In Conversation with... AURORA
Norwegian Songstress with a penchant for hit-making.
In life there are very few individuals that have bags of talent, enthusiasm and potential. The Winehouse’s, the Del Rey’s and the Simones’ of the world. All with self-driven solo careers and Aurora probably isn’t far off these comparisons. Being born in Norway, Aurora Aksnes spent her childhood in the rural city of ‘Os’. A picturesque Norwegian backdrop for nurturing such a unique music artist as Aurora. We caught up with the star herself at this year’s Liverpool International Music Festival to find out more about the origins of her career and what is yet to come.
Here we are on a scorching day in Sefton Park at LIMF with Aurora. Very nice to meet you and first off, how are you doing?
Aurora: I’m lovely, thank you.
Enjoying the weather?
Aurora: No, it’s just too hot!
You’re from near Bergen, right? So, it’s not like this (weather) in Bergen?
Aurora: Yes, well it can be warm sometimes. More in late spring and then the fall begins around now.
So, have you lived in Bergen all your life or?
Aurora: I live just an hour away, in the fjord. It’s very dramatic scenery and it makes me very happy.
Must be lovely! Now we’re from 'No Party, No Disco!' based here in Liverpool and most of the people from the UK will probably be aware with your cover of 'Half The World Away' by Oasis being featured in the John Lewis advert and even 'Conqueror' being featured on FIFA. How did those come about, did you have any say in those?
Aurora: I have no idea really, well the people in my team will work on these things all the time to get me deals and it’s all just a part of being an artist. But then, if its big then we do or if it’s something I really like, like a movie that I’m really into or a TV show then we do that.
So, are you a fan of Oasis at all then?
Aurora: No, not really, its just not my kind of music. But I do appreciate what they’ve done.
Well the advert was huge in Britain, really amazing. How did you get into music then?
Aurora: I think I was, how old was I? I must have been 4 when I kind of enjoyed doing it. I began writing pieces on piano. It sounds really big but it’s just like, you know, what I could do. Then I started writing little pieces like songs when I was 6 and then added words to them when I was 9. So, I’ve been writing real songs since I was 9 so its over half my life.
So how has your song writing process changed since then?
Aurora: A lot! Because now, writing a song it’s no longer just me and my little world. Because now I write for an album I want to do, and I have to think about what I want to say. It’s way more thought through in the long run now, before it was more momentary. It was very much in the moment and I just wrote for my own pleasure because it made me feel very complete and then I just never stopped. Now I still enjoy it but it’s more passion and pride filled, it’s a part of something bigger. It’s really nice, makes me feel very nice.
That’s really lovely, so is it just you involved in your song writing?
Aurora: It kind of depends, it’s nice to work with people because it’s kind of the only way I can hang out with friends. I have my own studio so I produce and write myself but it’s very nice and very fun to work with people I like, people I know and just a group of friends. On 'Queendom', there were 4 of us and we were just in the studio, drinking beer, having fun and then I talked about this place I wanted to make.
Like a soundscape?
Aurora: Exactly, yeah, then the title came up 'Queendom' and we said, “oh let’s just make it into a song” and it was just really fun. But I always write the lyrics and melodies myself because it’s so hard to. But it’s nice to make it with someone and someone remembers it all because I forget! There’s so much coming out like musical vomit. So, someone can pick that up and record me and say, “don’t forget this”. Everything is kind of improvised, less fancy than it seems. Sometimes I’ll write a song that has to be born like I’ll wake up in the night and spend half an hour then it’s done. Like the main track on my next album, the last one, track 8.
So you have a new album on the way?
Aurora: Yes, it’s out in September hopefully, but that song was written in half an hour.
No title on it?
Aurora: It will do [laughing]
It was worth trying to get an exclusive. So, what has influenced you in terms of artists?
Aurora: Well, most of all it is actually kind of, the planet that has influenced me the most. Because it is something so dangerous and changing and it kills thousands of people yet gives us life. We don’t really know how to co-exist with her because we keep on killing her day by day. It’s such a weird relationship with how powerful she is and the animals and their history with humankind like folklore's and the way we’ve processed sorrow and celebration through chants. Especially African folk music, it’s beautiful. I like to mix that and I have quite a few influences of that on my next album. Norwegian folk music of course, and Celtic music. It’s very much all about the planet.
We do a piece on our site called Music History 101 and you pick an artist, album, song, any artwork that has influenced music as a whole art or just your personal experience. So if you had to write a piece for us who or what would you write about?
Aurora: Hmm… I want to say something more exciting than what I usually say.
What would you usually say?
Aurora: Like Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan, I’m a huge fan of. That was the music we had when I was a child, we didn’t have a radio we just had records. It was like I was born in the 80’s or something. But yeah, an artist now that I really enjoy, I want to pick something underground.
Anyone in particular you can think of?
Aurora: Oh, probably John Wizards from South Africa.
What sort of music do they play then?
Aurora: Whimsical, I would say. It’s like whimsical reggae sort of.
On the topic of genre, would you still believe it exists? Given the current landscape of modern music?
Aurora: No, I don’t think so, it depends how deep you are into music. It’s easy to divide everything into things the less you know about it. It is easy to see the few simple things and it makes it easier to find music and organise it, but I don’t really think it’s necessary. I find it funny to find bands putting themselves into boxes like indie and electronica. It’s frustrating.
So you wouldn’t want to give yourself a label or anything?
Aurora: Well it depends who I talk to I guess or what song they’ve heard. Like 'Under the Water' and 'Warrior' people think I’m more rock. So they have that impression but then other people think I’m more pop, alternative. Each song really is different, but I guess I would be pop? Maybe like Native Pop.
With the new album coming out in September, Is the new album a new sound then?
[At this point Aurora started feeling her teeth]
Aurora: Yes… sorry I was playing ping pong yesterday and I had a beer bottle in my mouth while playing and I broke a piece of my tooth.
[We are shown Aurora’s chipped tooth and are quite surprised at the damage done. Get well soon Aurora.]
Wow, hope you're okay! Yeah, so we were talking about the new sound. Its moved on?
Aurora: Well with a lot of the songs from my first album I was so young and wrote many of the songs when I was 11 and they’re so old. But now it’s still so fun and I now know more about myself and I know more about producing which I didn’t know for years.
You’d say you’re a better musician now?
Aurora: Oh yes, definitely and I’m good at it! It’s very fun because I can do it myself and with help just in case but now I know its more zoomed into ‘Aurora-land’.
Brilliant to hear, we’ll let you go now. Thank you very much for that and have a brilliant set.
Aurora: Brilliant to meet you too, thank you very much!
[At this point Aurora compliments our editor, Shannon’s hair. Sadly, due to the bass from the nearby main stage, the audio remains inaudible. Really just a hair dying process gone wrong but nonetheless, It was a lovely comment to make.]
Aurora’s new album will be released in September of this year but in the meantime, you can catch her on her European tour with tickets here.
Stream AURORA's music on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube and all other streaming sites.
Aurora’s Music History 101 Pick: John Wizards.