SOMETIMES AN ARTIST’S NAME just fits them: it encapsulates something of themselves and distils it into a single word. So with Aurora, who, like the Northern Lights of her namesake is alive with ethereal wonder and strange, otherworldly beauty. In her native Norway, the 20-year-old is approaching household name status thanks to her intensely poetic yet fiendishly addictive brand of pop. Here in the UK, she was probably best known until recently as the girl behind the John Lewis Christmas advert song: her cover of Oasis’ Britpop classic “Half the World Away”.
Sensing, when we meet in a vegetarian eatery that’s one of Lower Clapton’s few bougi outposts, that she probably doesn’t consider her greatest achievement thus far to be soundtracking a chronically sentimental commercial for a department store, I avoid the topic. Ironically, no sooner do we sit down over sweet potato fries (I must have some, she insists), than she remarks with uncharacteristic sarcasm, “it’s been very fun, answering the same question about the John Lewis campaign.”
Unsurprisingly, she had no idea of the strange significance afforded to the annual Xmas ad in this country, and even thought she would be meeting Mr. Lewis himself when she was first approached for the gig. Still, that’s old news now; fresh from a world tour date at Latitude and the release of her debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, a chart topper in Norway, Aurora is already thinking about the next step. “I want to release it tomorrow, but I haven’t written it yet,” she tells me of her follow-up album.
That drive, to write more, to put more of herself into her music, is central to Aurora’s method. She doesn’t seem outwardly troubled – far from it – but nonetheless describes music as an outlet for “the tornado that lives inside me, in my heart,” explaining, “it makes it so much easier to breathe when you don’t have a tornado.” That’s an image of internal chaos that belies her infectiously carefree exterior, but given that she began penning lyrics at the tender age of nine, perhaps she simply had the good fortune to have stumbled upon artistic self-therapy early.
Back then, her writing was private and personal, intended for no one but herself: “I didn’t have any need for anyone to know that I could write songs. It was just a thing I wanted to do,” she remarks, before adding, “it’s very strange how all this happened.”
A charming bewilderment at her own success in fact, is a recurring theme throughout our conversation, which, with Aurora’s unaffected whimsy, takes in everything from her favourite animal (poisonous frogs) to “some guy with red hair” she met at Latitude (Ed Sheeran). She’s prone to eccentric, enigmatic statements that probably made more sense in her head: “My story is like one of those long, strange movies, that you don’t really understand what’s happening…and then suddenly, lightning strikes and the main character gains superpowers and she flies away and sings all over the world.”
If that kind of kookiness sounds irritating, it, amazingly enough, isn’t. There’s something rare and even humbling about her realisation that, as she puts it, her music is “so much bigger than me and my songs and my sounds.” She knows that beyond the personal career microcosm in which she creates and profits, her music – with its heart, with its deeply human strains of confessional darkness and flourishes of rapturous joy – unites and touches her fans in ways she “never would have believed.” “It’s music that we need and that we deserve to enjoy in this life,” she points out philosophically, before soliloquising for a goof ten minutes on the virtues of that meme-cum-GIF where Stephen Colbert slowly breaks into a smile. Kooky indeed.