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Q&A: AURORA

Norwegian artist AURORA is absolutely crushing it right now. From her recent soundtrack collaboration with The Secret Garden, being one of Billie Eilish’s favourite musicians, and heading to the studio (a castle in Norway, no less) to record her third album this year, AURORA is carving her path and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

We caught up with her recently to chat about writing a track for the film ‘The Secret Garden’, the importance of female artists taking charge of their music and more.

Congratulations on your recent release ‘The Secret Garden’! I know that you wrote the song after reading The Secret Garden for the first time, what was it about the book that compelled you to write it?

I just loved that they really focused on the healing power of nature as a theme, and how important it is to not lock yourself inside your house if you’re feeling upset or afraid of the world, you know? I‘m a big believer in nature’s healing properties, so I wanted to write a song to honour my own imaginary garden which I imagine is my healing place, my sanctum.

It’s just such a beautiful and sad story, as most good stories often are, and the sadness of it just makes the story even more powerful.

Do you find writing or collaborating for film or TV is different to writing for your own album/single release?

Whenever I get asked by someone else to make something to compliment their piece of art, like in a movie, I take it very seriously. I get really like ‘i will not disappoint you, i promise on my family that i will do you and your movie justice!’ I just go in really intensely, like ‘i will fight for you, i will die for you!’

So with every movie soundtrack I’ve contributed to, I never think about anything else other than that movie. It’s just way more scary when you have to do something to please someone else. i’m mostly my own boss but now i have to do something for someone else and it’s very exhilarating

You’ve spoken quite a bit about perfectionism in your music, how did you manage to tackle that once the music you were creating became something other than just ‘yours’? For example, there are now fans who have a connection to your art. Is it something that you just learn to disconnect from once you’re in the song writing zone?

I find it quite easy to disconnect! I always take with me everything good my life has brought me until now when I eventually go into the studio. It’s like my little safe place, you know? And I’m very happy that I can do that. Of course we all do feel a bit of pressure.. Before I became an artist, when I just wrote in my room, so I can definitely feel there is more pressure, which is very sad, but maybe it’s also necessary, because now there is more of a time deadline for me. Being a perfectionist, I could write on a song forever. So I think I do need deadlines sometimes.

You hear all the time about how bad the music industry is, and of course you hear stories like that about every profession. But I’ve been so lucky to have really really good people around me. I picked well! It helps a lot to have people around that make you feel safe and that trust in your music. Cause it’s not just about money or fame, it’s about making something incredible and beautiful. And I’ll never let go of that, it’s the most important thing to me and my team.

Have you ever written another song inspired by a book?

I actually thought about this a few days ago! Because I mostly write about our world and real things that are happening, but I make them into something magical, or something sad, or something happy… I’m very inspired by the world around me, more than anything else. Especially now, with fame, I’m meeting more and more people. So I get to meet the people I’m writing for and about which is very cool.

When I’m writing music I do think quite visually. I often imagine a movie scene in my head, but it’s usually the kind of scene that I’d like for the music video, so it doesn’t exist yet.

But yes, I was thinking that I should be inspired by movies and books more because now, with the Secret Garden project, I realised how magical it can be to make a piece of art inspired by someone else’s piece of art! It’s such a beautiful circle of magical creative things.

I know that recently you’ve been inspired to write music by events such as the recent BLM protests, the ongoing climate emergency, and the current political climate. How do you approach writing music about this? I know you’ve said in the past that sometimes you hide meanings in your song lyrics but would you prefer to be more direct about these kinds of topics?

I go back and forth between the two. I like to play around with the ways I attack my stories. It’s all about what I want people to feel, because I know that life can be very hard, so I want my audience to be able to escape into my music. I want them to feel like they’re getting a hug.

It’s all about what I feel people would need from the music more than the music itself. For my whole career, I’ve always been trying to write the kind of music I feel like people need, and that will make them feel good.

So when I wrote quite politically on my last album, I felt like I needed to go quite harsh. And lyrically it’s quite easy to know what I’m talking about. But of course I want to leave some room for interpretation!

That’s the most fun thing about writing lyrics, you can do whatever you want! So yes, I definitely go between giving people an escape and giving people a weapon to attack whatever they are unhappy with.

How did you find lockdown, from a creative standpoint? Did you find yourself wanting to write more for people going through this new shared experience?

This is quite interesting because when I’m writing music for a new album I know that the music I’m creating will most probably be released in a year, because my music often travels so slowly from my heart out into the world. So I do often think about what the world will need in one year’s time! I kind of have to think ahead, and it is quite easy to tell, if you watch the world, what the reaction to the current situation is going to be in a year or so.

In every album I also like to have a theme, because that’s the most fun way to make an album, to really make it an intricate living thing where everything is connected.

The theme of my new album is inspired by something I think we all need right now, and will need in a year, and in the future that I think we have ahead of us.

It’s been very fun to write because this lockdown has really opened my eyes to what people need individually. But also it opens your eyes to what we really don’t need, all of the things that don’t make any sense, and all the battles we haven’t even fought yet that we’re going to fight in the future! When the world feels as quiet as it has in lockdown, it helps us to reconnect to what is really important, politically and emotionally.

All of this has definitely had an influence on the writing of my next album, but it’s a very complicated and big album to try and describe!

And what else have you been doing to keep busy during lockdown?

