You can’t help but root for Def-Jam newcomer Alessia Cara.
At just 19 years old, Alessia Cara’s achieved a lot for her age. Signed to the iconic East Coast behemoth Def Jam (the same label that brought you Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Jhene Aiko, Justin Bieber and Nas, to name but a few), Cara’s already released her first EP ‘Four Pink Walls’ and achieved critical acclaim with the lead cut ‘Here’. She’s even got that coveted Drake co-sign under her belt and found fans in Taylor Swift – who she joined as a guest on her 1989 world tour -and Nick Jonas. It’s a long way from the YouTube covers that kick-started Cara’s ascent.
A large part of Cara’s gift is her relatable song writing; she manages to perfectly and succinctly delve into those teenage years, yet transcend age and gender at the same time. Break-out introvert anthem ‘Here’ was the perfect embodiment of that talent; “I would rather be all at home all by myself not in this room / with people that don’t even care about my wellbeing” she sings, at once bringing to mind all those shit parties that you’ve ended up at where the vibe isn’t right, the crowd’s no good and you find yourself in a corner counting down to a time you can appropriately leave. Cara manages to deliver all that realness with a personality that, instead of seeming like an anti-social buzz kill, oozes bundles of charm. A vocal filled with warmth and character tops it off nicely.
Her cross-over capabilities are clear; while Cara comfortably fits in with the alt-R&B crowd of The Weeknd and Drake with her edgier tendency to stand apart from the crowd, the mainstream success of pop superstars Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato doesn’t feel too far away. With her debut album ‘Know-It-All’ released in the UK next year and an extensive North American tour already announced, she practically has ‘One To Watch’ stamped all over her. Alessia Cara is something special, heading somewhere big. Refresh yourself with ‘Here’ below and then peep through our chat with R&B’s next starlet, where we discuss the rise of the Canadian music scene, who she’s feeling the in the UK and princess castle parties.
Hi Alessia! How has your trip to London been, what have you been up to?
Hey! The promo trip has been awesome. London has been so accepting of me and the music and it’s so great. I love going back every time.
How was it playing to a London crowd at Dingwalls earlier this month? Are there are differences with a British audience compared to a Canadian audience?
The show was amazing! Everyone sang the words and it made my heart all fuzzy. They were screaming and singing along. It was the coolest thing. As far as audiences in Canada, I haven’t had a proper show back home where I can really compare the two. But I hope it’ll be just as fun as the UK was.
So tell us about your journey from posting covers on YouTube to then getting signed by Def Jam and releasing R&B smash ‘Here’.
Although the process was only two years, it felt like a million because I was so anxious to make more music and finally get something of mine out to the world. I had been doing covers for three years when EP entertainment came across one of them and flew me and my Dad out to New York. We started working together and writing some of my own songs (which I loved) and then decided to start going to labels and hope someone would pick me up. I went around with my guitar for about a year to all these different offices and sing the demos I had. Def Jam was the last label we met and they were the ones to really understand me so I went with my gut. As for “Here”, it was only supposed to be a feeler track but it turned into this huge single!
Most artist’s that come up through YouTube use it purely as a platform to get noticed, however it also provided you with a certain level of distance and security, didn’t it?
Of course. It was enough practice for me to get better at performing and taking criticism, but it was just enough of a comfort blanket to really dive into it.
Who do you count as your musical inspirations?
Definitely Amy Winehouse, Drake, & Ed Sheeran
‘Here’ is about a party you actually went to, have there been any awkward conversations with the party hosts since the song blew up?
(Laughs) Yes! The host always jokes with me and says “I’m happy that my party did this for you, but I’m also offended because it wasn’t THAT BAD!”
So, to save you from never being invited to a party again, tell us about the best party you’ve ever been to?
Second grade; my friend’s birthday party at a princess castle that provided us with any dress and shoes of our choice… little girl heaven. Little kid dreams. Also it may have been a dream but I don’t remember.
Toronto has been showcasing a really vibrant music scene of late, with the likes of Drake and The Weeknd breaking through to huge success, and now yourself. What do you think it is about the city that makes it special?
It’s so funny because Toronto (or even Canada for that matter) never used to be seen as a cool place to find music, but since those artists people are now looking to Toronto for exactly that, and I love it. I think it’s awesome. As far as what makes us special, I’d have to kill you if I told you.
Your songs are about real teen experiences are often autobiographical; do you find writing a cathartic process or is it sometimes a battle to let yourself be vulnerable?
I never have an issue with saying what I need or want to say in my music. I don’t think it should be anything but cathartic. If I start to close off and not be true to my real life, that’s when it’ll start to get too broad or over-thought.
Is there anyone you’re loving from the UK right now?
YES. Lianne La Havas, Labrinth, Ed Sheeran, Adele and Tiggs Da Author, to name a few.
And finally, what can we expect from you in the coming year?
Definitely the album followed by a tour. Also, I hope to start writing and collaborating with other creators too.
Words: Milly Stockton