The globe-trotting teenager who found herself in music...
For most school kids, classrooms are separated by corridors and staircases, but not for Au/Ra. The 16-year-old’s journey towards her transportive electronic pop sound began at home in Ibiza with her parents – her mother was a singer, her father made techno – before continuing in Antigua and Los Angeles. The family upped sticks from the white isle to the Caribbean, where Au/Ra first began to channel her escapist thoughts into songs, and now she’s enveloped in the Los Angeles music machine. “I sang before I could speak properly,” the singer tells Music Week. “When I was 12 I did my first LA writing trip. Although none of that music is being put out, that process really helped me to learn how to write a song and how to be in a session. It was kinda like school I guess…”
Au/Ra reflects on a “very interesting” first taste of LA, and it seems a long time ago now that she’s signed to RCA. Camelphat’s remix of her Panic Room single is currently spinning on BBC Radio 1’s A list. “I was young so it was hard for people to take me seriously,” she continues. “I understand now, but I wanted to be older so desperately. It’s funny, but I needed to go through that to get an idea of how the music industry is.”
Based mainly between Antigua and Andrew Frampton’s LA studio, Au/Ra has been “constantly” working on music since settling on her stage name a few years ago. “The name helps you separate your personal life a little bit more,” she says. “I had really bad stage fright and would be so self-conscious, but this year I’ve discovered my performing style and I really enjoy it.”
As one of RCA’s key prospects, Au/Ra is enjoying just about everything at the moment, settling into her artistic identity and readying a five-song EP. But it wasn’t always so easy: Au/Ra’s father cautioned against a career in music (“He knows how tough it is”), while her school life wasn’t always comfortable. “I felt like an outsider a lot, although I had friends, I just didn’t feel very comfortable in social situations,” she says, admitting that those experiences powered the moody sonics of previous single Outsiders. Released alongside Concrete Jungle (written about the shock of experiencing city life), Outsiders allowed Au/Ra the feeling of true connection for the first time. “I needed to write it for myself and also other people, it’s really important to make music that people who are in tough situations can relate to,” she says.
And that’s what Au/Ra will continue to do, as she seeks to push her message far and wide. “Music is a way to connect with a stranger so they’re not a stranger anymore,” she says. “It’s pretty magical if you think about it.