Here to stay: ​Alessia Cara

Neu Here to stay: Alessia Cara

A pop megastar in waiting with Taylor Swift’s backing before she’s even released a debut album - Alessia Cara is here.

It’s been all about the slow climb for Alessia Cara. Looking back on a summer of 2014 spent “going around all these different record labels just with my guitar,” she’s spent the time since building things brick-by-brick. Before she knew it, she was a superstar in waiting – 2016 will be the year she leaps that wall. She’s already had the first leg up.

Sitting in a hotel room in West London, she’s barely had a second to hit solid ground. Just days ago, Alessia took part in 2015’s pop rite of passage, joining Taylor Swift on stage for a run-through of her debut single ‘Here’. Organised over Twitter DMs “only a couple of days before the performance,” she’s still reeling from the experience.

“I haven’t really done huge shows. So going from four- or five-hundred people to 55,000 people… was very strange,” she laughs. “I was so nervous but she made me feel really comfortable.”

It’s not the first time Taylor’s lent her ear to Alessia, mind – earlier this summer, Swifty shared a list of ‘New Songs That Will Make Your Life More Awesome’. Amongst them, scrawled in Taylor’s handwriting? ‘Alessia Cara - ‘I’m Yours’’. Nevertheless, being asked to join her on stage was another level of “mind-blowing”.

“I always thought not enough people know my music,” says Alessia, “she only has big artists come in. That did not cross my mind. She had people like Justin Timberlake, The Weeknd, all these big artists, and there’s no way she’d ask me to do it.” Whether she’s aware of it or not, Alessia is very quickly becoming one of those ‘big artists’ herself. “I just really want to get used to the idea of performing in front of people,” she admits, keen not to trip up on her runaway success. “It’s really new to me – I’m still a new artist and I’m not really used to doing my own shows.”

In her earliest days, it was her laptop that provided the stage, to an immediate audience of one – her own mirror image. Pitching up in front of her webcam and uploading her performances made perfect sense for the young and aspiring singer-songwriter. “I wasn’t ready to do stages yet,” Alessia confides. “I wasn’t ready to do performances. The only thing I had was YouTube and online videos.”

It’s an increasingly common tactic for those suffering from early-days stage fright, Alessia admits. “You see so many artists coming out of there, posting videos and they just go viral because anything can go viral now. With me, I think my story was kinda different. I never went viral and I didn’t have a lot of views, but someone still happened to find my video.”

“People could still hear me sing and I could sing for people, but it wasn’t in front of people. It was a cheat way of doing things.”

Here to stay: ​Alessia Cara

"I’m still a new artist and I’m not really used to doing my own shows.”

— Alessia Cara

She might call it cheating, but finding her own way’s been integral to what makes Alessia stand out from the crowd. ‘Here’ is an ode to that outsider mentality. Written around the begrudging feeling of attending a party that you’re aching to leave, it’s a brooding number that’s a world away from shinier pop sensations, and it’s reflected in its slow burning success. As the end of the year creeps closer, it’s tipped over into over 20 million YouTube views. That’s a lot of people who really just want to sit in the corner and have a quiet drink. Looking forward, though, Alessia’s keen for things to grow – “I’m just really big on albums, I’m a big believer in a body of work rather than just a bunch of songs put together,” she explains.

“It’s an album about teens and youth and rebellion and vulnerability, “ Alessia continues of her debut album ‘Know It All’, “and all the things that a teen goes through and that I go through. I hope that older people can relate as well, but I just think people can relate. Either you’re in it right now, or you’ve been there…” - she peels off, laughing - “unless you’re like three years old, then you’ve obviously not.”

Tags: Alessia Cara, Class of 2016, Class of…, Features, Interviews, Neu

As featured in the December 2015 / January 2016 issue of DIY, out now.

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