At 20, Aurora Aksnes is incredibly self-assured as a musician and artiste. She first achieved fame on Spotify and that swiftly led to festival invites. And while she’s gone further into mainstream music culture, she hasn’t changed much, not where it matters at least. She’s a little bohemian, with a charming naivete coupled with wisdom that’s beyond her years and belies her tender 20 years. We had the opportunity to spend a few minutes backstage with her and she told us all about her childhood, her upcoming album and her love of fantasy books.

Aurora at Laneway Festival Singapore 2017
Aurora at Laneway Festival Singapore 2017

How did your interest in music begin in the first place?
I was around 9 when I began writing English songs on piano and guitar. It was just because I had a lot of things going on in my head and I was a very sensitive child. It made life a lot easier to write back then.

What was your childhood like? 
I had a wonderful childhood but the world can be sad sometimes and I think I noticed that very early on. I’d write about things that were good in my life and it made me happy to write and relive them again and again and it let me understand things more when I write about them, made things clearer.

What were you like then?
I was a geek. I was an introvert, I enjoyed being alone. I loved to read and learn and writing stories. I was my own best friend. I had friends as well but I just didn’t want to be with them all the time. I really like being alone, it makes me really happy. I was a happy child but I thought about many many things all the time. If I read something sad in the news, as you do, all the time. It would make me sad for a month.

This photo at Cherlynn Lian for Laneway Festival Singapore 2017
This photo at Cherlynn Lian for Laneway Festival Singapore 2017

You write about a lot of different topics. Which is the one topic that speaks to you most? 
I haven’t written much about love but now, I’m in love for the first time in my life and it’s a very strange thing so I write a bit more about love now because I’ve never really written much about it before. But the thing I need to write about most, the thing that I think we are all very much afraid of, is the end. The end of life. I think I need to write about that, it’s an important thing for me to be comfortable with. Losing people, you know. It’s such a heartbreaking thing and I’d like to try to write a song about it to make it easier, if that makes sense. I think that’s what I write about the most, sadly.

In your lyrics, you sound age-worn but just speaking with you, there’s this optimism within. How do you reconcile that?
I think I have to be open-minded in order to write the music that I do and I have to be open to things. When I meet people, everything here. You know, smells and your eyes and the world is breathtaking and so are people and when I experience the world, when I meet people, I’m very different from when I write. When I’m on stage the only thing I think about is the song I’m singing so I think about why and when I wrote it, what it’s about, and who it might help in the crowd. I only think about one thing at a time.

You’re on tour and seeing new places, having new experiences. Is this giving you new inspiration for your song writing now?
Well, kind of yeah. You learn a lot when you travel about traditions people have and how people are. We can be a bit too closed, we like to sit alone in a box and we don’t like to be near other people that we don’t know. In other countries, it’s different and it’s great to discover how amazing the world is and people are. It’s very inspiring.

Where is the one place in the world you had the most unexpected welcome from? 
Well I think, actually, here. I really like Singapore. It’s my first time in Asia ever and it’s beautiful here. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible and there’s a very good energy here. Maybe it’s just the festival, maybe it’s the people or the place but it’s been great. They have one car for us and one car for the luggage, you feel very lucky, like a princess.

Shot by Lionel Boon for Laneway Festival 2017
Shot by Lionel Boon for Laneway Festival 2017

You use a lot of different ways to produce sounds in your music. What have you been experimenting with?
On my next album, I’m going to try to only use organic instruments. I’m a bit tired of electronic tones, I have been for a while. It’s been very fun to just make a [clicks the roof of her mouth] and just turn that into a snare and it’s amazing that a sound like this can become such a big sound and especially if something happens by mistake. Like there was once when the mic dropped and we recorded it and it made like a ‘doooooooo’ feedback and we turned it into a synth. It’s very nice to explore.

It’s a very organic mode of creation.
Yeah!

You mentioned that you read a lot when you were young. Do you still read a lot now? 
Yeah, I do. I read completely useless books, only fantasy books. I love Harry Potter, and all the Star Wars books and the fan fiction books and now I’ve been reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and also the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. Very well-written, and he gets into people’s minds and makes you understand why people get emotional and angry.

What’s your house in Hogwarts? 
Ravenclaw!

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