Alessia Cara on the hunt for authenticity in the fame game
Shy Brampton singer got her start recording covers on YouTube
When Alessia Cara took to the stage at Bluesfest earlier last week, the crowd cheered her on. But just a few years ago the rising star from Brampton was reluctant to even perform in front of her parents.
"I was a really shy person. And of course I wanted to do all this for a living and those things don't mix Especially when you can't sing in front of your Mom or anything," the Juno-award-winning singer told CBC Ottawa host Adrian Harewood.
So Cara's mother, back when her daughter's name was still Alessia Caracciolo, encouraged her to post covers to Youtube so her family could enjoy her voice.
Since then Cara's life hasn't be the same.
After her rendition of Sweater Weather got noticed by a record executive's daughter, she was signed to Def Jam Recordings. Last year she released her debut album, appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Today Show, and was the subject of flattering write-ups in the New York Times and Elle magazine.
Her song Here, about feeling alienated at a party of her peers, landed in Billboard's top 10 chart.
The 20-year-old performer is now known for her own songs but still enjoys covering popular songs, including a version of Taylor Swift's Bad Blood that's received two thumbs up from the pop star herself.
You're AMAZING, <a href="https://twitter.com/alessiacara">@alessiacara</a>. Love this, <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCR1">@BBCR1</a> !<a href="http://t.co/YqKl7UJkZL">http://t.co/YqKl7UJkZL</a>—@taylorswift13
The switch from performing in her bedroom to performing on giant stages is still hard for Cara to grasp.
"I've always dreamt of it in my head. But when you're from a place like Brampton that not a lot of people know of, you think that it's very unrealistic. You never think that you're going to make it out of that town. You never think you're going to go through all these amazing things," she said.
Coming from a land of obscurity is maybe why Cara is concentrated on her music and not what happens outside the recording studio.
"I don't want to be a fashion icon. I don't want to be celebrity. What I do best is make music and sing music," she said.
But even trying to stay away from the glitz and glamour of pop stardom has its downfalls. She's known for her laid back style, but fears she'll be attacked if she dresses up or wears more makeup
"I feel like not having a brand is my brand now," she said. "If I one day decide to wear a gown on stage or something it's going to be because I want to," she said.
"You can still be authentic and wear makeup. I think people often get that misconstrued. They just think being authentic is being bare and natural."
Shouting over the chaos
The search for authenticity feeds into the themes of her album Know-it-All. It touches on songs about feeling alienated and weird.
"I spent a lot of time on my own and I would just look at TV and media and have all these thoughts in my head about what you should be," she said.
Cara notes it's ironic that now ads for beauty products play before her songs on YouTube.
"I'm a tiny voice that's trying to shout over all this chaos that's coming at everybody. I'm still going to try my very best to get through all the noise," she said.
Looking forward, Cara has a plan for longevity: be nice.
"I've noticed with our artists who have been successful is just...being nice to people. I think that's what makes people last...because you're a genuine person and people want to see you do well."