TORA is a Norwegian Grammy-nominated pop/rock band fronted by guitar heroine Tora Dahle Aagård, who is subject to worldwide praise and popularity due to her stylish guitar work and mesmerising stage presence. On Instagram, 160K guitar enthusiasts from all over the world are following her. She is the International Ambassador for Marceau Guitars, with her very own limited-edition signature guitar model designed for her.
TORA consists of:
Tora Dahle Aagård (guitar and lead vocals),
Isak Seltveit (bass guitar),
Guri Tranås (backing vocals),
Anders Brønstad (guitar)
and Magnus Galguften (drums).
The band is celebrated for their raw and energetic shows, and they are coming to the UK in September for a couple of shows. Here at the magazine, we knew this was an artist we wanted to feature and bring to our readers attention. So for fans old and new, here is our interview with Tora, conducted late in August 2023.
We began the interview by noting the legion of Instagram followers and the momentum that was building up for TORA. We wondered how she felt about the whole notion of success in the music business today.
Tora- It’s interesting that you ask that now, because lately I have been thinking about that very point. You wonder, “Have I made it, and what does it mean if I have?” I can only speak for myself, and personally, I have only ever had one goal, and that is to be on stage as much as possible with my band doing my songs. That has always been my goal, and if it is success, then I have made it. I don’t really care about the numbers on the streams, I would love to have those, obviously, but that is not what I base success on.I think the kids want to have the hit that goes viral on Tik-Tok and has millions of streams, but for me, it is about being a respected musician and being someone others want to work with. When people hear my name, I want them to think, “Tora Dahle Aagård, she’s good!” I want to have that respect in the industry, and I want to be able to be a top musician, not just a one hit wonder.
In 2022, the album “Seventeen” was released, (you can download or stream it here). A year on, how does Tora view the release now?
Tora- I think I get more and more satisfied. When I had just released it, I couldn’t touch it; I was fed up, and I think that is normal when you put so much of yourself into a big project and spend so long finishing it. But now, I am so proud. It is more in the pop world than my two previous ones, and that is a new feel for me. It was me feeling that I don’t have to be rock; I will just do as I feel, and it moved more towards pop than I expected. I can’t believe I co-produced it, and I can’t believe it got finished so well. There were so many positive steps for me in making that album, so I am beyond proud.
On the subject of the 2022 album Seventeen,” we asked about the decision to open the album with the more melancholic feel of “Army of Rainbows.”
“I put on a dress to be seen a little less…”
Artists always put a lot of thought into the running order of an album, and given the pop/rock optimism of so much of the album as a whole, we felt we needed to ask about how this was chosen to kick things off!
Tora- As you said, we carefully consider the order in which the album runs for listeners who move from track to track. I was supposed to start with “This Is It,” and I have Cory Wong on that one, and that is an in your face kind of start. That was definitely discussed. The thing is, “Army of Rainbows” is very personal to me, and I am so proud to be able to put words to how I felt as a seventeen year old. The first song usually gets a lot of streams, and it was my intention that if I don’t place this at the start, it could disappear in the mix. I wanted the song to stand out, and the only way I could do that was to place it at the start. I think it does surprise people that we start with a slow ‘C major’ but it is intentional, and I believe it worked out well.
The album also includes three guitar instrumentals, (all quite short). Now we do like a guitar instrumental here at the magazine. The interviewer for this piece, Mark, absolutely loves a piece called “Fractured Quantum” by Ace Frehley off his “Anomaly album. We wondered how Tora approached the instrumental, the buildup of sound, and so on.
Tora- I want the guitar to be the replacement for my voice, which is why each song is only one minute long. On Instagram, for a while, you could only do one minute, so I worked on the one minute guitar instrumental. I had so many of them! When I went through them, I wanted to tell a story with them, so that is why they are called, “When She Falls in Love,” “When She’s Mine,” and “When She Leaves.” It is supposedly a love song trilogy. It wasn’t really important to me that people saw and understood that that was my intention, I needed to know it myself, just as I needed to know what I was saying with the guitar. On the instrumental, I also included my girlfriend’s voice, so experiment and be free. It was challenging, but listening back to them now, I feel like I presented the feeling of falling in love, feeling safe, and then she leaves. I learned a lot, about telling the feeling from the music and not using the voice.
It is a reflective album, and that comes through. And as it was about “Seventeen,” we asked Tora how she felt her seventeen year old self would have viewed the album if she had sat down and listened to it.
Tora- I think she wouldn’t believe that was my work. I have learned so much from my songwriting. For me, playing the guitar is easy, but songwriting isn’t. Writing a song and producing it… I think she would also wonder how I had lived and experienced this. I think she would be so surprised that I had written those.
With the live shows on the way, what can the audience expect from the guitar solo?
Tora- I really like being spontaneous. The show itself is set for the year, you almost press play and it rolls, you get to feel safe to be free! But when it comes to the guitar part, we will stretch the guitar part to fit the audience. The song may be set, but the guitar part is free, and I can move as I choose. The guitar solo allows me to be free, and I adapt to the audience. I analyse from the moment I get on stage and look at the response. I try to play what I think they want to hear. I adapt to the audience.
One of the great things about the last decade is how many great female guitarists there are out there now. In the previous decades, there was Suzi Quatro (bass player) who would hold the flag, but now there are so many. It’s really all change!
Tora- The question I get asked the most is about me being a female guitar player, and I will answer that I am not a female, I am just a guitar player! I never thought about gender when I picked up a guitar, so I never needed a female idol. But society cared more about me having boobs, so maybe it’s relevant! But I am and was a huge Michael Jackson fan, and I used to watch Jennifer Batten so much. Her guitar playing is more of a fast tapping style, which is not really me, but she is the only one that really comes to mind. But, of course, singers, Diana Ross, Beyonce, and so on, they were inspiring.
And how did working as a co-producer on the album work for Tora? It adds another layer of work to getting the album put together.
Tora- I made all the songs and demos at home. I am not a producer, but I know how to programme, so I can make my demos sound as I want them to. But I teamed with Benjamin Giørtz, (known for collaborations with acts such as Dagny, Kid Astray, Chris Holsten, and Hedda Mae) and he did the amazing stuff, and he is also a great musician. But I sat during COVID with my songs, and you don’t know sometimes if the songs are good, as you get stuck. I needed him to come in and check and bring his ideas to the songs. The album is me, 100% songwriting, and then 50/50 production.
Tora Dahle Aagård has had an eventful career: The talented guitarist has performed in London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall, jammed with guitar legends such as Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and Aaron Sterling (John Mayer). And, as you can see below, she is doing a couple of UK gigs this month, a must for everybody! This magazine is getting someone out to watch the London show.
Tora- It was massive, the Albert Hall, I will never forget it. But I wasn’t there with my band, so it was a different thing. But it is tattooed on me that I was on that stage! We are doing two shows, and I have never been to the UK with my band, this is the first time ever! We have one show in France and two in the UK. It was originally planned as a full tour in 2020, but that didn’t happen. The venues we had booked for that tour are too small, so now we can just do the tour. I will do my best to do the full show in the UK as we do in Norway, but I can’t bring the full crew due to cost. But I’m bringing as much as I can and I am excited to be saying hello to my audience over there. I am so glad it is happening.
We are looking forward to seeing TORA, and if you are a fan of great guitar playing and a sonic sound, get out there and grab a ticket while you still can.
The artist’s website is linked here
The UK Tour Dates are coming up, and tickets are available here.
By Mark C. Chambers
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