1 on 1 with Alessia Cara, Canada’s Grammy Award Winning Superstar
As a 22 year old Grammy award winning artist from Brampton Ontario, growing pains are part of the process. But, that doesn’t mean Alessia Cara can’t take those experiences and turn them into her second studio album, which debuted at 21 on the Canadian Billboards.
Cara released The Pains of Growing in November 2018, and is now on tour with another Canadian superstar, Shawn Mendes, before setting off on a tour of her own. She’s also had the opportunity to perform alongside Taylor Swift, and tour with Coldplay.
Even though her journey is just getting started, Cara has already realized the importance of putting her personal emotion into all of her songs. She pushes herself to take more control of the songwriting process to genuinely connect with her fans. It’s this realness and vulnerability that has won her a worldwide fan base.
Relatability is your niche. Your music captures listeners’ hearts because you are unapologetically yourself, putting your perspective and personality into all of your songs. You make people feel like they aren’t alone. How does it feel to know your music consistently hits home for so many different people of all ages and backgrounds?
I think I can speak for a lot of songwriters / artists when I say that it’s one of the biggest goals to connect with as many people as we can. When you’re in the bubble of living a fairly abnormal life, it’s hard to feel relatable. On the more selfish side, it often seems like a lot of the emotions I feel are foreign, so when I write something down and the world not only hears me, but raises their hand and says “me too”, it’s very relieving. On the other hand, knowing that I’m comforting people of all ages by being honest is unimaginably gratifying.
You are the principal writer for every song on The Pains of Growing, which is uncommon especially among young pop stars. Why did you take this risk and what went into your writing process that produced this Juno-nominated album?
I wanted to push myself. I’ve always wanted to be an artist who wrote all her lyrics and melodies and I felt like I was stopping myself by not taking any risks. I knew that if I announced to everyone that I was going to write it alone before I even tried, I’d have to force myself to finish it. I’m so happy I did. These last two years have come with so much emotion and change and the only way for me to get as deep as possible was to sit with myself in a room and write it all down.
Your song A Little More is very personal. Tell us about the meaning behind the lyrics in this track.
This one is really personal. It’s about being in love and insecure at the same time and what that can look like in your head. I felt a certain dynamic rapidly changing and found myself trying to hold onto any part of it that I could in hopes that I could fix it. It’s the common feeling of being so in love that you want every part of someone and when that feels like it’s being jeopardized, a lot of fear and sadness kicks in.
You recently teamed up with Alec Benjamin for a remix of Let Me Down Slowly. What drew you to Benjamin’s song, and are there any other artists you would love to collaborate with in the future?
I heard that song when it first came out and it became one of those things I told everyone about. I love his songwriting and voice so much. I always thought he was a breath of fresh air in the music world, so when he asked me to do the song with him it was a very easy “yes”. I’d love to work with Anderson .Paak. I think he’s unreal.
Can you tell us a bit about your Juno-nominated single Growing Pains? You really capture the anxieties that young people have when growing into an adult…why did you decide to write this song?
I wrote it because I needed to. I was on my tour bus in the middle of what felt like a thousand-year run and I hadn’t been that lonely or confused in a while. I was getting to a point where I started realizing that I was now responsible for myself in ways I wasn’t prepared for. So I sat down and started venting to a melody and the song happened.
Social media has been a powerful tool for you to grow your fan base and connect with your audience, but has also been hurtful for you at times. How do you continue to be genuine in your online brand?
I think there’s a balance you can get the hang of when you’re a more public person on social media. I’m always myself online but at the same time I think it’s important to maintain a sense of privacy for my own sanity. Social media can’t become everything. You can’t live your life around it and you shouldn’t let it dictate who you are. It’s hard when fans want to know so much about you but I feel like they really respect my humanness to the point that they know there’s always going to be a portion of me that is just mine.
You’re currently on tour with Shawn Mendes in Europe & UK. What has been your favourite part so far?
First of all, the fans are incredible. As an opener, you never know what to expect in terms of the crowd’s reception to your music. But every city has been so welcoming and warm to us and it’s way more than I ever expected. Also, the environment backstage is so incredibly fun. Everyone is friends with everyone and that elevates the experience a tremendous amount.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Amy Winehouse is someone I’ve looked up to my whole life. I listened to a lot of P!nk, Lauryn Hill, John Mayer, and Nelly Furtado growing up. Currently I’m super into singer / songwriters like Andy Shauf, Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers etc. I feel like they’ve really helped me pay attention to my lyrics more and push the boundaries in terms of making my songs more personal.
In 2018, you became the first Canadian artist to ever win Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards. Did you ever see your music career skyrocketing like it has and what did this award mean to you?
Never in a million years. I always knew I was meant to do this in a way, but I would’ve felt like my dream came true even if I were singing in clubs my whole life and having even a quarter of the fans I have now. You never expect it to happen to you so when it actually does, it’s pretty mind-blowing.
What do you enjoy doing when you have time off from touring and writing new music?
I like to watch “This is Us”, my favourite show ever. I also like exploring new cities that I’m in and do normal things like go get lunch with my best friend or grab a coffee on my own. You need to make room for the everyday things, too.
Is there anything you absolutely must have with you while on tour?
I always need a guitar on the bus or in my dressing room in case I feel a song coming. Definitely lots of thick sweaters and track pants (I live in those for most of tour) and my headphones.
You are kicking off your Canadian tour in Ottawa on May 11th. Are you excited to do shows back in Canada? What can fans expect from this tour?
Sooo excited. Something about touring at home feels warmer. I can’t wait for everyone to see the show. We’re working on it in between rehearsals and it’s the most excited I’ve been about a tour.
Any memories from your time in Ottawa?
I love being there. I played a show for Canada Day once and we all watched the fireworks by Parliament Hill. My whole family was there so it was really special.
What’s next for you this Summer?
Touring, touring, and touring (laughs).