“Nice to meet you, I’m Jamie.” says a beautiful girl with colorful hair while shaking my hand. Au/Ra is accompanied by her father, who is also her manager. As her greeting gives away, her real name is not Aura. It’s Jamie Lou Stenzel. She tells me how she thought that Jamie Lou sounded more like a girl who grew up in a corn field making country music instead of alternative pop. Picking Au/Ra as her stage name was a last minute decision, but she’s really happy with it. And the story behind the name is one you’d never guess.
“This is going to sound so weird,” laughs Jamie as we discuss it. “I wrote a Lord of the Rings fan fiction when I was twelve and the main character’s name was Aura. I really identified with the character and I always loved the name Aura,” she begins. As regards the slash: at first they put it there because they didn’t want to confuse anyone with artists that are also called Aura, like Aura Dione. “But then we also realized that ‘Au’ is gold on the scientific periodic table, and ‘Ra’ is radium, so we played with that too. Gold is all shiny and radium is pure danger.”
Panic Room: an Anxiety Anthem
Before this cosy get-together with Au/Ra, I had looked up her repertoire. I noticed that her newest track ‘Panic Room’ is not only the best song she has released, it’s also the darkest. After thanking me for naming it her best so far, she explains it’s about anxiety. It’s about somebody who is too afraid to face themselves and runs into the panic room. There, they’re pretending that everything is okay, but really they’re not facing the problem.
She has been through it herself. Especially when she was still in school. Now, the singer does online schooling, so that has helped her. “But I think it’s a constant thing,” Jamie tells us. “It comes up in high school the most, with fitting in and wondering what people think of you. A lot of teens have problems with that, so I thought it was something that should be talked about.”
Jamie does not only write about things that happened to her personally. She also writes about things that happened to people she’s close to – or about fiction. “Books, anime or tv shows can be an inspiration for a song. It literally can be so many different things. Sometimes it’s just a word that I feel like I want to elaborate on.” Panic room is an example of the latter.