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"The music scene here has been incredible" - Aurora Bella talks life, music and art

by Scott Roos

Capitol open stage photos by Aaron Brown/Aaron Brown Photography

Little Darkness photos by Tracy Creighton/Copperblue Photography and Design

Singer-songwriter Aurora Bella seen here performing at the Captiol Music Club's Open Stage (photo by Aaron Brown)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Aurora Bella has become a name synonymous with the open mic scene in Saskatoon. She has performed in many musical hot spots in the city these last few years and has slowly but surely began to make a name for herself as a result. Returning to Saskatoon after graduating from time spent learning her craft at Gulf Islands School of Performing Arts (GISPA) in 2019, Bella was all but ready to sharpen her skills as a bona-fide singer-songwriter. At GISPA, she had learned the art of composition, learned guitar, sharpened her vocals and further grew her talent on the piano. In Saskatoon, a 19 year old Bella, now old enough to play annd network in clubs and bars seemed primed to make a significant splash on the scene was imminent. Unfortunately, the pandemic had other plans.

“I was here for about six months before the pandemic hit. I just had my first gig booked. I was set to open (a show) at the Black Cat for the first time as a solo project and then a week before everything shut down which was pretty devastating. So I guess post pandemic was maybe my official debut because of that,” Bella tells NSMZ.

There were a handful of online shows but essentially, Bella did not start performing live in earnest until things with Covid had settled down; probably starting around 2022. Many of the open mics that Bella was a part of took place at the Capitol Music Club. She became a regular and a favourite of patrons there. She relished in the supportive environment of the local music scene. In short, Saskatoon has enabled Bella to not just “survive” creatively but “thrive”.

“Honestly, the music scene here has been incredible; so welcoming. I feel like I was always taught that music was supposed to be competitive so it's super cool to see an experience where everybody is supporting each other in a different way.”

“I think the beauty of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan is I've heard it said it's the winters. It’s so cold outside that all anybody does out here is create and make art. I think there's poetry in that somewhere but I do think something about this place is that everybody is an artist and it's really fascinating.”

Now aged 23, Bella’s recorded output thus far demonstrates intimacy and restraint beyond her years. Her jazzy vocals draw you in. Her words show emotional depth. There’s an edge to what she brings to the table to be sure but her songs still demonstrate a subtle maturity. In essence, her music is still a sonically evolving work in progress.

Crediting grunge/pop queen Alanis Morrissette as a primary nfluence alongside jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Etta James, as well as old Ginger Rogers/Fred Aastaire black and white musicals makes for a unique vocal cocktail. But, somehow it just fits and works. It’s what has made many sit up and take notice. It’s what will eventually make her essential viewing and listening when it comes to all things music in Saskatoon. Hell she already probably is.

Furthermore, when it comes to her songwriting process, Bella at this point, so early in her career, has things down to a science. Some of it was learned at GISPA while other tactics took shape through trial and error along the way.

“I think I have two main streams of songwriting and they're all deeply emotional,” Bella explains, “one is an event that just happened in my life and I need to process it. I need to get it our of my brain. So I'll just usually do a free write. My teacher used to call them destination writes where you literally just pour your heart out on a piece of paper for a minute and then you reform it into a song.”

“(The other stream is) I'll just go from top to bottom. Sometimes the words kinda write themselves. It's weird the amount of times that I will write songs front to back - guitar, voice, lyrics everything just top to bottom. There's always a very strong emotional pull but of course it's art. I struggle to write music without purpose I think. My core belief about music is that it's communication. My music is always meant to be shared. By writing music I'm giving a piece of myself to the world and asking them to understand,” concludes Bella.

Bella has a good head on her shoulders. She’s a bit of an old soul. It’s clear she understands her own art and the processes she needs to take hold of to get there. She’s charted a course, hanging on for dear life, and come hell or high water she is going to get where she needs to be as an artist; definitely “one to watch”. Her cup literally runneth over when it comes to the creativity within that cranium of hers and it shows.

“Who am I? I think the first word that I would say is ‘fire’. I think that everything Aurora Bella stems from "fire", stems from the concept of energy, of rage, of passion, of joy but whatever it is it's too much. It's more than a person can handle. It has to be shared. It has to find oxygen. It has to find life. If I was to try and explain my work I think "too much" are the words I would use because I want to be larger than life. I want to be more than I can handle as one individual person. I want to exist bigger than myself and I think my music is about that too. It's about emotion that exists bigger than yourself. It's about stories that have existed for thousands of years. It's about the little pieces of life that everyone knows but still feel unique and personal,” says Bella

“Music is not about me. It's about how you feel when you listen. It's about the stories you take on and the stories you give back. The stories are shared. I think so many people struggle to express their own emotions, I think one of the beauties of art is that we can use that as an outlet, use what other people have created as an outlet for ourselves and if something in my work resonates with that, and I can be that outlet, that's beautiful, that's poetry, that's art and that's the real meaning behind art.

Aurora Bella is planning on releasing an album’s worth of music in the new year. She’s also been working with her band Little Darkness - a more punkified version of her music. Little Darkness is more intense comparatively. They are two sides of this artist's creativity coin collectively making for a very fascinating and insightful human. 2024, if Bella continues on the trajectory that she is currently on, looks to be a banner year for her. Count on it.

Little Darkness, fronted by Bella, put on a helluva set opening for Checkout Queens this past October (photo by Tracy Creighton)

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