Alessia Cara becomes latest Toronto-area artist to vault to stardom

Nineteen-year-old Brampton singer Alessia Cara has graduated from posting covers of songs she recorded in her bedroom on YouTube to signing with the legendary Def Jam record label to rocking The Tonight Show stage. Oh, and receiving lots of Twitter love from Taylor Swift.

Nineteen-year-old singer of viral smash Here releases her debut CD, Know It All, Friday

The 19-year-old released her debut album Friday. 7:57

Alessia Cara confesses that she pinches herself all the time, wondering if she's living in a dream.

And who could blame her?

The 19-year-old Brampton singer has graduated from posting covers of songs she recorded in her bedroom on YouTube to signing with the legendary Def Jam record label to rocking The Tonight Show stage. Oh, and receiving lots of Twitter love from Taylor Swift.

Cara, who was born Alessia Caracciolo, releases her hotly-anticipated debut album, Know It All, Friday. She writes with an open honesty about emotions she's experiencing, and cooly delivers her stories over soulful R&B.

A line that perfectly describes her impressive career trajectory can be found in her song, 4 Pink Walls. It goes, "Went from when boredom strikes to miss star on the rise. It was all in an instant."

"That whole song is about how my life did a 180 turn and it hasn't been the same," Cara said in an interview with Errol Nazareth of CBC's Big City Small World.

"The 180 turn" began last April when the precocious teen's wallflower anthem Here was released to rave reviews. The video, which was posted on YouTube, has since racked up more than 15 million views.

In July, the viral smash shot to number one on Billboard's Twitter Emerging Artists chart the day after she performed on The Tonight Show. 

On it, the affable and thoughtful singer calls herself an anti-social pessimist and expresses her discomfort at being at a party. 

"But really I would rather be at home all by myself, not in this room with people who don't even care about my well-being," she sings.

Toronto-area singer Alessia Cara has gone from making YouTube videos in her bedroom to performing on The Tonight Show. The 19-year-old singer drops her debut album, Know It All, Friday.
Cara, who's not the outsider she sings about in her smash hit anymore, discussed how she straddles life in the spotlight and treasuring her privacy.

"It's difficult, when you come from a world where you're uncomfortable in social situations and then you're thrown into this whole other world," she said. "You're meeting people you don't know, you're talking on air about your life and that can get difficult.

"But it's also been positive for me 'cause it's forced me to learn really quickly how to be more confident, how to speak your mind and be open."

Just as Here resonated with introverts everywhere, it's likely that Scars To Your Beautiful will strike a chord with Cara's young, female fan base.

In it, she sings, "To all the girls that's hurting, let me be your mirror, help yourself see a little bit clearer the light that shines within."

Ready to be a role model

Cara said she's prepared to take on that responsibility.

"I think somebody has to," she said. "'I'm so glad there's this new wave of young female artists who are speaking their minds. Body image is something that girls struggle with every day and it's something that I struggle with every day."

The issue, she said, is "amplified times a thousand" now that she's in the public eye.

"When I watch the interviews [I've done] I'm like, 'Why is my posture like that?' and it gets to your head but you just realize after a while that it's all just noise and it's not important."

Like Drake, The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes and Francesco Yates, Cara is is one of several artists from Toronto who are bringing attention to the city's thriving music scene.

"Everywhere I go, every city, they're always like, 'What's in the water in Canada? What's in the water in Toronto?'

"I feel so proud," she said. "It's like, 'Yes! Finally!' We've always been considered underdogs and I feel like that's definitely shifting and I'm so happy to be a part of that."

You can hear Errol Nazareth's full interview with Alessia Cara on Big City Small World on CBC Radio One this Saturday at 5 p.m. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.