Mar 16, 2016 5:02PM

19-Year-Old Norwegian Singer-Songwriter Aurora Makes Really Emotional, Really Good Music

Actual angel.

Aurora has the kind imagination most of us can't even dream of. Our puny subconscious minds, even at their best, can't conjure up the kind of fantastical storytelling evident in her songs.

At age 19, the Norwegian gal already has a decade of songwriting and composing behind her. She also happens to be one of the most empathetic people we've ever met, and that hyper-awareness of the world definitely manifests itself in her often-melancholic lyrics. Any dark subject matter is counterbalanced by her synth-pop production though, which is probably why she cops so many comparisons to fellow weirdo Björk (although we definitely think her music stands on its own).

We're so into her recently-released debut album All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend that we just had to call her up for a chat. Here goes…

Madeleine Woon: So you have an incredible imagination and from what I've gathered you started writing songs at a very young age. Where did that wild imagination come from?
Aurora: When I was a child I didn't really have a cellphone or computer, and I didn't watch much TV, but I read a lot of books. I really enjoyed [using my imagination] as a way of making everything a bit more fun — for example, I really enjoyed how you could find a piece of rock and you could imagine that it's a dragon, or whatever. I played a lot with things and my imagination [grew], especially when I was young, because I really enjoyed being alone. I grew up surrounded by nature, which I think helps too.

Growing up, what were your favourite books?
My favourite books growing up were, and mostly still are, all the Harry Potter books — I'm a really big Harry Potter fan and I love J.K Rowling. I also love The Lord Of The Rings, you know they were really heavy and really slow, but they are quite nice anyway.

To my understanding — which is quite limited — you have a very rich tradition of mythology and legends in Norway. Is that aspect of your culture influential or important to you?
I love my culture and our history, even though it's quite brutal at some points. The Vikings were very, very cruel — they believed in Valhalla, which was like the heavens for slain warriors.

It's really exciting to hear about all the gods that we had though — we thought there was a big snake around the world holding the planets together [laughs], which is kind of strange. It's kind of like a book I guess, and that's why there are so many movies that are inspired by our mythology.

You seem to be very perceptive and sensitive to the world around you. Does it ever get overly burdensome for you: taking on other people's sadness or worries?
Well, it's what I am used to. If someone feels somewhat sad — and I think it's quite easy to feel — then I enjoy being the one that they get to talk to. To be the person that helps them, and helps them figure out how to solve a problem. I learn a lot by talking to people about problems and about life. I know that I get angry with myself sometimes if I get too affected by people's moods, or if I meet a person that is just angry or really sad inside, then I can really feel it. I can become really sad for the rest of the day. I don't know why it's like that, because I have heard it's not that way for everyone, which I thought in the beginning. It's normal to have passion but no one should really take in everything, the wrong problems or emotions.

It's a very nice quality to have in a person. It just means you care a lot…
I am glad that I'm emotional, because I don't think I would have been able to make all the songs that I have without being me. So it guess it's always worth it, because it can be inspiring.

You've spoken about how the process of making music is therapeutic for you when you're having a hard time or feeling alone, and I guess that's also a pretty universal feeling for people when listening to music: it can be there for you when other people can't and it helps you to make sense of the world. Why do you think music has the power to have that affect on people?
For a long time I've been asking myself the same question [laughs]. A big part of me still doesn't understand why. It's kind of strange — when I read or see a painting, it can make me cry or smile if I feel the emotion in it, and I guess we are all drawn to everything that is "real" or made from scratch. Whether it's food or books or art or music — we like everything that is real. I know that my songs come from real emotions and I guess people can hear that and they like it for that reason.

What's the most surreal or moving fan letter that you've ever received?
I got a letter once and it contained an old dried leaf from a really beautiful tree, and a picture of these trees in a greyish light, and it looked really beautiful. I love trees a lot and the leaf was from a tree in that person's garden; it was a really beautiful thing because the person wrote to me and said, "Have a piece of my country." The leaf was from Portugal so it was from far away. And now I have that leaf in my room, and it's from someone's garden, from someone out there. The letter itself just said that this person was really grateful that I existed, and that was really special to me. It's not often people are happy that you exist, so it definitely meant a lot. It was a really special thing.

You're obviously very emotionally attached to your songs; do you feel over time you lose those emotional ties?
Well, it is my biggest nightmare that one day I won't be as emotionally involved. I hope I won't lose the stories behind the songs, and I hope I won't lose the emotion every time I sing a song. But you get quite used to singing a song — I've been singing the same songs, already, for a long time.

However, different people affect me in different ways, and so performing it to different people helps. There are different energies, and a lot of the time there is a big variation in age in the crowds I play to. Sometimes really young people come to my shows, and that's really different again because they're involved in a really different way — they shout and scream, there's just a really different energy. You really see that there are new people to sing to every time, and you have to remember that for these people, it might be the first time they are seeing it. You really have to make every show magical; you want the crowd to have a special experience because every show is special.

Your debut album is really great — it kind of reads as a collection of short stories. Was that important, or intentional for you rather than creating a concept album?
As well as there being really individual stories on the album — every song is inspired by something different — there is a recurring theme on the record. There are a few songs about me — me as a child, and me and my past experiences — and then many of my songs are about all the horrible things we all know are happening out there. And then some of my songs are just characters that I've made up in my mind, like the little boy in the clouds: he is just a character, and I've written many songs about him. I've written many songs about all these characters, and I hope I will get to release them as soon as I can. It's really fun to have a continuation of song, if there is a good story to it.

Well, you're not only really good at imagining up characters; you are very good at playing different characters. After watching your video clips, it really strikes you at how great you are at acting. Did you have any formal training?
[Laughs] No, but thank you! I don't really think about me acting, but I guess I am kind of acting, which is a really strange thing about making music videos. I'm just really good at imagining myself doing the things that I'm doing, or singing about in my music videos. So I guess it's my imagination coming to help me once again.

On 'Through The Eyes Of A Child' you sing about perceiving the world (obviously) through the eyes of a child. Do you think as adults we can ever recover that childlike sense of wonder when viewing the world?
I just think that we were all children once — we were innocent and saw innocence in other people too. I guess we forgave each other a bit more quickly when we were younger, because we lived life in a different way. I think we all have an inner child, and for me, that is the most precious thing that we can ever have. It keeps us innocent, it keeps us playful, and it keeps our imagination awake. It is so important to keep that inner child and not lose it.

When we grow up, we learn a lot about how scary the world is and how mean people can be. We're taught to be careful and never walk alone. All these things we learn make the world quite frightening…

Last question: what is your most treasured record or album?
Oh! That's really difficult one [laughs]! There are so, so many great albums out there. I love Leonard Cohen and I love Bob Dylan… I like almost every album of Bob Dylan's, but I really love the record The Times They Are A-Changin' — I actually have it hanging on my wall in my room above my bed. I love the cover— it's black and white, and it's just him looking at something lying on the ground. I really like that album; it reminds me of my childhood.

Photo: Courtesy

Madeleine Woon