Photographs by Luke Abby
Styling by Yael Quint
With fans like Katy Perry and Troye Sivan, the Norwegian singer/songwriter Aurora has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of streams in the last few years. You might be familiar with her cover of Oasis’s “Half The World Away” or David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” which was recorded for the soundtrack of Girls, but it is her own native pop that keeps you listening. In 2016, she released her debut LP, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, and later this year will drop her yet-to-be-titled sophomore album. “I will hopefully release it in the next three months,” the 21-year-old says, but really, “I have to see how I feel.”
Although the new album was finished in January, it is unpredictable feelings that tend to give Aurora the direction for both her life and music: inspired by emotions, she often conveys messages both abstract and literal. On “Queendom”, for example, released early this year and her first song since 2016, she proclaims “The underdogs are my lions / The silent ones are my choir / The women will be my soldiers,” while in the second chorus of “Forgotten Love”, her newest song, she sings in a language that’s neither Norwegian nor English, but a language of pure emotion that she conceived herself. She is able to create this language by spending time every day looking inward, examining her own state of mind. This process is even reflected by the progression of her albums: on All My Demons, she encourages listeners to look inside and care about themselves, but she says her upcoming album is about the world outside and how we, as humans, can help other living beings in our world.
“There’s a new energy inside my body, which I can misunderstand as anger,” she admits of this shift in direction. “It’s different than anger but has the same spark—it’s something that keeps me awake, keeps me alert.”
The day after she performed with what she calls a “Viking band from Norway,” we spoke with Aurora about this spark, what helps her calm it and why she decided to make a new language.
I always feel very at peace. It’s an eternal playground where you can jump around and meet creatures smaller and bigger than you—you can be intimidated by a huge cliff or moose but feel big and strong in comparison to tiny bugs. You can climb trees and have an overview of your world. I like the way it clears up a head.
So I’ve always admired Native Americans, and have even had this small picture of a Native American girl who looks somewhere between happy and sad, like Mona Lisa, beside my bed since I was five. My grandfather always told me about how older cultures have been disrespected by people who came and took their places. I feel this is still very relevant today—claiming things and taking them in as our own without respecting the origins, no matter if its music, food, ideas, or cultures.
When you’re on tour, going from city to city, how do you deal with not having the kind of space you feel in a forest?
It was very hard in the beginning—it was hard to fall asleep to something other than silence, hard to feel relaxed and calm. But I learned that I’m not going to have nature around all the time, so I have to experience different kinds of jungles, like the concrete jungle. A lot about cities excite me, like there is food all over the place! If you’re hungry, you can find something within a minute. That was very strange for me because growing up I had to cycle 40 minutes to buy chocolate or an apple. Laughs Now the most calming thing is going to rave parties. I can dance for many, many hours, especially if I’m sober. I can feel how tired my body is and be connected. I enjoy meeting people without words because often people’s words are so boring. People are usually much more exciting when they just shut up and dance. It’s also nice to see so many people dance and let go at the same time. I like when it’s about the dancing and not the drugs.
Talking about words—on social media you use both Norwegian and English, but your songs are all in English. How do you relate to each language?
It’s much easier for me to write in Norwegian, because I know the shortcuts and secret alleys. I have written tons of poems in Norwegian, but when I was nine I decided that I was going to write in English because I didn’t want to keep my words for only the Norwegian-understanding population. One day I would love to release some Norwegian music, but first I would release music in the language which I’ve made. My own language is an emotional language and it means what you need it to mean in the now. It’s very liberating to sing the words, because I can change the energy in them. My newest song, “Forgotten Love,” has my own language in the second chorus, and you can feel the melody and instruments without having any input on what I’m saying.
When did you start creating this language?
It was an evolution that happened after my first album, and on my next album I have a lot of songs with this language. I wanted the new album to draw back to the native human being, which this kind of singing reminds me of—it means nothing and everything. It means emotion.
I read that this album has a wider scope than the first. What led to the shift from an inward to outward-looking perspective?
With my first album, I wanted people to look into themselves, to know they deserve to spend time on themselves, to ask why they’re feeling sad and accept that they can’t push those emotions away. So I wanted my first album to be about being your own warrior. When you’ve fixed your demons, all of the things that make you cry or feel less worth, then you have a bigger capacity—you can become a warrior for others. So the next album pushes away the feeling that you don’t have the capacity to care about things, because you do. When you do something that matters—whether it’s buying a wooden toothbrush instead of a plastic one or giving money to a charity—it’s nice to feel connected to the world around you. After Trump, for example, people have become more involved in politics. After seeing the plastic in the ocean, we have become more conscious and people are voluntarily cleaning beaches. We have to do things ourselves, and we can’t do anything alone, but together we can do a lot of good for the world. That’s what my next album is about: after you’ve fought for yourself, become a warrior for those who have not yet become their own warriors.
I’m curious about why making the album was so emotionally difficult.
I always have one really horrible, sad story on my albums. “Murder Song” from my first, “Little Boy in the Grass” from my EP… It intrigues me that we can be the same species but some of us can kill and others can’t. It sounds horrible, but it’s exciting for me to think about what drives us to do such things. A few songs on my album acknowledge that actions like this are happening between humans around the globe. A few other songs are about acknowledging you have a choice in life: you don’t have to accept things because “that’s the way they are.” I want people to make a choice and be alive.
“Queendom” will also be on the album and it’s about the differences in us—how beautiful they are and how often the most beautiful words being said aren’t being heard because they’re said by introverts. Society isn’t really built around introverts, which annoys me; I think we’d have a beautiful world if introverts and people who don’t have the urge to be leaders actually became leaders. So the album has a lot of different themes—some worldwide, some individual—but track eight sums it all up. You can go and look for track eight when I release my album. It’s the essence of the whole thing.
Hair: Nikola Grozdic
Makeup: Linda Wickmann
Producers: Yael Quint, Sander Stenbaak
Styling Assistant: Tine Neilsen
Special Thanks: Oslo Runway, Grand Hotel Oslo, Angelica Martinez, This Is PR