The world is teaching us all the time to dislike ourselves, so I know that many people have been struggling being alone with their thoughts and themselves for long periods of time. But I am very lucky because I know that I like myself, I really enjoy spending time alone.

I have a very creative head, which does make it hard to be social sometimes, I much prefer to be in my house, doing anything that you can think of that’s creative. I’ve been painting, drawing, writing music, making clothes, and drying flowers which I’m actually doing right now!

But I do really need someone to drag me out sometimes, because when you spend time with yourself in your own little world every day it can feel as though life is much shorter. It all ends up forming into one blob of a day, and you might not realise that a few days have gone by. So I’m very grateful for the hobbies that have been getting me out of the house! It’s really easy for me to get too comfortable in my home.

What was it like to work with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra?

I loved having the chance to make something so large with a group of people. I think there were 50 people in total, and it’s just so incredible because every single sound you can hear is made by those people playing together. It’s magical.

I appreciate them so much, and I appreciate each instrument so much. There’s something about a cello that just cuts through you in a different way than a voice can, it can make you cry without you even knowing why.

I really adored the experience, and I want to do things like that as much as possible because to me it really does define the beauty of music.

As a fellow book lover, I’m always looking to add new titles to my list, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

Well, I would recommend any book by Brandon Sanderson to anyone out there who loves complex, emotional fantasy stories. The Mistborn and Warbreaker series are really good.

I’ve been trying to read more books by female authors recently, so I’d recommend Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Power by Naomi Alderman, the Study series by Maria V. Snyder has an excellent female main character and I loved reading about her journey through life.

My final recommendation is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I thought the first 100 pages were really boring, but you have to stick with it! Once I got past those first 100 pages it turned into the most entertaining book I’ve ever read, and it’s such a good story.

I could definitely recommend more if I was looking at my bookshelves, but you should definitely start with those books first.

Your new track ‘Exist For Love’ is a step in a new musical direction for you. As someone who has said in the past that you’re not one for writing love songs, what was it like to explore a new side of yourself musically and lyrically? And can we expect more to come on your next album?

Love is a big part of the song’s meaning, but it’s much more complex than just a love song. Musically too it’s quite different from what I’ve done before, because that’s the most fun thing to do as an artist! I love trying new things.

‘Exist For Love’ is definitely a taste of what the next album will be like. It’s going to be a different album and I’m having a lot of fun with it at the moment.

How do you approach taking a new album into the studio? Do you pitch a fully realised vision to your team?

It’s very hard to work with me, I think, because I can be very stubborn and with every album I always have a clear idea that I sit down and pitch to my team. I like to create a visual map of the story I had in my head when writing the songs. I like to keep the name of the album a secret until it’s done though, I’m very secretive about that…

I don’t bring people on to help make an album unless I know that they understand where I’m coming from. And once I’ve established that understanding, then we can go forward and work together and be inspired by each other.

I’m very excited to start recording this album, we’ll be making a beautiful album child in a little castle somewhere here in Norway. I think it’s very important for me to be somewhere atmospheric, like a castle. You can definitely hear it in the music. We’re renting it out for a few weeks and it’s going to be really magical!

It’s just going to be me and Magnus, my drummer, we’ve made most albums just the two of us. I’ll have all the music written beforehand, and then we’ll record and produce it all.

Do you like to be very hands-on with the production side of your music too?

Definitely, I get very sad seeing so many girls and women in the music industry either not getting any credit for production, or just being ignored or afraid to speak up during that process.

It’s such a male dominated space, which I get very angry about because on my albums I don’t get any credit for the production work I do. I think Bjork spoke about the same issues with her music too. It’s such a long and difficult battle that we have to fight!

I absolutely love producing, it’s so much fun. To me the recording and producing process is like creating a little album child, and then going out to buy beautiful clothes to dress up your child in these lovely things! I have such a specific vision for every part of my songs in my mind, so I couldn’t imagine not being involved in the production.

I would recommend that everyone gives it a go, it’s so easy to learn, and you can find tutorials online for any software you can get your hands on.

You’re so right! I know from experience with my first few songs, I didn’t feel anywhere near confident enough to have my voice heard in the production process!

I think that is my biggest piece of advice for any new musician, just start to learn how to produce yourself so that you can hold your own in the studio. You’ll feel so much more confident! It’s so important to be strict with your opinions, especially because you’re putting so much time into the writing and recording of these songs.

I also love learning new things from my drummer, who has been a producer for a long time now. There’s no shame in taking advantage of how good the people around you have become technically, but you just have to make sure they listen to you too. No matter how good they are.

Okay, one final question before we go…what are you looking forward to in the future right now?

Number one is this next album. It’s going to be so different and so new, and it’s very exciting to play around with new things.

Number two is, I’m excited to keep on fighting for the people, you know? I can’t wait to continue spreading love and support for equality, women’s rights, the black lives matter movement, the environment and for the animals. It’s the most fun thing. Life seems so long when you’re a part of fighting in such huge, ongoing battles like those, and I can’t wait to start seeing real change. I really do think it’s coming because you can see it in the people. We are so ready for the era of love.

It’s also going to be very exciting to see if we’ll ever be the same after this virus. I don’t think we will, but I think that’s going to be a good thing.

Watch the lyric video for ‘The Secret Garden’ below:

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Q&A: AURORA
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