I began listening to Au/Ra after I heard her voice on an Alan Walker song called Darkside. Her voice is so unique, or at least to my experience it is. She gets so deep and yet has this soft reverberation in her throat when she sings that comes close to what I would call a muted yodel. Despite her unique sound, she’s able to harmonize with other musicians as well, which means her discography, even at her young age is already quite substantial. And the more I researched, the more I realized, she’s quite the nice geek like a lot of us out here that have become fans.
Aura explains herself on her YouTube channel where she has 490 subscribers thus: “A dork who writes songs and sometimes makes things you can watch.” Okay, but she’s a lot more than that!
Jamie Lou Stenzel was born in 2002. She’s Antiguan-German born in Ibiza, Spain. Her family only lived in Spain until 2007, so after age 5 she was raised in St.John’s Antigua by a musical family. Her mother is a songwriter and her father is a producer, musician, songwriter, and composer. So she practically grew up in a studio watching them create.
By the time she was 12 years old, she had written her first song. While she was in school, she decided on her stage name. Jamie decided on Au/Ra as her stage name. Au stands for gold, a transition metal, while Ra stands for radium, a slightly radioactive alkaline earth metal.
According to one of Alan Walker’s Vlogs, Jamie says that she used the name for a character she had while writing a Lord of the Rings fanfiction. She wanted to use it as her stage name, but there were already several artists out there with the name. So, she put the slash between the two elements and has kept it ever since.
With the help of her dad, she began a YouTube channel and began putting up little DIY videos of her singing. One of the videos received over 3 million views. They’ve since been removed, but the success helped her with her anxiety. And YouTube gave her a method of bypassing her stage fright.
So, with her signature deep-sea-green hair and great stage name, she released her first single, “Concrete Jungle”, when she was still 14. She actually became a break-out star at only age 15 with “Panic Room”. She says in an interview that her school friends didn’t know what she did, because they didn’t know she could sing – she had never really sung in public. Once things hit big, they were all very supportive of her.
Even so, she suffered from debilitating stage fright and anxiety. “Panic Room” is actually a description of panic attacks and irrational fear. Soon, she had no choice but to face those fears, and so she did. She’s opened for big acts and even collaborated on-stage with many other artists.
When I asked around if people in the U.S. had heard about her, of course, not many had. She’s not on the radio stations, she’s not mainstream… even though she’s got a worldwide hit with Norweigan DJ Alan Walker – “Darkside”. That song was released in 2018. This is the same year she released “Panic Room” (in collaboration with CamelPhat). The version without the remix now has over 36 million views on YouTube.
She dealt with a lot of self-doubts and overthinking, so she has learned to be mindful, use yoga and breathing exercises, and really accept the positive support from fans and friends to help her overcome. She says she actually has hundreds of songs and song ideas already written. She wrote them while finding her voice, and though not all of them will be produced, they all helped build her.
STYLE AND INFLUENCE
Having a mother who is a songwriter and a father who is actually German producer, musician, songwriter, and composer Torsten Stenzel definitely influenced Jamie. Both parents created music and produced music in front of her. So, even though they tried to discourage her from this career path, Jamie knew at a young age what she wanted.
Au/Ra has a mix of musical influences thanks to a heritage that spans Germany, Spain, and Antigua. She was a huge Kraftwerk fan, who shared this influence with his daughter. Kraftwerk is a German band formed in 1969, widely considered innovators and pioneers of electronic music.
Accompanying that was Krautrock music (a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among artists who blended elements of psychedelic rock, electronic music, and avant-garde composition) and of course, Stenzel’s EDM collections.
On her mother’s side, the influences were Jazz music, Amy Winehouse, Nora Jones, and music of a similar ilk. Once Jamie mastered English more, she found pop music and began being influenced by that as well.
It wasn’t just music that influenced Jamie. She also got into Studio Ghibli, Anime, and the works of Tolkien. She even learned the Elvish Language in honor of Tolkien. But she was so influenced by the English language that she wanted to write as much as possible. Hence she wrote short stories along with her songs – she even wrote fanfiction based in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Her main character in that is, of course, where she got her stage name. Basing her stage persona off of a fantastical character has also helped her with overcoming self-doubt. Anime has inspired her own storyboarding for videos and the “super deep concepts” at the heart of anime gave her confidence to explore more subversive themes in her music.
She has said that because she had these influences as well, her sound wound up being “…the aural equivalent of an Edgar Allen Poe story.” She has also coined the description “dark alternative pop.”
One thing is very clear as I research this musician – despite her age, she has her head on her shoulders. Her parents were very honest and up-front with her about the sacrifices that she’d need to make and what to expect from this career. And that has helped her enter into it with her eyes open.
COLLABORATIONS & CONNECTIONS
Her hit single, “Panic Room” was actually released as a remix with CamelPhat (a British DJ and production duo).
One of her first big hits was a collaboration with internationally known, Norweigan DJ Alan Walker called “Darkside” which is a staple at his live performances. In 2019, “Ghost”, also a collaboration with Alan Walker, was added to the songs on the Death Stranding: Timefall Soundtrack.
She has opened for several other acts and through that, her music has been embraced by a new set of audiences outside of YouTube.
In 2020, she has collaborated with Kina on “Feel Again” which was actually filmed in her home in Antigua.
ORIGINAL SONGS or DISCOGRAPHY
- Outsiders October 2017
- X Games October 2018
Singles as the lead artist
- “Kicks” 2017
- “Concrete Jungle” 2017
- “Outsiders” 2017
- “Panic Room” (solo or with CamelPhat) 2018
- “Emoji” 2018
- “Assassin” 2019
- “Dance in the Dark” 2019
- “Medicine” 2019
- “Stay Happy” 2019
- “Ghost” (with Alan Walker) 2019
- “Broken” 2020
- “Ideas” 2020
- “I Miss U” (with Jax Jones) 2020
- “Dead Girl!” 2021
Singles as a featured artist
- “Darkside” 2018 (Alan Walker featuring Au/Ra and Tomine Harket)
- “Drown” 2020 (Ekali featuring Au/Ra)
Over 2020, what with the music scene ground to a halt, Au/Ra continued to release videos and songs on YouTube and collaborate where she could. She released remixes, collabs, and a lot of awesome covers.
“Dead Girl!” just dropped and I shared it on a monthly “Staff Picks” article. She provided an explanation of the idea behind that song and video as well as touching on the theme:
My song ‘Dead Girl’ has always been a metaphor for feeling like an outcast – a play on “You’re dead to me”. I wanted to play with that metaphor in this music video, and create a world where I would be an undead hero. Hope you like it. – Au/Ra
FIND OUT MORE:
If you are searching for more Untapped Sounds then be sure to check out the articles on other Unsigned Artists.