With her pop-noir style, Au/Ra has created a sound of her own. Clash sat down with the singer hours before she took to stage at The Arch at The Great Escape.
Having a rather unorthodox upbringing in Ibiza and Antigua, Au/Ra’s (real name Jamie Lou Stenzel) life has mirrored the drama of her surrounding through her music. Taking her artist name from her Lord Of The Ring fanfic character, Au/Ra’s approach to pop stardom is anything but conventional.
With her father being a producer and her mother working as a songwriter, entering the music world was a natural step for the singer, even with some parental resistance. “My dad never wanted me to go into the music industry. He always said it’s way too tough”, she admits. “I’ve always been very interested in going into music. I love singing and I love making music so, I just went for it anyway.”
Her persistence proved a valuable asset as she ventured into the wicked wonderland of music. “From the start I have been absolutely in love with Studio Ghibli films. Those have definitely inspired my lyrics and my imagination. I like storytelling in my songs so I think those movies definitely helped broaden my imagination a lot.”
Opening up about her passion for a good narrative, Au/Ra talks about how the darker nature of the Japanese animations inspired her and sharpened her angle: “I like looking at a song as if it’s a story and like, the chorus is the peak of the story.” Though she is still exploring the many expressions of music, Au/Ra is set in her ways. “I would say I am pretty possessive over most of the aspects that comes with the artistry.”
Telling Clash about her ideas for videos and visuals, she’s clearly passionate about the whole process. “I would say I am pretty possessive over most of the aspects that comes with the artistry.”
Before playing the Clash stage at The Great Escape, Au/Ra opens up about her battle with state fright. “I was more into the process of making music rather than actually performing it. I used to have huge stage fright. It was pretty bad. I’m actually quite proud of myself cause I’ve gotten over it. And I enjoy performing now, which is cool. I’m definitely still figuring out my way of performing but it’s all a learning process so.”
Coming of age whilst performing on a stage definitely helped her face that fear. Gaining the confidence to meet her crowd and letting the music take control eased the experience, and though she says she’s starting to enjoy the live experience, it isn’t always easy. “Growing older and getting more confidence in general helped. It was really just me getting stuck in my head. I have problems with anxiety so going on-stage sometimes… it was just really tough. Now I’m good. It proves that, even if you have anxiety, going in front of people - if you really work at it you can do it.”
Whilst Au/Ra likes to take charge creatively and be fully present in her vision for her music she’s not a stranger to taking on advice. With experienced parents the stakes for constructive criticism are pretty high. “I have a big team around me, which is cool because I get a lot of different opinions from different people. It’s good to have people to bounce ideas with, and get constructive criticism from.”
Having said that, her dad is “probably” her biggest critic. “With 40 plus years in music, I really do care about what he says”. She highlights that it all comes from a place of love: “He just wants me to be my best!”
Entering the music industry at the tender age or 12, Au/Ra has always been aware of the pitfalls of the business. “My parents did a good job,”she admits. “There is a lot of peer pressure so you have to stay true to yourself. Don’t feel like you need to do something to seem cool.”
Her latest single ‘Panic Room’ is “definitely the darkest song” in her catalogue. Touching on the depth of anxiety attacks, Au/Ra wanted to open up about the experience without being obvious. “I turned it into a little horror story. It is really how you feel when you are going through those emotions. When you’re having an anxiety attack it feels like you’re trapped in your own mind. You’re trapped in your own panic room.”
“I wanted to write something that people can relate to. I don’t feel like a lot of songs talk about those kinds of things. Especially anxiety, it’s the most common mental issue and it’s not really talked about. So I thought it was necessary.”
As for the future Au/Ra just wants to keep releasing music, and let the music find its own path.
- - -
- - -
Words: Aurora Henni Krogh
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.