Amid the wet and stormy weather this weekend, about a thousand people witnessed a burst of the northern lights at Fort Canning Park.
The wild and exuberant display came in the form of 23-year-old Aurora Aksnes, one of just a handful of artists who go by the same name on and off the stage.
“We came on Friday, so we had the whole day,” said AURORA, her hands fluttering freely as she spoke. “But I slept all the day and I only woke up yesterday afternoon.”
Much like the aurora borealis, the Norwegian songstress has held her own in the saturated skyline of the music industry. Since her debut in 2015, some have noted elements of Björk in her frenzied rhythms and ethereal, vowel-led toplines, but the soft-spoken singer reveals that she instead holds the reclusive Irish artist Enya close to her heart, and very little else.
“I don’t really like music,” she said, almost apologetically. “I like to be quiet.”
“I make music all the time, so I’m so afraid that I’ll be disturbed by other music. I need to focus on what I have in me first.”
Between wild gestures and a fragrant cup of instant coffee, which she offered to share, AURORA stopped for a quick chat with Popspoken before her show-stopping set at the Neon Lights Festival 2019.
Popspoken: We last caught you at Laneway 2017. What draws you half a world away on this little Asia tour?
I really love Singapore. I love the people here; they’re so enthusiastic. They really enjoy the show, so I was really eager to come back.
I like that Singapore looks like a city that can live in harmony with nature. You have all these trees, and all these buildings and plants. It’s really nice to see this balance between humans and nature.
And it’s good that the area is so… wet. It’s easier when the area is so warm and wet.
Popspoken: Now you live in a quiet area in Norway, while most Singaporeans grew up in a busy, packed city. What do you think are some of the best things about growing up in nature?
The nature where I come from is very different; it’s not as varied. We have like Christmas trees, but we have a thousand of them, in the woods. And it’s very cold and there’s no one there.
Where I grew up, we were the only people, so it was very quiet. I loved being in nature as a child; it meant a lot to me because you can just be yourself in nature and I was a bit different from my classmates in school, so I liked that I could be in the woods and feel very comfortable and accepted.
Popspoken: Tell us more about the message of Infections Of A Different Kind and A Different Kind Of Human.
I focus a lot on the way I say things to people. I feel like now we’re at a time where we really have to do something before it’s too late, so our children will have a beautiful world, like we have.
But it’s not about blaming each other, and I think we shouldn’t focus on what we did wrong, and say, “You did this” and “You did that”. We should focus on what we can do and the positives; that there is hope, still.
Many of the young people, both young of mind and young of age, are willing to do and sacrifice things to save the planet. I think it’s a really moving time to be alive because people are actually working on something together. We’re united all around the world. I think it’s a hopeful time and I want to focus on explaining how beautiful the earth is through music, rather than being negative and blameful about it.
Popspoken: Who is the focus of your song Apple Tree: Greta Thunberg or an entire generation?
I’m talking about all people. Greta is definitely and example that every small human being can do big things, but it’s up to everyone. She’s done a brilliant job in spreading more awareness, but now everyone has to be willing to help.
It’s like the big trial of humankind. We have to be on the same side and work together as one, which we haven’t done so often.
I actually wrote the song long before Greta was in the spotlight, but I think everyone can make a lot of change. We just have to believe that we are important because we are.
Popspoken: It’s a very big thematic shift from your first album. Where do you think you’re going next, because I heard there are more albums on the way.
Yes, I’m already making it. I’m making two albums, actually. But of course, one of them will have to come first.
I care a lot about perspective and seeing the big picture of things, seeing everyone and how things connect and why we are the way we are. So it’s also important to see the small things and appreciate the small things. I guess it’s easier to be happy when you realise you have small problems, and they’re not that big.
With every album, I feel like the perspective is a bit bigger. All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend, my first album, is about your personal pain. Infections Of A Different Kind is about building yourself up and figuring out if you can help other people. A Different Kind Of Human is even bigger; it’s about helping the world and all the people and the animals.
I guess I’m going even wider with that perspective, more spiritual. And then maybe I’ll go back really, really small again. It’s really exciting.
