AURORA's distinctiveness, counterintuitively, makes her a target for comparisons. After all, the singer-songwriter's music is sprinkled with souvenirs from her upbringing in Norway, inspired by an interest in Nordic folklore that's reminiscent of Björk's love for Iceland's mountainous countryside; her ability to pull off unexpected melodic twists gives her music the sophisticated songwriting sensibilities of Sia. But the artist's humble age—only 19-years-old—emits the prodigy vibes of Lorde, who similarly avoids the sugary sweet pop one often attributes to teenage artists. All these elements combined have helped inspire frenzied critical acclaim over Aurora Aksnes' debut album,
All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, catapulting her into the tier of foreign artists who can sell out shows in America and land goosebump-inducing performances with late night kings Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. Ahead of her highly-anticipated NYC show at the legendary Bowery Ballroom, we spoke to the polished prodigy over the phone about everything from the roots of her artistry to her tireless touring schedule.
"It was quite nice playing for an American audience," she cheerfully counters, addressing the pressures of branching out overseas. "You're not afraid to feel the music and to show that you're feeling it…if you want to dance, you dance" -- after all, AURORA has built a reputation for being quite the dancer herself, letting loose on stage with a charisma made totally unexpected by her serene disposition.
But the booming onstage presence didn't come right away. "The first time I played a show, I thought I could not possibly ever become an artist, because I hated it. I just though, 'Why am I doing this to myself?'"
However, practice has made perfect for AURORA, who has grown addicted to the energy of a live show, saying, "I kind of feel the emotion I had when I wrote my songs again and again and get to know myself and my songs even more."
Articulate sound bites like this make AURORA seem much older than she actually is. "I was never good at being a teenager anyway," she muses. "I was good at being a child and then I'm good at just being...Aurora. I did kind of miss out a bit on being a young adult because I had to quit school, and I don't really see my friends or other people my age."
But it's ultimately a mindset that compliments her artistry well, as the stories in her songs showcase the curiosity and wide-eyes of a child, told through the optics of an artistically refined adult. Songs like "Through The Eyes of a Child" exude an urge to see and feel the world with a "childlike soul," while tracks like "Murder Song (5,4,3,2,1)" kick off with a gun to the head and a sudden death. The dichotomy gives the album, and AURORA herself, a mysterious and unpredictable edge, sometimes casting a darker shadow on the bleach-blond wunderkind, which might come from her surroundings. "I haven't been with people my age for a long, long time. And I guess that does something to you, when you're always hanging out with older people. Everyone in my band is older than me."
Because while she doesn't complain, AURORA's success has translated into an exhausting demand, as well as schedule. "I'm kind of living out of a suitcase, which I quite like," she says with genuine excitement. "Yesterday I came back [to America] from Norway again because I had to go back there for one day. I had a show there in between the ones in the States, which I don't usually do," she says. "It was quite weird going back and forth. But I was actually in Norway, sleeping in my own bed, two nights ago." And said bed is in municipality called Os, where the humble countryside fascinated AURORA while as she grew up. "My house is about an hour by car from the beach. I live in the countryside. It's very beautiful and very quiet there. There aren't so many cars, and the roads are very small and strange. We've got an ocean and mountains surrounding us." Overall, it sounds strikingly similar to a real life Narnia.
Now back in the States, AURORA ponders on what would make her album feel most like a success. Again, with an attitude that far surpasses her years, she laments, "It's so hard to actually consider yourself done with anything. A song can always be better and it could always be more interesting if you had your whole lifetime to work on it." The singer enjoys changing her songs up while performing live, perhaps a symptom of this imaginative restlessness. "Actually releasing the album sounds nice just in itself, because then I knew that it's done" -- though with some of her best years still to come, it seems that AURORA is far f rom done, with a limit only as high as the Nordic sky after which she's named.
AURORA plays NYC's Bowey Ballroom tomorrow at 8 pm.