“Enya has been medicine for me all my life”
When singer and producer Aurora Aksnes was growing up in a small town in western Norway, she didn’t know much in the world. But she knew she loved Enya with all her heart. It was only later that she discovered that the ethereal Irish entertainer had for many years been dismissed as naff and corny – seen, essentially, as a scented candle in human form.
“She taught me as a child the value of my voice. And she proved to me how much medicine music can be. She has been medicine to me all my life,” Aurora says from her home in Bergen. “I guess the world likes to undermine what feels soft and feminine. If you are a woman who loves football, you are cool. If you’re a man who likes nail polish, you’re not cool. Enya to me is the sound of Mother Earth and motherly love and spiritually and serenity. It’s not corny at all.
In Greek mythology, the gods were both male and female. And we changed that and started burning witches. There’s been a lot of painful history
Enya is one of the pop icons Aurora has been compared to since her breakthrough with the haunting single Runaway. She was also hailed as the successor to Bjork (predictably given their shared Nordic heritage) and Florence and the Machine and The Knife’s Karin Dreijer. However, on the upcoming third album, The Gods We Can Touch, the 25-year-old demands to be heard in her own right and not be compared to other artists.
The Gods We Can Touch is a lyrical exploration of religion and the dynamics between gender and faith. Yet these heavy subjects are offset by Aurora’s melodious croon. And by his talent to combine multi-faceted lyrics and tumultuous electro.
“Religion fascinates me because it’s a part and a need we’ve had for as long as mankind can remember,” she says. “I don’t always understand it. But I have a lot of spirituality in me.
On The Gods We Can Touch, she explores the idea that our deities were created in the image of humans. That the feminine side of the spiritual has been erased. “In Greek mythology, the gods were both male and female. And we changed that and [started] burning witches. There have been many painful stories.
She tackles these topics enthusiastically on the single Cure For Me, a dark disco slab inspired by her study of gay conversion therapy. This, she was shocked to discover, has not yet been made illegal in Norway (it also remains banned in Ireland).
“Isn’t that shocking? ” she says. “Because obviously it’s not [common practice], I suppose. I guess no one would proudly say they want to send their son to conversion therapy. But it still blew me away.
Aurora wrote Runaway when she was 11, though it would be many years before she really understood the meaning of her own lyrics. Composed for a school assignment, it is an ode to the discovery of one’s place in the world. Fleeing can mean physically withdrawing from a difficult situation. However, this change can also manifest mentally or emotionally.
“Take me home/Take me home where I belong,” she sings on the chorus – confirming that the track is as much about finding a place where you belong as it is about turning your back on a life you’ve outgrown.
Runaway was released in 2015, becoming a top 30 hit worldwide. Over the past year, it’s been given a new lease of life as a social media anthem. The single, which Billie Eilish says inspired her to write songs, returned to the UK top 50 and recorded 300 million daily viewers on TikTok.
“It was very strange. And it made me really existential and thinking about all the time that’s passed [since she wrote it]. And also [to realise] you never know when the world chooses to love something collectively at the same time. The world agrees that right now we like this and tomorrow we like something else,” she says. “It also scared me how big something can suddenly get. And I’m not sure I like that.”
Aurora speaks softly and lives a reclusive life in the suburbs of Bergen. And while she’s not lacking in self-confidence, she’s clearly not a born enthusiast. She used to hate the good humor that goes with any successful music career: the post-show meet and greets, the pressing with record company executives.
“It took me a long time to take care of it. It’s a big part of my life – these situations. It’s ironic – it’s always the artists who are perhaps the least suited to these things. You know, as sentient beings. But it got easier. »
If Runaway brought her to the brink of the big moment, she finally crossed the threshold three years ago providing backing vocals on Disney’s Into the Unknown for Frozen 2. She talks warmly about singing alongside Frozen’s Idina Menzel while being frank that it was completely different. universe. It wasn’t her first experience in the world of corporate music: in 2015, she covered Oasis’ Half the World Away for John Lewis’ Christmas commercial. Disney and Frozen, however, were much bigger.
“It’s always more intimidating to have to do something about someone else’s artwork, someone else’s baby. I like to be a little scared of something and do it anyway.
With the confinements, she was unable to tour. She did, however, travel to Glasgow for the Cop26 climate conference, performing at a fundraiser for Brian Eno’s charity EarthPercent. As with religion, she feels our approach to the environment has been hijacked by toxic machismo and calls for a more feminine perspective. It goes back to the theme of the new record: that many facets of human existence – religion, the environment, our attitude towards Enya – could benefit from an infusion of feminine energy.
I was actually quite inspired by seeing the internet react to Greta Thunberg. She tries so deeply to warn the world of a battle we’re about to lose
“During the witch fire, I would have been burned so quickly,” she says. “I thought about that a lot – I thought about Mother Earth. And then I was thinking how easy it is to drive a woman crazy or feel crazy. I was actually quite inspired by seeing the internet react to Greta Thunberg. She tries so deeply to warn the world of a battle we are about to lose. And I find it a very moving subject – not political.
Emotion will be, in the end, what will save us, she feels.
“Maybe we’re getting to a point where it’s too late to fix it [the environment]. And also [we are] do not listen to activists who talk about it with emotion. You have to be strict and, based on the statistics, be considered credible. [But] this way of speaking does not encourage people to care. And then you are not believed and told that you are crazy because you talk about it with emotion. And that confuses me so much. Forever in our history, it is always the underdogs who are hurt the most. It is always the same people who are injured. And it’s so sad.
The Gods We Can Touch releases Friday, January 21