When Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora Aksnes turned the corner on her music career, several years ago, many were struck by her emotive voice and songs.
Though hailing from the small city Os, which boasts a population of just over 20,000 residents, the now 21-year-old singer – who goes by Aurora – has amassed a worldwide following.
With her debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, having been released to warm reception in 2016, a follow-up is now in the works. The new project was recorded in France earlier this year. Its songs, she says, mark a growth in her discography.
“They sound more grown up, like it comes from a woman, not a girl,” she says in her soft accent. “They’re more childish, which I think is the most important thing with growing up, is to also become more childish in some areas at the same time so it balances out.”
Her sophomore album, which she feels represents her better than previous works, will open the doors to her world.
“It’s even more ‘Aurora’ than anything else I’ve ever made,” she says. “I think it’s going to be a very important album. Every word is so important to me and every melody and every sound. It’s a good reflection of the inner me and how I view the world and life and people. I’m very excited.”
Though she feels her experiences since releasing her debut reflect in her songwriting, Aksnes – who has been penning songs since a young age – still draws from older ideas she has saved. She estimates her next single was written a year ago, though other elements, such as melodies, date back much further.
“I try as much as I can to listen to every idea I’ve had in my life,” she says. “If they’re good, it’s a good seed and then I make the flower, the present me. But I like to find the seed of a song from the past.”
As such, being prepared for every idea – whenever it may come – is important.
“I do have all the equipment ready in my bag all the time,” she says. “I’m actually very afraid often to forget if I have an idea, because I feel like it’s a good thing if you have an idea when you’re not meant to have the idea, because then the idea comes to you.
“It’s not like you’re forcing it to be born, which I really like. I love those ideas that come up from nothing, so I try to take all of them if I can.”
Though the new project has yet to be formally announced, and no timetable is set, Aksnes often incorporates many new and unreleased songs into her live sets.
“A few of the songs I have done live will remain unreleased for quite some time, but also a few of them will be on the album,” she says. “It’s just nice to kind of sneak it into the shows here and there to see how people react to them, because it’s a special thing to be there when people get the first impressions. It’s such a magical thing when you hear something for the first time and you know that, ‘Ah, I like this’ or ‘I don’t.’”
Now gearing up for her first pass through Arizona, Aksnes will stop at The Van Buren in Phoenix, where she will open for alt-J two nights in April before heading to Indio for her Coachella debut. Familiar with small club and festival shows, her preference often depends, she says.
“I love the way things kind of change very organically with the seasons and everything, for the festivals and the club shows,” she explains. “Now, I think I love the club shows the most because I get to see the faces up close and I can talk to them almost without the microphone.
“But I think quite soon I’ll be excited for the bigger shows. It’s just like, it’s weird to see that many people at one time. It’s not like it’s people anymore. It’s more like a landscape, like an ocean or something. So, it’s a really weird thing, but beautiful.”
Having journeyed across the world, she notices that while there are cultural differences, fans’ reactions to her songs still share many similarities.
“It’s really difficult to see how culture can actually be seen, especially the way people express emotion,” she says after noting different energies in Norwegian and Brazilian crowds. “But one thing that is the same, they do cry on the same songs and they do close their eyes on the same moments, and they move their bodies also on the same songs. So, we are connecting to the music in the same way but reacting differently, I think.”
But with her high-demand April tour dates, and a sophomore project on the way, Aksnes feels her creative process has given her the ultimate gift.
“I have enough reason for myself knowing that this will be so magical and fun to play live,” she says of her new songs. “I’ve kind of given this gift to the future me so I can have a lot of fun being on stage and singing out to the people.”
alt-J w/Aurora, The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren Street, Phoenix, 480.659.1641, TheVanBurenPHX.com, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 12 (sold out), and Friday, April 13, $53.50.