- 30 May 19
Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara talks duetting with Taylor Swift in front of 55,000 fans, touring Europe with Shawn Mendes and the struggles women must overcome in music.
As you may have noticed, the pop industry is no slouch when it comes to giving women a raw deal. Just ask Toronto chart-topper Alessia Cara.
“When you do things different from what is expected of you as a young woman, people don’t know how to handle it,” she says. “They see a girl with frizzy hair walking on stage. They don’t know what to do with themselves. I feel I’ve had to prove myself more than men in the industry. That’s true of every woman.”
Still, her determination to make her own path without pandering or selling herself short has paid off. Cara is speaking to Hot Press halfway through an exhaustive and exhausting slog around Europe, where she is opening for pop poppet (and fellow Canadian) Shawn Mendes.
“My best friend is travelling with me,” she says of the slog. “Shawn is around my age, and so is his best friend. In a way it’s like a big school tour.”
In person Cara is friendly but reserved. She is chatty yet only to a point. She certainly doesn’t give anything away. That’s quite a contrast with the figure she cuts on hits such as ‘Here’ and ‘Stay’ and her studio recording of ‘How Far I’ll Go’, aka the theme from Moana (ask an eight year-old). There, she absolutely puts herself out there – singing about heartache with a rawness that hits like a gut-punch.
She arguably goes further yet on new album, The Pains Of Growing. Cara was a teenager when her debut single, ‘Here’, became an international smash. Now 22, she feels she has grown a great deal.
But, in the public eye and with cynics only too happy to declare her a one-hit non-wonder, it’s nonetheless been a fight to stay focused. That’s what the record is about: standing strong and holding true to your voice.
“I get very personal in my songs,” she says. “I almost forget people are going to hear them. Then a few days before the album comes out, I’m like… ’wait a minute!’. That said, I do keep part of myself to myself.”
She was born Alessia Caracciolo to parents from Calabria in the extreme south of Italy. Raised in suburban Toronto, she first picked up a guitar aged 10. By 13 she was posting songs and cover versions on YouTube. When she turned 18 she signed to a management company with links to her current record label, Capitol. Three years later, at the 2018 Grammys, all the hard work paid off when she took away the gong for Best New Artist.
“It’s fairly insane to work for something and then have it happen very quickly and be confused about where you are at,” she says. “I definitely did have my head screwed on, which I’m grateful for.”
She soon acquired an influential cheerleader in Taylor Swift, who not only interviewed her on camera but invited her up to duet on ‘Here’ before 55,000 fans on the Tampa, Florida leg of her 1989 tour.
“It was the first time I’d been introduced to so many people in one place,” she says. “If anything it solidified my belief that this is what I want to do with my life.”
The Pains Of Growing is out now.