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Alessia Cara

Interview

A true Gen Z success story owed to the boundless reach of the Internet, in the last few months Cara has experienced a taste of what is so often mistakenly referred to as overnight success. But in her case, it’s about as close to the truth as you can get. Sure, Cara developed her talent over years of school performances, but her chops weren’t honed the old fashioned way, singing at clubs and county fairs for years before something finally came together. Today, things are different. All Cara needed was a bit of luck, an innate talent, and an internet connection. Her videos, made in the vacuum of her own small room, were a demo to the big wide world, and the world found her, all right.

 

Her first single “Here,” released by Def Jam in May of 2015, has since flung Cara into the spotlight that once made her so nervous. A song exploring a wave of social anxiety at a party, “Here” has become something of an anthem for the over-it introverts, those of us who can’t wait for the weed to run out and the conversations to dwindle so we can all just go home. With her own music as the framework, Cara’s voice soars, finding itself and moving beyond the limitations of the songs she sang to get to where she is today. For now, Cara is a star-in-the-making, a diamond found in the digital rough. College on the backburner and a European tour under her belt, Alessia Cara is here, and the party’s just getting started. 

 

 

Office — Let’s talk about Europe. Was that your first time?

 

Alessia Cara — Yes, it was! I’ve been to Italy before but never Milan. It was so beautiful.

 

O — What’s been your favorite place so far?

 

AC — I think Paris and Milan were my favorites. I got to spend the weekend in Paris so I saw a lot of the city. It was so magical.

 

O — You’ve come such a long way in such a short amount of time. You were doing theater and music in high school and then started doing your YouTube videos right? What prompted that?

 

AC — I was doing YouTube and theater simultaneously. I was really shy growing up and I used those things to help get me out of my shell. I wanted people to hear me sing but I needed to ease myself into it slowly or else I wouldn’t have been able to.

 

O — How did the kids at school respond to your videos? Were they watching?

 

AC — At first no one really knew but after a while people started finding out and watching them. It was nice—they mostly gave me compliments.

 

O — What was the first one you ever put up?

 

AC — “Price Tag” by Jessie J on a rusty old guitar. It’s pretty bad—not gonna lie.

 

O — Were you writing songs back then or were you just doing covers?

 

AC — Just covers. I was always writing in a journal or making some sort of poem or story but I would discourage myself when it came to writing music. I was always scared to.

 

O — Did you grow up with music? Were your parents particularly into it?

 

AC — I did, but it definitely wasn’t something extremely prominent in our house. My parents listened to music but no one in my house was a musician or anything.

 

O — What would they have playing?

 

AC — A lot of Beatles, Elvis, Queen, and contemporary Italian music.

 

O — Who did you look up to the most growing up? Is there a musician whose career you hope to emulate?

 

AC — Amy Winehouse. I love everything about her and her music. It was honest and so wise in a way. I hope to emulate the way she captivated people. Someone like Ed Sheeran, too, because he can also leave an audience in awe with no help. That’s something to admire.

 

O — Now that it’s summer, are all of your high school friends coming back from college?

 

AC — Yes, but I never see them because I’m always traveling, which kinda sucks.

 

O — Was it hard to make the decision to not go to college yourself?

 

AC — I guess it was and it wasn’t. It was hard because I had to explain to my parents why it wasn’t for me and I felt like some people may have judged my decision. Of course you start to question yourself and ask “Is this really the right thing?” but my gut feeling always seems to lead me in the right direction and I just knew I needed to do this.

 

O — Tell us about how all the magic happened with Def Jam. Who reached out to you and when?

 

AC — An A&R for my record label, EP Entertainment, found me and from there we started making songs and pitching them to different labels. I’d go around and sing these songs live and hope someone would like me enough to sign me. Def Jam was the last label we met with and it just made sense.

 

O — Was that insane?


AC — It was crazy. Still doesn’t feel real at all, to be honest. 

I wanted people to hear me sing but I needed to ease myself into it slowly or else I wouldn’t have been able to.

O — I love that “Here” has become an anthem for introverts and you’ve ended up in the most extroverted of jobs imaginable. Do you still relate to the shyer part of you or are you having to stuff that down a bit?

 

AC — I know. [laughs] Great career choice, right? I think I’ll always be shy and kind of awkward around people but at the same time you’re kind of forced to be a bit extroverted because you’re around so many people and in the spotlight all the time. This is what I want to do and that just comes with learning to be more open and social. It’s better that way, anyways.

 

O — Did you expect it to blow up the way it did?

 

AC — Yes and no. I knew we had something once we finished making it, but I didn’t expect it to get to this point this quick.

 

O — How long do you think you would have pursued music if you hadn’t been signed right away?

 

AC — Probably forever. I’d be that old lady with twenty grandkids trying to get a record deal. 

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