Meet Singer Alessia Cara: Taylor Swift's A Fan & So Are We

Kenzo sweater, Blk Denim pants.

In less than a year, Alessia Cara has gone from being a You Tube artist to a Def Jam signee whose debut single, “Here,” currently has over 11 million streams on Spotify. An ode to wallflowers who agonize quietly at parties, the song features a sample from Isaac Hayes (the same one familiar to fans of Portishead and Trinity), and will be on her forthcoming debut album Know-It-All, scheduled to be released this fall. Cara, 18, already counts Lorde and Taylor Swift as fans, and has played for sold-out audiences at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory. This is an especially remarkable feat considering that the singer-songwriter and self-taught guitarist from Ontario, has attended only one concert in her life, which was to see a prepubescent Justin Bieber.

Cara admires Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran and Drake — she dreams of eventually collaborating with the latter — but would prefer not to be labeled the next ... well, anyone, really. "I look up to a lot of artists, but I just want to be me, I have my own style," she says.

Her sudden rise in the music scene has taken Cara by surprise, but she's handling it with a grace and maturity that belie her 18 years. She's staying focused on creating her own sound that is soulful, delicate, and powerful all at once. So listen up and put Alessia Cara on your radar.

When did you develop an interest in music?
"I’ve kind of always had one to be honest. Since I was a little kid, I was always singing around the house. I was interested in music without even realizing, I guess. It was something that was always there growing up when I was really little."

Do you remember what you listened to growing up?
"My parents listened to a lot of The Beatles and Queen. My dad would always play Queen in the car. My mom would just listen to Italian music. Then as I got older, I started listening to Amy Winehouse and different kinds of people, but now I listen to pretty much everything."

Do you remember your first concert you attended?
"I’ve only been to one concert in my whole life: A Justin Bieber concert, with my cousin a long time ago. They had an extra ticket, so I just went and it was before [he was] big I guess. But yeah, I wish I had a better story for you."

What artists right now do you look up to?
"Well of course still Amy Winehouse, but it’s just a whole bunch of different people. I love Ed Sheeran and I love Drake. I don’t think I emulate anyone, but I’m inspired by different artists and their music."

Photographed by Diana King.
Opening Ceremony 'Lemon Ginger' dress.

What inspired you to write “Here?”
"I went to this party about two years ago, when I was 16. I hated it because I felt really uncomfortable and really shy for some reason. Everyone else seemed like they were having fun except for me and it made me reflect a little bit. I went to the studio the next day because I had a session with Sebastian Cole and a brother-producer duo from Toronto, Sammy and Bobby Gerongco. I got into the studio with them and they asked what’s going on in my life and what do you want to sing about or what do you want to write about? That party just kept popping up in my head and I told them about it and they said let’s just write about that."
Do you feel like that feeling is common amongst teens at parties today?
"I never really thought it was, I always thought I was the only one feeling that way. But with the release of “Here” and with seeing all the responses I’ve been getting, there were probably 10 other people in that room that were feeling that way too and weren’t showing it or don’t even realize it. The release of “Here” made me realize how many people do feel that way and how many people in different age groups. I’m getting messages from 40-year-old men saying “Teen girls aren’t the only ones who feel this way.”

Did you ever think this song would have such an impact?
"Not really. The thing is that we never made it with the intention to, first of all, be heard by this many people and second of all, I wasn’t even trying to make it relatable. It may sound weird, but we were just writing how I was feeling and it was accidental. I always knew it was going to be something but I didn’t expect people to relate to it and didn’t expect this reaction from it at all. I’ve had people tweet me and other artists tweet me and it’s like, how do they even get to you?"

What artists have tweeted you?
"Tove Lo tweeted me, which was very, very amazing. She tweeted me and said she heard my song. Lorde is another one, so amazing. So many people that I love, just complimenting me on my song, it’s the best feeling. [Taylor Swift also tweeted Cara her approval of the singer's "Bad Blood" cover.]"

Let’s talk about the future. It’s 2025, what have you done?
"Ten years from now, I hope I’m still doing music. Even if I take a break and get married, have kids or whatever, it’s still pretty early. Definitely still doing music, hopefully two or three albums in that span of time, really good ones. I would hope to perform at cool places, cool festivals or land some sort of award, or a Grammy. I hope to be a better performer, a better singer, a better everything, better guitar player, yeah I think just being better, happy and still doing music."

Are there mornings when you wake up and are like, holy crap what is my life right now?
"All the time. My life was so regular and normal before. I was a pretty boring kid. Now that I’m getting to travel, my life did a whole 180 turn and now I’m doing things I would never have done if it wasn’t for this. So it’s really surreal. You have to count your blessings all the time."

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