Luna Aura Is That Uncommon Phoenix Musician -- a Pop Singer
"I know where every exit in this room is."
Luna Aura's eyes scan the room, peripherally watching everyone in it as we speak just inside the door of Jobot Coffee on a particularly blistering day. You'd think it would be a distracting trait, the indication of someone uninterested with engaging, but that's hardly the case. The child of a police officer, and an artist ruthlessly devoted to her work, Luna Aura is simply taking it all in. Professionally, however, it appears she's simply about to take off. The unabashed rap-influenced pop musician has a slot coming up in September at Tempe's Summer Ends Music Festival, and she will release on August 26 her self-titled debut EP, which was recorded, mixed, and mastered at legendary Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Though these events are happening soon, 21-year‑old Luna Aura comes across as collected, unfazed.
Phoenix, as a rule of thumb, doesn't breed bona fide pop musicians all that often. With the exception of Jordin Sparks, who won American Idol seven years ago, it's a city better known for its contrast between metal and indie, folk and crusty desert punk. Though it may appear to be a wasteland for a pop artist, it's quite the opposite for Aura -- she knows she's practically one of a kind here.
Born in San Diego as Angela Flores, Aura's family moved to Gilbert when she was 7. Her father, Esteban Flores, is best known as head detective on the infamous Jodi Arias murder case. She's as inquisitive in conversation as the interviewer, countering questions with questions of her own that are less rhetorical than interrogative. She's very much a cop's child in all positive senses of the label, but she hasn't always been as comfortable in her skin as she is now.
It took a life-altering deviation, as well as the obvious name change, for Aura to realize what she was meant to do and who she actually was. After a stint in Gilbert pop-punk outfit This Counts For Everything! when she was 16, she says that everything she wrote after that was "a pop song, was a pop chorus."
Let it be known that songwriting is where Aura's strength lies: It's evident on the upcoming EP, having only been honed over time. It's so strong, in fact, that it landed her acceptance to the songwriting program at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she also made it in for her vocal prowess. With a scant 19.2 percent acceptance rate, it's no small feat to gain entry to Berklee on one medium, let alone two, but she just couldn't bring herself to go. It was a decision that didn't come from a place of fear or unsteadiness. On the contrary, she felt that she was meant to grow grassroots in Phoenix.
"I sold my car, got an apartment, everything, and then a week before I left, I had this feeling that I needed to just stay," she says. "I didn't want to follow it at first because I had gone through the whole audition process. Everything was like, 'Just go.' I just had this weird feeling to stay and not go, so I just stayed. It was the first time I listened to my gut."
As she recants the story, Luna Aura gets quieter, more pensive, and a little less guarded, twirling her coffee cup on the countertop. Her reaction is justified, as that pivotal event happened a little less than two years ago, and she's well aware of the weight her decision carried. Even in the moment, following her instincts was as conflicting as could be.