Alessia Cara On Her Big Year, Touring With Coldplay & Next Single: Interview
Alessia Cara broke big in 2015 with loner anthem, “Here.” The sullen single climbed all the way to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and was eventually certified double platinum. The 19-year-old capitalized on that momentum with debut LP Know-It-All (it crashed into the top 10) and current hit “Wild Things.” With a well-received Coachella set and an opening slot on Coldplay’s upcoming world tour, 2016 is shaping up to be even bigger.
I recently spoke with the Canadian teenager about her breakthrough year. She revealed that the success of “Here” still hasn’t sunk in yet, which helps to keep the pressure at bay. Alessia also opened up about the prospect of touring with her all-time favorite band and explained why “Scars To Your Beautiful” is going to be the next single from her album. Get to know the break-out star a little better in our Q&A below.
I recently interviewed [“Here” co-writer] Sebastian Kole and he said you weren’t convinced it was going to be a big hit. Is that true?
He’s actually sitting right across from me!
Tell him I say hi.
He said, “What’s up, Mike?” Yeah, I had no idea. I remember he would stop me when we were having studio sessions. He would be like, “I don’t think you know what’s going on right now.” He’d always say, “I don’t think you understand what’s actually happening.” I would just be like, “Well.” My head was in the clouds. I wasn’t even sure what was going to happen.
I mean, I know I was meant to do this and I knew that at some point I was going to do it, but I just didn’t think anything of it. I was going through it and trying to figure it out. He definitely kept saying that throughout all the sessions. He would say, “I don’t think you realize what’s happening.”
Once we had “Here,” knew we had something in my gut. I just didn’t know what it was. I definitely didn’t know it was going to be as big as it was, but I knew it was something. He definitely reminded me of that a million times throughout the sessions.
Is there a weird sense of irony that your loner anthem has been embraced by so many people?
The irony is crazy, especially when you hear it at parties or in clubs. My friends will SnapChat me the song playing in a club or something and people are just jamming to it. It’s funny because, if you take in the lyrics, it’s the most ironic situation possible. Performing it in front of thousands of people at these festivals where all people do is party. It’s kind of funny.
It’s kind of cool that it’s being embraced by different crowds, too. People are sort of taking it to different places and giving it their own meaning, which is also really awesome, too.
“Wild Things” is blowing up now. Can you tell me about the remixes with G-Eazy and Nico & Vinz?
First off, the Nico & Vinz one. I think they kind of did that one of their own. I didn’t know that they were going to do that, which was amazing because I love it. I was like, “This is so genius.” I think they just kind of did it for fun and put it out. It was awesome. I was like, “Wow. This is really, really great.”
Then, the G-Eazy one. I think with the song what we wanted to do, and what we are going to continue to do, is get rid of boundaries. You know what I mean? Sonically and genre-wise. I think the whole point of the song is to do what you want and not follow any standard or conform.
I think the G-Eazy remix is really cool because, of course, he’s a rapper and the song is a pop song, and it’s cool to mix the two together. We met at this little Grammys’ Radio Room and he was really cool and really nice. I’m a fan of his, so that’s why we kind of reached out to him.
Did you feel a pressure to have anther huge hit after “Here”?
You know, I think because with “Here” we didn’t… none of us really expected much from it. You know what I mean? In the sense that we just put it out on SoundCloud. It’s not like we had this big marketing plan behind it. We didn’t even go to radio with it initially, so it was just something that kind of happened. When that happens unexpectedly, you’re like, “Okay, well, now what do we do?”
I think having it be an unexpected hit also helps in the sense that I just kind of went with my gut. We all went with our gut. All you can really do after that is just continue to do that. Just go with your gut, go with what you think makes sense. I felt like “Wild Things” made the most sense sonically, it made the most sense conceptually. I don’t know. You just go with your gut and put out honest music. That’s all you can really do, right?
Even if you do have a big marketing plan, at the end of the day, the world decides what they like and what they don’t. You can have the best plan in the world and then it fails because it’s just not honest, or maybe people just don’t enjoy it. You just have to gamble and do what you believe in.
I think it was a great choice. I believe “Scars To Your Beautiful” is next. Why did you choose that one?
Yes, “Scars To Your Beautiful” is the next. I don’t even know if it was announced yet, but yeah. Whatever. Let’s talk about it! Basically, that song is about body image. It’s directed at women, but I think men can relate to it as well. It’s just a song about these things that certain women go through on a daily basis in order to feel loved or in order to love themselves.
I think that’s such a thing that goes on in today’s world. These weird things are instilled in us. You know? That tell us that we’re not good enough or that there’s only one kind of beauty. This song basically is contradicting that idea. It’s saying, “Well, if the world doesn’t like how you look then they should change. They should change their perspective. You don’t have to change yourself.” I mean, I thought that that was important, you know, just to put out next. Especially because I think that’s kind of the direction we’re going in, you know, with “Here.”
“Here” was about not belonging anywhere and “Wild Things” was about finding a space you belong. Now “Scars To Your Beautiful” is basically about embracing yourself and finally coming to that conclusion where you feel love and you can love yourself. I think it’s cool to put out third because I feel like I have a bigger platform now. The point of the song is to reach as many women, or people, as possible.
How do you feel about playing in all these huge venues on the new tour?
It literally starts in four days. I have no idea what I’m going to do. I’m very, very nervous. It doesn’t really feel like it’s a real thing. I mean, none of this feels real, to be honest. Yeah, I think because I haven’t met the band yet it all feels very distant. You know? It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s only in four days. I don’t know what I’m going to do. They are my favorite band of all time. I’m going from playing 1,000 seaters to 60,000 plus. I’m very, very nervous, but I think it’s going to be amazing.
How did you get that connection?
We have the same agent, so they contacted our agent. My agent contacted my manager while I was on my own tour. He told me and… I died. It was very, very real.
Has the incredible success of the past year sunk in yet?
You know what? It definitely hasn’t sunk it at all. None of this has. It just feels like I’m watching myself from another body almost, like I’m floating above everything. It really hasn’t. It’s going by so fast I haven’t had the chance to understand fully what’s happening.
I think, at the same time, it’s good that that happened because if it would’ve sunk in, maybe I would’ve got a little too anxious or a little too nervous. I’m glad it feels like a dream still.
Have you started working on new material?
As far as my own album, we haven’t really started that yet just because I’m busy with the tour. I’ve thought of a bunch of different ideas. Right now the only studio time I’ve had was for collaborations, here and there. I’ve written a few little things, whether it’s a remix or a little thing for other artists.
As far as my own album, I have started thinking about it, but I haven’t had the chance to get in a studio. Hopefully we’ll get in there and start doing things really soon because I’m excited to think up new concepts.
Is that something that you’ll get stuck into after the tour?
For sure, yeah. I mean, hopefully during tour I’ll have a chance to maybe write some stuff on guitars and then flush them out in the studio later. Concepts are there, ideas are there. I just haven’t had any time to be in a studio yet.
The first record was a snapshot of someone living a very normal life. Will you be in a completely different head space for the next one?
I guess so, but I think people are very much the same regardless of their circumstances. I feel like even if I do get a little bit more personal and talk about a life that someone else may not be living, they can find something to relate to, they can find that common thread that we both have. You know? I think I’ll always try to make my songs relatable.
I think the second album will be a lot more specific to my life and give a little bit more insight into me and who I am because I feel like the first album was a little bit more ambiguous lyrically. Of course I always want to send out messages and I want people to relate to what I’m saying, so I’ll never say something that’s too specific for anyone to understand.
Thanks so much. Good luck with the tour.
Thank you so much. Nice to talk to you.