Half-expecting Alessia Cara to be in the blue oversized suit she’s so often donned in her recent music videos and live performances for our interview, we were pleasantly taken aback to be greeted by the petite 22-year-old in an all-black getup – a stark contrast from her usual girl-next door look.
“I rarely ever wear all black. This is like my first time in a while that I’m saying that. Like wow, I feel very fashionable today,” she tells us with a grin after we compliment her matured wardrobe choice of the day, her quiet sense of confidence betraying her age. But nothing should come as a surprise from Alessia, however. The wunderkind had a wildly successful 2017 with the Zedd-collab ‘Stay’ – a bold departure in sound from her R&B roots – and even beat out the likes of Khalid and SZA to score her first Grammy win for Best New Artist earlier this year, proving to critics and fans alike that she’s set to be a mainstay in music’s current landscape.
Ahead of the release of her sophomore album The Pains Of Growing in the coming months, we sat down with the ‘Growing Pains’ songbird and find out that she’s actually just like one of us.
Hi Alessia! Is there anything that’s stood out for you in Singapore so far?
Hmm… I think just like the city itself and wherever we are. It’s beautiful – the greenery is gorgeous, the nature is beautiful, and the buildings are so modern. It’s a very good mix of city and wildlife.
Great performance at Hyperplay! You were amazing when you bounced back from the technical issue with the microphone.
Thank you! It was really amazing ’cause that can go wrong very fast. A lot of people in other places would probably “booo” me, but they were so supportive of me like “we can’t hear you but it’s okay”, you know? I felt so bad for them because it was my first time performing here, but thankfully, everything was fine afterwards and they were so nice about it. The fans [in the audience] were very sweet.
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So, Best New Artist at the Grammys this year. Congratulations.
Thank you very much.
Was it a huge relief or validation for you to win, and with that established, what’s the next dream you want to follow up with?
I guess it’s hard ’cause that was a dream of mine for a long time, but I feel like it doesn’t end there. I wanna put out more albums and just keep getting better as a songwriter and as a singer, and hopefully it would be another Grammy for an album one day. That would be another dream; it’s not even about acknowledgements or accolades, it’s just being able to put out music that I’m proud of. That’s the goal.
You came out at such a young age with important messages similar to Lorde and Avril Lavigne previously, who both have very powerful points of views from a female. Did you always know that having positive messages was going to be a huge part in your music?
I’ve always wanted to be somebody who’s a voice for different people, whether it’s spreading positivity or even just writing about honest things that people could connect to because I feel like there aren’t a lot of positive voices around sometimes. When I was younger, I gravitated towards women who were speaking positively; it made me feel like I was one of them. So I figured if I’m given a platform, I wanna say something good. I wanna do good in the world. I don’t wanna be greedy and be like “oh, like I’m famous, I don’t care about anyone” you know? That just wouldn’t make sense to me.
“If I’m given a platform, I wanna say something good. I wanna do good in the world.”
Something that’s going to be honest is your new album, The Pains Of Growing. What’s something you think listeners are going to be surprised to hear on your album that they’ve not heard before?
I think they’ll be surprised to hear me talk about myself as personally as I am on this album. I rarely talk so much in-depth about myself or what I’m going through, so they’ll hear a lot of that. I think they may be surprised to hear certain kinds of sounds in there as I’m experimenting a little bit with different genres. So that’ll be cool.
You’ve also mentioned that your upcoming record is incredibly personal. What’s your mindset knowing that these “journal entries” are going to take on so many different meanings to people around the world?
I feel like the process is kind of scary because you almost forget like people are gonna hear it, especially the more personal ones. I guess my mindset when I’m writing them is honestly just getting feelings out and saying what I feel like I need to say, whether it’s for myself or for other people. Once a song serves a purpose for me, I release it so that it can hopefully serve a purpose for other people. If it makes people feel close to me or feel like they have someone to relate to, then it’s great. That’s why I do it.
You’re more of an introvert than many singers who come across as extroverts. What advice do you have to share with youths out there who are naturally more shy, but feel like they’re pressured by society to be more outgoing?
If that’s who you are, then that’s who you are. I mean it’d be different if you’re scared and you want to get there – then I would say just put yourself out there and sometimes you have to push your boundaries in order to get to a place where you’re comfortable. You have to be uncomfortable in order to feel comfortable. But if that’s who you are and you’re happy being that, then don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be loud and talkative. You’re you for a reason. And it’s fine.
“You’re you for a reason. And it’s fine.”
Comparing to when you first debuted with ‘Here’ in 2015, how differently do you see fame now?
Man, it’s so hard. I feel like fame is oddly kind of isolating, which is weird because you’re around so many people and a lot of people know who you are. Once people try to put you on this level, then you just kind of start feeling alone up there and you’re like “why am I up here when we’re all people”, you know? It’s a strange concept. I think the separation of a screen or a radio makes people forget that you’re just like everyone else. But I’m getting used to it now. I just try to find moments that are normal throughout my day in order for me to feel normal because when you’re in this setting (of doing an interview), it’s lights and cameras on you all the time and it’s easy to feel like, “whoa, am I an alien? What’s going on?”.
By the way, ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Disney’s Moana is such a fun song.
Well, we were wondering: if you could be any Disney Princess, who would you be and why?
Oh, this is tough. I used to really love Princess Jasmine ’cause she was just so cool but then well, she’s not a Disney Princess. I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland too because she’s able to think things into existence in her own little world and I always kinda felt like my imagination was like that and sometimes I wish I could run away to another world. So, maybe Alice!
Watch Alessia Cara’s latest music video for ‘Trust My Lonely’ below:
Special thanks to Universal Music Singapore for the interview!