When I caught up with Alessia Cara, she had pretty much just stepped off the stage of the Latin Grammys where she had been nominated for Song and Record Of The Year. After a whirlwind couple of weeks, Alessia made time to chat to tmrw about her new music and her exciting journey so far.
Alessia Cara has a warmth to her words that make her instantly likeable. She’s super gentle in her speech and almost introverted to her approach, which is quite unusual for someone who performs for a living. We chatted about the Latin Grammys first as I knew that was a big deal for her and a recent achievement. “It was really fun, but scary too. I don’t speak Spanish, but I was singing in Spanish in front of a crowd who speak fluent Spanish, so the whole time I was just hoping I didn’t mess up.”
Alessia’s humble attitude is really refreshing. Originally she grew up in a small Canadian suburb and posted YouTube videos for years before being recognised as a young talent. “I used to post videos of me singing covers when I was about 14, and no one watched them. I did that for years, and then one day a production company saw one of my videos and tried to contact me through twitter. I thought it was spam so ignored it, but they kept going and then I was like okay, hold on, let me ask my dad to talk to them.”
She’s super thankful that she did give them a chance because they ended up kick-starting her career. Alessia’s dad spoke to the production company and agreed that they would fly to New York to meet them and sing in person. “They asked me if I wanted a career in music, and of course I said yes. It was a huge dream of mine for the longest time, but I didn’t actually think it would really happen. A couple of weeks after that meeting, I started writing in the studio.”
As Alessia’s presence grew, she decided she wanted to take the music thing seriously. She approached record labels to pitch her music, and none other than Def Jam decided she was right for them. Straight after graduating, she began her music career and hasn’t looked back.
Despite this crazy, dream-like start to her career, Alessia has managed to keep her feet on the ground and remain very real. She credits this to still living at home and making time to relax and connect with her friends and family. “I still live in Toronto, and I’m quite grounded. I live in the same house that I’ve lived in since I was four. When you do that, you remember what the core is, and you keep your values.”
For a young person in a turbulent industry, she definitely has her head screwed on. Whilst chatting, she did admit that it is hard as a young person in music. People want to pigeonhole you. “It’s easy for people to tell you who you will be as a young person, people want to mould you, but you’re still becoming your own person. It’s hard because although you’re still changing and evolving, they have already labelled you. The biggest challenge with being a young person in music is finding your own personality and style with so many eyeballs on you. Everyone has an opinion on who you should be, and you do feel like you have to prove yourself all the time.”
Her latest music fights back against any pigeonholing and positions her as an artist in her own right. Her latest work is very personal and describes some of the darker times that she’s experienced. “I’m a very sensitive person and a very private person, but I try to communicate with people through my music and relay the message that we’re all dealing with things. I like to be an open book with my music,” she told me.
Alessia revealed that for her, the most exciting part of songwriting is exploring her feelings and touching on those emotions that are really hard to describe. “We all have these very specific feelings that are difficult to describe sometimes, and I like trying to decode them and putting them into a song. Picking apart a feeling and extending it into a song is my favourite part of my work. To be able to iron out what I’m feeling and use that in a way that helps others is amazing.”
Her latest track October definitely encapsulates that sense of emotion that you can’t quite put your finger on. Talking about the track, she said, “I got to travel the world with my childhood best friend. It was always our dream to travel together. It’s about finally reconnecting with friends and having that time to heal and feel pure joy again. At the same time, it’s a very bittersweet song. It reminds you that although those feelings are great, they were fleeting and temporal, just like everything in life.”
Alessia actually wrote her new EP whilst on tour, finding spare moments in various cities and hotel rooms to stop and write. She told me that it all came together like magic: “We worked it out in a week with the exception of one song. I think it’s some of my best work and I’m excited for it to be out in the world”.
This was initially published inside Volume #34.
Production: GLDN Productions
Creative Director: Mayillah
Stylist: Sara Roberts (P1M)
Hairstylist: Helen Kenny
Makeup Artist: Lucky Bromhead
Photographer Assistant: Paul Crivellari
Location: Bisha Hotel