Writer and essayist, Cheryl Strayed, wrote in her 2015 retrospective book of quotations that people must “Be brave enough to break your own heart” in their search for happiness. Her encouraging, yet challenging, viewpoint asserts that to better one’s life people must be prepared to make choices that are difficult and to never settle for what feels comfortable if they believe life may hold something more for them.

It is this sentiment that echoes through the story of how Anna Lotterud, co-founder of pop outfit Anna Of The North, left behind her home in Norway and long-term relationship, to explore the world and what else is out there. “I finished my university studies in Oslo and never knew what I wanted to do,” she explains. “After you’re done with school, you go to university. I didn’t think about it – it’s just the way it is. Looking back now, I wish I had taken a couple of years off to figure out who I am and what I want to do. I was working as a manager at a clothing store and I had a gut that there had to be something more. It wasn’t a busy store so I had a lot of time to think.”

Her sense of discontentment was confronted by a customer who took an interest in her one day. “This lady came into the store and we were talking for about half an hour,” Anna remembers of the unexpected conversation. “She was telling me how she was travelling and married to a French man and talked a lot about how travelling really helped her. She told me that that there was something more in me and that I shouldn’t stand here and waste my life.” The woman, whom Anna has never met since she left Oslo, planted the idea of travelling and returned to the store a few more times to see if she'd done anything about. It was on the woman’s last visit that Anna vowed that she be gone before she returns.

With this promise to herself, she began researching travel destinations and potential places to live. “No one really believed me because I’ve never been a big traveller and I like the safe environment,” she notes. Anna also had a long-term boyfriend which reinforced people’s disbelief that she would leave, however, this only boosted her desire to leave. “I wanted to go as far away as possible because I had a boyfriend and I didn’t want to come home every weekend. If I was going to go, I wanted to go really far away. If it got hard, I couldn’t just go home again.”

She decided upon Melbourne, Australia as her new home and unbeknownst this is where she would meet her musical partner, Brady Daniell-Smith. Up to that point, music had been something Lotterud made from a young age, however, never seen it as a feasible career or had the confidence to pursue it. The people she surrounded herself with in Melbourne shone a light on how it may be possible. “Music has always been a big part of my life. My dad is a musician and I used to record in his home studio from when I was four years old. I used to think music was something you just couldn’t do - it wasn’t an option! How would even start doing music? We have a thing in Norway called ‘Janteloven’ where you’re not meant to be something you’re not and you’re not to talk highly of yourself.”

“When I moved to Melbourne, there were so many creative people and everyone was doing something. When people asked me what I do I would say I did some music but I was afraid of saying it. They would offer to listen to my stuff and wanted to help me out. It was a good creative vibe. I’ve always written music but that’s when I really started. That’s when I thought maybe I could do something. I had done it before just for myself, like a diary. I never thought about the style, it was just whatever came to my mind. I don’t know the rules for writing. I met Brady who is classically trained and really talented. I heard a song that he put up on Soundcloud and asked to sing to something he had and that’s how ‘Sway’ (the band’s first single) came about.”

‘Sway’ garnered a hugely positive reception online that the pair were not expecting, especially since they did not know what they intended by the single. “People thought there was a huge plan behind us but that was the only song we had. We didn’t know who we were or what we wanted to make. The whole journey up till now has been figuring out who Anna of the North is and how we want to sound.”

Lovers, their debut album released last September, she believes shows the “entire journey” up to this point. “This isn’t the end. It’s been a lot of trying and failing and writing heaps of songs. We’re evolving ourselves and getting better. I kind of wish we had a bit of a plan before we released ‘Sway’ but it’s been all good and organic. It’s not bullshit, it’s just us being honest and trying to figure out.” When it came to making the album she found comfort in its broader palette and creative possibilities. “The album format is open to having all the slow jams – I’m a slow jam girl. The album isn’t just about the singles but it’s about the depth, a whole picture. It’s about me and Brady on a really personal level and you also have the fun songs. It’s one big piece.”

The “whole picture” Anna and Brady created contains earnest lyrics which explore love in all its forms and vibrant pop productions that she hopes will be a comfort to its listeners. “The songs on the album are meant to be hopeful, even if they’re slow jams. My favourite songs are those you can be sad or happy listening to. When people tell us they listen to our music and it helped them through stuff, that’s why it’s worth doing. People need it. It’s important for people to know that others have been there too and that’s how you connect.” The lyrics on the album’s opener ‘Moving On’ (“It’s gonna be alright, it just takes some time”) may have felt like the clichéd advice we tell each other, but its airy production and Anna’s sincere voice not only allows you to believe it, but feel it.

When asked what would she say to the woman in the store who awakened her desire to explore, she says she would really like to meet her again to thank her. “It’s four years ago and I’m super thankful for her. Sometimes I think was she even real or was she an angel? By being open-minded and nice to other people and listening to what they have to say is really important. If I wasn’t open with her and closed the conversation, this may have never happened. I’d probably just ask her ‘Do you remember me?’ I hope I meet her one day.”

It is this openness that Anna recognises as her own strength and the quality that allowed her to be brave enough to leave everything she knew in life behind to try something new. Little did she know, she would finally discover a way to make music her career.

Lovers is out now. Anna Of The North plays London’s XOYO on February 15th. Tickets can be found here.