AU/RA Turns ‘Lord of the Rings’ Fan Fiction Into Musical Inspiration
When AU/RA rises to the mountain's peak in her "Outsiders" music video, it's a triumphant moment. With only three singles under her belt, the enigmatic 15-yar-old singer-songwriter commands full, undivided attention: The earthy visual, equally cinematic and intimate, packs a timely message about embracing differences and uniting as one.
Filmed on a sweeping Vancouver landscape (the experience "was such an adventure," AU/RA shares), the Jo Roy-directed clip compounds the song's pounding themes. "I had never been to Vancouver before," the musician reveals. "We actually had to go up on a cable car to go to that mountain, and it was so cold up there. I was wearing some pretty thin clothing. Every break we had, everyone from hair, makeup and wardrobe would give me a hug to warm me up. And as soon as we had another take, they’d run off into the bushes."
While Vancouver supplied ample scenery to give the song new life, the decision to film there was also about logistics. "It was partially because I didn’t have the license to film in LA yet," she says. "It was easier to get that in Vancouver. The locations there are absolutely beautiful. I love LA, but a lot of the locations in LA are very recognizable and been used in a lot of music videos. I wanted to go somewhere that had different scenery."
Below, AU/RA discusses feeling like an outsider, speaking English better than German and how she got her name from a Lord of the Rings fan fiction.
Did you have a hand in coming up with the video concept?
When I wrote “Outsiders,” I already had a story line in my head. It was always about a group of people who don’t take being an outsider as a lonely thing, but [rather] they unify. Being an outsider is a very lonely thing. I’ve felt it most of my life, and I still do. I wanted it to be a more unifying thing. Everybody does feel like an outsider at some point in their life.
One of your more insightful lyrics is “the in crowd is so out right now.” What does that mean for you?
If you were to say this is a high school situation, the "in crowd" would be the popular kids. It’s not dissing them, but it’s saying the in crowd are so “out.” It’s wordplay. It also portrays that the in crowd can feel like outsiders sometimes, too.
You touched upon how you felt like an outsider for most of your life. How has songwriting been an escape for you?
Taking the path of music has also made me an outsider. In my friend group, I don’t know anyone else who does homeschooling and doesn’t actually stay in one place a lot. Especially in the past two years, it’s definitely made me feel like an outsider. At the same time, I get to do what I love and that’s making music. I meet amazing people that I get to work with. Only tough thing is staying in touch with those childhood friends. That’s one of the most important things, always keeping those people around you. It can be hard, especially when you’re all over the place. In general, I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo.
You’ve previously stated how “Outsiders” urges tolerance and acceptance. On the other end of the spectrum, how have you witnessed intolerance through your life?
I see it every day, whether on TV or in my life. It happens all the time. It’s frustrating, too. It’s something that I feel like everybody just needs to relax. There are some subjects going around right now...there just needs to be so much more acceptance. It’s horrible the amount of discrimination happening, especially among people who don’t fit in.
How did you develop your own sound and aesthetic?
I was always influenced by my dad’s music, electronically. He was in the whole techno, electronic scene. It was a tricky thing. I like a lot of different genres. Although, it’s always the alternative of that genre. So, alt-rock, alt-pop, indie, all that. It was tricky to figure out what direction I wanted to go in, but I’ve always been a huge pop fan. Alternative pop was just naturally where I wanted to go in my music. Also, I wanted to express how much I love creative writing. So, I wanted to intertwine that with songwriting, and I’ve tried to be very riddle-y. I talk in metaphors a lot. There’s always a story and sometimes you see it through characters. It’s my safe place. I won’t stay strictly alternative pop. I’ll bring in other influences, too. I can’t wait to experiment a bit more and bring in some rock or more electronica.
When did you start writing stories as a kid?
I grew up speaking German, so I only really learned to speak English when I was seven, properly. I only knew how to write in English when I was eight or nine. It was tricky at first. I love the English language so much. I never really could express myself very well in German. I know how to speak English way better than German, which is kind of sad. I wish I was equally as good at German. I just speak English so much more.
I started writing stories at first about 11 or 12. I would always think of stories in my head, but I wasn’t sure how to actually formulate them. Then, when I was 12, I wrote a Lord of the Rings fan fiction, because I am and was a huge fan. That is where my artist name came from. The main character was called [Aurthoreo]. Super random. I’ve loved creative writing since then. I always try to find time to write on the side. It inspires my songwriting a lot, too.
It’s been a little over a year since your first-ever single called "Concrete Jungle" came out. How would you reflect on the past year?
It’s been pretty surreal. It’s been hard work and always will be. Some pretty cool things have happened, which I’m super grateful for, like making my first music video and actually translating a song into a visual. That was so cool. I can’t wait to make more. Getting to work with more people, creatively, and adding more members to my wonder team ⎯⎯ yeah, it’s been cool.
At first, your father wasn’t too keen on your pursuit of a music career. How does he feel now?
I think he’s happy with the decision I made. I would say he’s proud of me so far. It’s been baby-step accomplishments, but I think my parents are happy with where I’ve gone so far. I’ve followed in their footsteps, you could say. I have to take him everywhere as a chaperone, so if he wasn’t happy, I think he would say something. [Laughs]
Do you have plans to go to college?
I guess it all depends on where the music world takes me in the next couple years. I really don’t know at this point. I’m taking high school very slowly, like way slower than an average high schooler. Maybe I’ll still be in high school by the time that would even come around.
What are your next steps: an EP or full-length?
I’m not sure, actually. The plan is to keep on creating and release music and see in what way we’re going to package that. Right now, there are three songs out. We could add two more songs for an EP or eight more songs for an album... who knows!?