Popspoken: Congrats on the new song from the Frozen 2 soundtrack. Now, which Disney character do you identify with the most?
I love the, what’s the English name, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I don’t know why, but as a small child, I just loved him so much. /laughs/ He was so strange. I loved that he had his treasures up in the small room in the Notre Dame, which now has burned down, which is horrible.
I really loved that movie and I love the way it points towards some of the dark side of religion, with the villain. I thought that was interesting because those themes don’t usually appear in children’s movies.
What I love about Disney is that they don’t underestimate children, because children are not stupid. They can understand a lot, especially emotion. They’re very smart, sometimes smarter than adults because they go by instinct, like the animals.
Popspoken: With Frozen 2 coming out, do you see yourself as an icon for younger children? There’s a whole new audience listening to you.
I don’t know. I don’t see myself as an icon, but I think it’s important to be the best you can for the children. No one is the same, everybody is different, but still we pretend that there is this one thing that is “normal” and everyone who isn’t like that is strange, which is not really true because everyone in some way is an outsider.
I try to be the best for the underdogs, the children, the introverts. I feel like the world doesn’t listen to quiet people, the quiet children. I think they have a lot to say, and I think they will become great leaders, because they know how it is to be forgotten, and how it is to be an underdog, instead of like Donald Trump, which is the opposite of a quiet person. But I think it’ll be good for the world to make room for the quiet people.
I think it’s important to do the best you can to build up children and make them believe in themselves.
Popspoken: You mentioned that Queendom had themes of fighting for feminism and the minorities. What is one message you would like to send to those in countries where minority rights may not be protected?
I’m a big fighter for love and I send my support to all the people out there in love, no matter what kind of love it is. I feel like there are so many things in the history of humankind that have been so cruel and horrible but then we have this one thing and it’s just pure. This one gift that we have the ability to feel love.
Love is the only thing that we have that’s beautiful, no matter what. In the long term, love will always win. If people try to fight against love, I think in the long battle, they will lose because love is stronger than us, stronger than hate. I would just say that there are people all over the world fighting for the right to love and I don’t think we will stop before we have won.
It’s important to fight for the right to be who you are. It’s a basic human right. And you are not alone. People out there, you are not alone.
Popspoken: You mentioned that you like the music of Enya and some metal bands as well. Who do you think are some exciting acts you look forward to right now?
I’m really bad at this because I don’t listen to music so much, because I don’t really like music. I like to be quiet.
I make music all the time, so I’m so afraid that I’ll be disturbed by other music. I need to focus on what I have in me first.
But I have a friend from Norway, she makes really, really good music. She’s called Iris, like the eye. She’s a secret still, very up and coming, but it’s very good music. I would recommend listening to her. She’s also a bit different, which is very cool. So that’s one act I can recommend that’s still /whispers/ a secret.
But yes, I still listen to Enya and heavy metal.
Popspoken: You have a few more shows planned in Japan till the end of the year. Your shows are very high-energy, so how do you prepare for them?
Yes, I don’t know. It’s so strange; I don’t know where it comes from, this energy. I think it must be the crowd. I just did a show a few weeks ago where I was really sick before, but I forgot. I feel like I’m dying after every show, no matter if I’m in good shape or not, I’m still dead after every show.
But it’s bigger than me because it’s for everyone. I play for the fans, so you kind of have to give more than you are. If you do it every day, it’s easy to forget, but every show is important. You have to be worth people’s time, and to be the best you can be for them.
I don’t get nervous anymore. The first year I was touring I felt I was going to die before every show and puke, because it was horrible. It’s very against what’s natural, to be in front of people and do things; it’s very strange. But then I got used to it and now I’ve done it for years. I don’t get nervous, which is nice, but I get excited.
I’m really bad at warming up; I don’t really warm up. I just tell myself, “This show is important; as important as every other show. You have to do your best.”
I try to tell myself that I’m doing something good and important. At least for one person, I have to sing for them.
Header image: Nicholas Koo for Popspoken