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AURORA Wants to Make You Cry in Public

We asked the 19 year-old Norwegian singer what it's like to deal with the hype and make people cry.

It’s an odd thing, being a young and successful musician. On the one hand: props for actually getting people to take you seriously even though you’re barely old enough flaunt your craft beer and/or wine savvy at a bar. On the other hand: that hyper-praise is almost guaranteed to be a recipe for distorting your reality and inflating your ego—which isn't healthy in the long run if you want people to, you know, actually put up with you after you’ve got your first wrinkle. Thankfully, AURORA seems to have avoided that tempting and destructive ego trip. In fact, the nineteen year-old singer from Bergen, Norway is the complete opposite: she shies away from the spotlight and feels uneasy with the media’s sudden focus on her. Perhaps it’s somewhat unfortunate, then, that her haunting, folkloric pop songs are alluring listeners worldwide—which has led to several publications ousting her as 2016’s new rising superstar. That hype comes after December 2015, when Aurora became somewhat of a viral hit when her cover of Oasis’ “Half the World Away” was featured on the UK retailer John Lewis’ Christmas advertisement.


The 3-minute ad is an absurdly big deal; major music labels each nominate several potential artists to vie for the coveted position to soundtrack it. Usually, the star-generating formula works. Past songs such as Lily Allen’s cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” charted #1 in the UK and in top 10s across Europe, while Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of “The Power of Love” is credited to have kick-started her career. It’s an awkwardly overblown, commercial way of discovering music—and a bit ironic for AURORA, considering that her music is inspired by the dark, the gruesome and the feelings most people often try to hide. In fact, the only reason she decided to chat with us was because we didn’t want to talk about the damned advert. We caught up with AURORA after she won a European Border Breakers Award in January—an award that recognizes ten emerging European artists for their successes outside of their native countries in a lavish ceremony presented by Jools Holland.

NOISEY: Hi, AURORA. Congratulations on the award. Is it a big deal to you?
AURORA: My first reaction was, “why would you want to give me an award?”. It feels very nice to win, but I’d rather see people cry—like when they cry at my shows. That moves me more.

Why do you want to make people cry?
Sadness is a feeling that most of us want to get rid of. We don’t want to cry in front of people. It’s a feeling we would do anything to avoid. We’re too afraid of sadness and music is a beautiful way to process the sadness in your life. If you don't want to talk to people about your emotions, music can be your best friend in a tough time.


What is it about sadness that makes you want to reflect it in your music?
A dark sky, or the dead trees—they drive me and remind me I can help people who are going through dark things.

You’ve said you’ll never leave your hometown in Bergen. Speaking of the dark sky or the dead trees, has the bleak weather and nature there also shaped your sound?
Absolutely. I think quite a few Scandinavian artists have that darkness to their music. Weather affects people and where I live wintertime has only four hours of light each day. Without sun, you change. The environment that I grew with up in Bergen - the drama of the mountains, the rain and the darkness – it’s all in my music.

Do you agree with the saying “happiness writes white”? Could you ever write anything exploring happiness?
Yes, I do agree. I have been trying, but it’s just so hard to write about happiness without sounding superficial. Singing “la, la, I’m so happy, and happy is fine”—it’s hard to affect people like that. My EP, “Running With the Wolves”, is quite dark but it’s important that my music isn’t only about sadness. It also has to have hope. My next single, “Conqueror”, makes me dance; the music makes my body feel free to move. So maybe happiness is hidden in my songs in feelings you get from them, like freedom. Freedom inspires me a lot—especially since not all of us have it.

How much freedom do you feel you have now that you’re gaining attention and fame?
It isn’t normal to have so much attention focused on one person. I am in a bubble: I have my band, my engineers, my tour manager and my manager. We have no time to explore. Although it is nice being outside of Norway and Germany, so I can actually walk down the streets without anyone noticing me.


Would you prefer to make music in isolation, then?
Absolutely. It just wasn’t my plan to be on stage at all. When my management contacted me in 2013, I first thought, “I can be a songwriter for another artist. I can live off of writing songs—that's wonderful”. Then I ended up on stage myself, which was very strange in the beginning. I hated it.

You seem like a very natural performer now.
Now it’s just like breathing or sleeping for me. You don’t really know what you’re doing. That’s how I feel; I just focus on the stories I am going to tell. Sometimes it can be painful to share feelings with an audience; when I sing a new song for the first time, I do cry onstage. Or when I open my eyes and see people in the audience crying, then I cry. But I cry every day, I cry all the time. I love to cry!

Thanks, AURORA.

Photo via flickr