. I’m very inspired by the way they write too, they use music as a tool in life.
And I definitely see that reflected in your music. A lot of your lyrics are very mature and you kind of have an old soul, especially for someone who is so young.
AURORA: I think their music has affected the way I write. I try to think when I write, and I’ve experienced my share of stuff in life. And I observed a lot, I keep my eyes, ears and heart open all the time. So I get affected by things I shouldn’t really get affected by. And I guess that inspires me to write a lot of things that come from the core, like raw music, because I just need to get it out of my system.
Your latest single “Conqueror” is such a greatly written song. How would you explain the meaning behind it?
AURORA: I usually refer to myself as dark pop or folk-pop, but “Conqueror” doesn’t seem to be that dark—which is nice! At least there’s one song that can make you dance than cry! So it’s an important song for the album, I think, so it doesn’t get too depressing [laughs]. But it’s about the person in the song who’s constantly looking for the conqueror, but it doesn’t seem to come. It’s about longing for a conqueror in someone else and having someone else save you while the world is falling apart around you. But the clue is that you have to find the conqueror in yourself and be your own hero. If you manage to stand on your own feet, you will stand for so much longer than if someone else were to hold you up.
Do you have any personal heroes of your own, other than yourself, whom you look up to?
AURORA: My two older sisters—they’re my biggest heroes. They’re amazing women who are so strong, as many women out there are. And of course Bob Dylan. I think he’s so cool. David Bowie was also a big hero when it comes to the icon that he was.
I was actually watching your “Life on Mars” cover from about a year ago on Youtube. So when you heard the news of Bowie’s passing, what was your reaction?
AURORA: Oh, I cried along with everyone. It feels so strange because even though I didn’t know him, I can still feel that he’s gone. There won’t be new music from that man, or new interviews. He was so wise and so interesting, and it’s a great loss. But the thing is that he made art that will stay with us, and even more now. It will be alive, which is a beautiful thing.
I know you play the piano and are very instrumental. How did you first get started in music?
AURORA: I feel like all of this kind of happened to me…I never really did anything myself. Even though I work hard every day. I’m just me, Aurora from Norway, and I have all these people with me. Like all the record companies and booking agents and management and a band. It’s so strange and I have no idea how it happened. You know, I’ve been writing songs since I was nine and I didn’t really like to perform in front of people. In 2012, I recorded a song that I thought I could give to my parents for a Christmas present.
And I guess they didn’t really know I wrote songs because I did it secretly in my room, but I think they knew after a few years when I was around 14. I didn’t want to sing for them, so I thought I could record a song and be there when they hear it. But my friend released that song online and it got quite a lot of good feedback, and that’s how my management first contacted me. In spring 2013, we made an oral agreement to work with them. From then, it took off!
So your new album is arriving very soon! For people who don’t know who Aurora is, what kind of sounds can they expect? What’s the musical story?
AURORA: The most important thing are the lyrics, and for me there are many important ones on the record that mean a lot to me. It’s a bit heavy, a bit dark, but there is hope in it as well. And I’m not a fan of putting my music in a box, I don’t really think I have to fit in a certain genre. I just produce my songs as I see fit. Some days I hate them, and sometimes I love them. It’s very up and down, like an ocean. I can’t listen to those songs sometimes because I always think they could’ve been better. I’m very picky! But [the album] is emotional, I think that’s the biggest driving point.
After listening to your music, I’m left with a feeling that stays with me—and I think that’s great. Because a lot of songs nowadays don’t have meaning that you can take away from. That being said, do you have a favorite song on the album?
AURORA: I think my favorite would be “Through the Eyes of a Child.” It’s a very important song for me that’s about getting older and seeing the real world and how cruel people can be. You discover more and more of than when you grow older, and gets quite hard on your shoulders knowing all of these things. So it’s about being able to see the beauty in everything and everyone, and the innocence in the world which I miss.
And the songs are all very seasonal—they have a wintery, melancholy vibe. Is that your favorite season?
AURORA: Yes, I love winter! I love the cold, I love snow and that it gets darker really early outside. It kind of makes you calm, and it’s good for your eyes. So it’s always nice when the winter comes because it’s very relaxing.
I remember when Katy Perry retweeted your “Runaway” song last Spring, which is so awesome! What was your reaction to that?
AURORA: It’s always hard to answer that, because it’s quite unbelievable. I’m not that obsessed with the celebrities because we’re all just the same. And what Katy Perry does is to be on stage and be a role model, which is probably quite hard at times. But it was very nice of her to do it, and I know she knew how much that could do for an unknown girl in Norway. She knew that she helped me, which is nice to think about. I was quite shocked when I saw it!
Speaking of Norway, I feel like every year there is a new wave of artists coming from Scandinavia. And I wanted to know what is in the water over there! You guys have so much talent that is refreshing to hear, especially with pop, dance and folk.
AURORA: I think the weather can inspire people. When it’s not sunny and warm all the time, you have to stay inside and learn to be inspired by the quietness when you’re alone. And I think the environment, at least for me, is very inspiring. In Bergen, which is the city I live in, between the buildings there are lots of trees, the ocean and mountains around. There’s nature everywhere, and I think it’s more connected to us than we think. We need nature more than we think we do—it’s something that just makes us want to create.
You have such a calm demeanor, and I’m just looking at all these pictures of animals, but what animal do you think fits your personality?
AURORA: Sometimes I feel like I can be a crow, just flying around and sitting on branches. But my favorite animal is a polar bear! I would love to be up in the mountains with all the ice. And also to have respect, where people know that you are dangerous. But I guess I would be the nice kind of polar bear that would give you a hug without eating your head!
You’re embarking on a North American tour very soon, and I know sometimes Americans can be very critical—especially here in New York. Are you nervous about going on stage in front of new people?
AURORA: I am actually, more than I’d want to admit. But it is a very scary thing, because I always fear that people won’t come and I’ll be standing alone. But up until now, I think I’ve been very lucky with the venues and lots of people have come up to me at my shows—which has been quite overwhelming. I’m definitely nervous because many of my songs can be quite emotional. I think it’s easy to lose people if they’re not in the mood to cry on a Friday night, you know what I mean? But I’ll definitely work a bit extra to keep the energy up.
So what is your plan to overcome the possibility of stage fright?
AURORA: More and more I realize that it’s not really about me. I’m just here to do my job and to give people the best experience they can have, at least for that day. And also to make people happy that they came. I just try to tell my stories as good as I can, and make it into a magical moment.