Aurora Aksnes (born 15 June 1996), known mononymously as Aurora (stylized in all caps), is a Norwegian singer, songwriter, dancer and record producer. Born in Stavanger and raised in the towns of Høle and Os, she began writing her first songs and learning dance at the age of six. After some of her songs were uploaded online and became popular in Norway, she signed a recording contract with Petroleum Records, Decca and Glassnote Records in 2014. Aurora gained notoriety with her debut extended play (EP), Running with the Wolves (2015), which contained the sleeper hit “Runaway”. Later that year, she provided the backing track for the John Lewis Christmas advert, singing a cover of the Oasis song “Half the World Away”.
Aurora’s debut studio album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend (2016) received generally positive reviews, charting in various European countries and earning platinum certification two times in Norway. Her second EP Infections of a Different Kind (Step 1) (2018) was the first part of a two-part album, which the second part was her second studio album, A Different Kind of Human (Step 2) (2019). Her third studio album The Gods We Can Touch was released on 21 January 2022.
Her music is primarily electropop, folk, and art pop with vocals referred to as “ethereal”. At the beginning of her career she only played piano but was later involved in percussion and other aspects of the production of her music. In addition to her solo work, Aurora has collaborated and co-written songs for other artists including, Icarus, Askjell, Lena, Travis and The Chemical Brothers. She also contributed in soundtracks for several movies and series such as Girls, Frozen II and Wolfwalkers.
AURORA – Runaway
Aurora Aksnes was born on 15 June 1996 in the Stavanger University Hospital in Stavanger, the youngest of three daughters to midwife May Britt (née Froastad) and garage door salesman Jan Øystein Aksnes. Her oldest sister, Miranda, is a makeup artist and former teacher. Her other sister Viktoria is a fashion designer, stylist, and blogger. She spent her first three years in Høle, a small town where her parents had lived for 15 years.
In her house in Høle, Aurora developed her taste for nature, singing, and traditional clothing, such as long skirts and hats. Later the family moved further north in western Norway, to a house in the small village of Drange, located in the woodlands of the Os mountains, a remote municipality in Hordaland, near Bergen and Lysefjord (a fjord which translates to fjord of light). Aurora has described this place as: “There are almost no cars, and the roads are small and bumpy, and there are lots of trees everywhere; it’s very quiet, and the internet is bad.” She has also compared it to the fictional land of Narnia.
She calls herself a “forest person” due to being surrounded by nature and her love to “climb trees”, and being “isolated and hidden.” She has also shown interest in the ocean since she lived close to the ocean, and her parents have a sailboat. When she attended school, her sisters—Miranda (currently her makeup artist) and Viktoria Aksnes (currently her costume designer)—worried that she might be bullied due to her eccentric personality and style of dress. Contrary to this, Aurora’s classmates asked for more time than she was willing to give, and she instead preferred to spend time in the forest. She also claimed that withdrawing into natural spaces gave her time to philosophize and discover the “power” of her own mind. As a child, she was afraid of people who sought to hug her and disliked such a gesture in general: “I used to be terrified of people who wanted to hug me,” she said. “I did not like to be hugged as a child. And I used to be terrified of one of my teachers at school, but then I met him a few months ago, and it was really nice. It’s weird how things change.”
One of her earliest musical memories is finding an electric piano in her parents’ attic that once belonged to her sister Miranda, and being fascinated by the melodies it could produce on that instrument, or sing along to the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” around the family table. Even though her parents sang that song in a choir as hobby, Aurora is the member in her family to pursue a musical career. She started learning to play piano when she was six by playing the songs she listened to: “I really love classic music, and when I found this piano in the attic, I just started pressing the keys and trying to figure out my favorite classical songs. I started to make melodies that I recognized. There was something special about being able to play just by yourself – something about the emotion in it made me want to continue playing.” At age nine, when she had a better handle of the English language, she began writing songs. She has mentioned being influenced at that time by artists like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Enya, and The Chemical Brothers.
Her parents had never encouraged her to pursue this activity as a career or hobby, but as she got older, Aksnes went from imitating classical music to composing her own material, never thinking of doing it to entertain people, and preferring to keep her music private. Instead, besides a songwriter she aspired to become a doctor, a physicist or a dancer, and she took dance classes from 6 to 16 years old and performed in a contemporary dance group. The group participated at the Norwegian Youth Festival of Art twice, dancing with the songs “Decode” by Paramore and “Feeling Good” in the background. They also danced to Michael Jackson’s “Ghosts” at an event in 2011. She also expressed that her dislike of her own voice was a reason of not thinking to be a singer.
According to Aurora, the first song she ever finished writing was titled “The Lonely Man”. Her first work before embarking on her music career was washing a pizza restaurant using a hose. Songs from her early works were written in this early stage of her life. Another of her early compositions was “I Had a Dream”, which referred to how hard the world can be. Although she considered it a “really long and boring song about world peace” she performed it once at her high school’s leaving ceremony.
The recording of her song “Puppet” (which was originally made as a Christmas gift for her parents) and a video filmed by a classmate of her school performance were uploaded online without her permission (which made her angry), and was quickly discovered by a representative of the agency of Artists Made Management, a Norwegian management company, who invited Aurora to visit their office for a meeting in early 2013. Aurora initially denied the proposal: “At first I thought no,” she recalls, “but then my mum said I should think about the idea of sharing my music with the world because maybe there’s someone out there who desperately needs it. And that could actually be a good thing.” In a few hours, both songs received thousands of visits in Norway, which earned Aurora some recognition in her country, in addition to a fan base on Facebook.
Aurora currently lives in Bergen, but regularly travels to her hometown in Os to visit her parents. She considers herself an introvert. At an early age, she experienced the loss of several loved ones. When a close friend of her family died on Christmas Eve, 11-year-old Aurora had to witness everyone dejected at the funeral service. This experience led her to developing dysphemia, a disorder that prompted her to learn sign language.
When a friend from her sign language class died in a car accident, Aurora performed a currently unreleased song titled “Why Did You Go a Place?” during a private concert for her funeral. A friend from Os also committed suicide, and another with whom Aksnes had a relationship lost his life in 2011 at the Utøya massacre at the age of seventeen. Aurora wrote the song “Little Boy in the Grass” as a tribute to the latter and the other victims of the massacre.
Aurora identifies as bisexual. When asked in an interview with The Independent about her sexuality, she stated, “I just like to enjoy what is there, and I like to explore. Just love everything around you and you’re loving yourself.” She had cats as pets during her childhood, and in her adulthood she had an algae ball she named “Igor Septimus”, which was a gift from her fans in Switzerland. According to her, it was one of her “best friends” and she liked to put it on the refrigerator. Years later, she revealed that it had died. In late 2021, Aurora announced that she had become an aunt when her sister’s first child was born. Aurora also talked about collecting dead insects, including moths like one she named “Nightcrawler”.
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