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AURORA: “We need to worship something that exists in all of us”

As she releases third album 'Gods We Can Touch', AURORA tells Rolling Stone UK how she's used her latest record to tackle the state of the world

By Nick Reilly

AURORA (Picture: Press)

“I’m very fascinated about the depth of the world around me. If you take your time to get to know someone or something, you can explore all of its dimensions,” says AURORA.

The Norwegian singer is speaking to Rolling Stone UK days after releasing ‘Gods We Can Touch’, her acclaimed third album.

Her first record in three years, it’s an album which impressively balances the weight of the world against dance-floor primed beats after the darkness of the last two years.

But, as the title suggests, it’s a record which also puts forward the striking message that it’s time for us all to start worshipping the best in humanity.

You can read our full interview with AURORA below…

You’ve just performed your first shows in London since the pandemic. How’s it been getting back to all those parts of your job that just suddenly stopped?

It’s just been lovely reconnecting with fans and realising the magic that exists there, this unconditional love with fans that has always been there. But at the same time, there’s something frightening about how quickly we can go back to normal again…

How does it feel to finally have your latest album ‘Gods We Can Touch’, out in the world?

It’s a very complicated emotion. It’s easy to celebrate it because I love having any excuse to celebrate in my life. But it doesn’t really matter, because I know when I love a piece of work. It’s hard to be affected by other people’s opinions, even if they are positive. They’ll never mean as much as my own opinion of my child! But it’s also wonderful to let the album go, it’s like giving that child away to more suitable parents where it will be more happy!

It’s one of the deepest records you’ve ever released, but that meaning is beneath the surface. Songs like ‘Cure For Me’ tackle the issue of conversion therapy, but it’s wrapped up in a dancefloor-primed banger.

Yeah, and I’m very fascinated about the depth of the world around me. If you take your time to get to know someone or something, you can explore all of its dimensions. I like it when music is multi-dimensional, it has many sides to it and can offer something to everyone.

The themes will always be something I want to say, and then I pin down the melodies going through my head to suit the things I want to speak about.

You’ve spoken before about being part of the LGBTQ+ community, so that theme of conversion therapy is pretty close to your own heart…

Yes, but it’s heartbreaking because it’s such a pointless thing. What a pointless thing to fight against? Our love, our humanity and right to live, it just wastes them. It’s so worthless to fight against a human’s right to live a beautiful life. Imagine all that potential wasted in simply just enjoying being here, focusing on what makes you special and using your one chance in life to do something beautiful and feels good.

You can never do that when you have to fight for that right to live and love. It makes me so sad, all the lost potential in people’s lives. So pointless to fight against such a beautiful thing.

It’s a record of contrasts too – on the other side of it is songs like ‘Blood In The Wine’ which feature these soaring Ennio Morricone-esque strings.

Yes! I love Ennio and I wanted this album to sound very grand and cinematic, but also very intimate. I’ve been inspired by him and also western music on this album. The guitars of it, but also mixed up with my own folkiness. It’s a playful album. It’s about being playful and diverse.

Do you think the pandemic has taught us what’s important and the need to fight for it?

I always try to think about the world needs and I try my best to think ahead. I knew people would need celebration, liberation and a sense of release after this period of time. But we’re also ready to face the issues of the world, Covid has given us time to sit back and realise how important it is to face those. It can change so much for people to know they’re being supported and don’t have to fight alone.

Silence is my favourite thing too, so sitting back in silence gave me a wonderful opportunity to look around myself and think what I feel the essence of my surroundings are. And what the essence of the issues around me are. I’ve been reading a lot about religion and faith, but how people use these beautiful tools to make devastating and ugly things and we often put a lid on our humanity and shame each other.

That’s why I made the ‘Gods We Can Touch’, we deserve to worship something we can see ourselves. Not something that is perfect and all knowing and almighty. But society needs to worship and love something that is right here and exists in all of us and everything.

What will cause that great shift for society to change?

I think it’s important that we stop saying that people bothered by these issues are over sensitive. In our generation it’s what we’re accused of, but the thing they actually want to say is horrible. We have to be open because the world is extreme and it reacts in extreme ways. Against women, against people of colour. Against the gay and trans community, against men just being emotional in the first place which is reflected in suicide rates.

It’s so clear that we’ve been extreme in the wrong way, so now is the time to go extreme in the other way and say ‘this hurts me and we shouldn’t say that’. It’s important to attack these things, so maybe one day we can live as equal human beings.

There’s the issue of climate change too. You performed at the COP26 summit last year…

I never expect any event to change the course of the world. We have stubborn leaders who aren’t the best about thinking beyond their own lives. But I really felt the importance of that event, how it inspired people and unheard voices got their moment. There’s no one who inspires me more than the indigenous cultures of this planet and they single-handedly have been responsible for saving the forests through their love of mother Earth.

With them, you can see how good it is to worship the planet, something you can touch and what it does to our kindness. It’s something I’m also reflecting on this album, how ancient cultures thought about god and how much better it reflected how we acted.

Coldplay are among the leading acts to cut down their carbon footprint on tour. Have you got any concerns about the environmental impact of touring?

Firstly, I’d advise all new artists that the world needs music and I wouldn’t want anyone to stress about going on tour, fearing the damage it will do to the environment because a lot of the issues are down to the rich people who can afford to change it.

There’s enough for the young, new artists right now to be dealing with as it is. It comes with time and patience and should be a beautiful goal, that one day you can reduce your carbon footprint even more. But you need to be very rich to do what Coldplay do!

I just wish other rich artists would do it. Why do you need all that money? Maybe that’s the Norwegian in me talking. I’m in an organisation called CHOOOSE and they clean as much air as I pollute by flying, which at least it offsets it. I’d recommend it to everyone out there.

When I’m selling albums I also plant trees for every bundle I sell, so there’s going to be the Aurora forest in the Andes which is exciting. Maybe we can take our kids there, eat vegetarian on tour and avoid plastic. There are so many things you can do.

But you’ll be taking this album around the world, right?

Yeah, my fans love going to live shows and I can’t imagine how tough it’s been to have that part of their lives taken away. I just want to do what feels comfortable and isn’t too risky. The plan is definitely to travel the end of the world.