Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara’s Empowering Journey: Lessons from Coldplay, Lauryn Hill, & Life

Alessia Cara’s “Here” to inspire.

Hot off a worldwide tour with Coldplay, and after the success of her 2015 debut Know-It-All, the 20-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter is on a mission to empower, as evidenced by her latest single, “Scars to Your Beautiful.”

With that in mind, Cara — one of the first involved with Pepsi’s new music platform The Sound Drop — is now crafting her second studio album, inspired by her heroes, like Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, and Fergie.

Alessia recently spoke exclusively with Rap-Up about those influences, her status as a role model, and her highly-anticipated sophomore album.

How does it feel to be one of the first artists involved with Pepsi’s The Sound Drop platform?

It feels awesome! It’s really, really cool. They’ve been really involved in me as an artist and my inspirations. It was really cool to see them be so involved in that. They had cool questions and stuff so yeah, it feels awesome.

Your were recently on tour with Coldplay, playing venues like the Rose Bowl and MetLife Stadium. What did you learn through that experience?

I learned a bunch of different things, actually. On the performance side, I’ve learned how to be more of an entertainer, a performer. When you’re doing giant stadiums like that, you kind of have to keep thousands of people entertained so I think I’ve definitely learned a couple of things about just performing but then also just watching the band and seeing how they not only perform but how they treat people offstage. It reminds me that no matter how successful you are, you can still be a good person. They’re the nicest people ever.

“Scars to Your Beautiful” is a powerful song. It’s made you more of a role model. Is that something you’ve always strived to be?

I guess yes and no. It’s weird to call myself a role model or to aspire to be a role model when a lot of the people listening to my music or who are following me as an artist are my age, if not older than me. So it’s weird to say that because I feel like a lot of them could probably teach me things about life as well. Also, I’m still young and I’m still learning things and I don’t know if I necessarily have all the answers but I think that, if being a role model means having someone feel like they’re connected to me or having someone feel like I understand them, then absolutely. But I don’t know if you could necessarily call that a role model. It’s just someone who connects with people.

“Scars to Your Beautiful” is about loving oneself. How did you develop your own self-love?

I think it was a long process. Growing up, especially, I just always doubted myself in every aspect. I wasn’t really that confident and I think over time, I just started to really push myself to not pay attention to what other people think. That was something that I had to teach myself over time, that other peoples’ opinions don’t matter and to appreciate what you have. I’m at a place now, finally, where I can say that I’m confident in myself and I really don’t worry about outside opinions of people, especially those that I don’t know.

JoJo was in the “Scars to Your Beautiful” video and you also collaborated with her on “I Can Only” for her new album Mad Love. How did that come together?

As far as the video, I just asked her to be in it because I thought there were really great stories about different kinds of people but there wasn’t that public figure side of things and I know how hard it is to be in the industry also and what that stuff feels like. Of course, I was in it but I didn’t really talk so much. So, it’s cool to have her side of the story and what it’s like to be on the other side of the media. As far as me being on her song, she played me her album one day in L.A. We were at a studio and she played it for me and I loved it. I thought it was awesome. She was like, “I love everything you’re doing and I want you to be part of it.” She just basically let me choose what song I wanted to be a part of and I just recorded it. That song is called “I Can Only” and it kind of falls into the same category as “Scars to Your Beautiful,” where it’s about self-appreciation and self-love. That made the most sense and I love it. It’s a great song and I love JoJo. I’m a huge fan of hers.

You’ve recorded remixes with Logic and G-Eazy. Who are you eyeing for your next collaboration?

Ooh! I don’t know yet. I haven’t done anything since I released that song [“WILD”] with Troye [Sivan]. I don’t know. I would love to work with a bunch of different people, like Drake, Ed Sheeran, or Frank Ocean, but I don’t know. I don’t have any collaborations yet so I can’t really say.

What can you share about your sophomore album?

I’ve already started a bit. I’ve started brainstorming and trying to write a bit. I think I kind of want the next album to be a little bit not only vulnerable, but a little more specific to my life and start telling a bit more about myself. I feel like this album did talk about me but it was very much about me sending messages to other people and making statements about certain things around me, but I think it’d be really cool if I start talking about my personal experiences and seeing how they connect with people. In general, just being a little bit more vulnerable, maybe a bit more serious, but at the same time, I’m probably gonna have some songs that are spunky and observant because that’s just how I am.

Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, and Pink are among your biggest influences. What kind of impact did they have on you?

I think female artists I look up to like [Lauryn] or Amy or Pink or Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, I think for me, when I listen to their music, I get inspired with how honest they are, how real and raw they are. You could tell that none of it is contrived and they’re really just being themselves. That’s something I’ve always wanted to be so when you have artists like that, and you listen to artists like that, it just makes you feel more empowered. It makes you feel like it’s okay to do that. I’ve always gravitated towards those artists that did that. I just think it’s really important to be yourself and unapologetic with what you say. All those people were always that way.

Speaking of influences, you’ve done a lot of great covers. Do you have a favorite?

Thank you, first of all. My favorite cover? There are a bunch. I would say I liked doing [Drake’s] “Hotline Bling” when I did it. Now, everyone would probably be sick of it but I loved it when I was doing it. It was just fun. I also liked my [Taylor Swift] “Bad Blood” cover because I sang [Kendrick Lamar’s] rap parts. I like all of them that I do because I’m a fan of those songs and I enjoy singing them.

You talked about doing the rap part, you’ve collaborated with Logic and G-Eazy, and you’re influenced by Lauryn. Do you see yourself doing more rap in your future material?

I don’t know if I’m ever going to just straight rap, but a lot of the songs that I have now, like if you listen to “Four Pink Walls,” I’m basically sing-rapping and even on “Here,” I’m pretty much sing-rapping so I like to do that thing, where I see how many words I can rhyme, and I love wordplay. But if you look at “Four Pink Walls,” it’s a very sing-rappy song so maybe I’ll stick to that where I’m singing but I’m kind of rapping and it could pass for a rap if you set it over rap but I don’t think I’ll ever be a rapper. I definitely don’t think I’m a rapper nor do I have the bars to be a rapper. [Laughs]

Finally, what do you want listeners to take away from your music?

I would want them to feel something, to be honest. If my music is just fun to listen to but you don’t feel affected by it or you don’t feel connected in any way, then I feel like there’d be no point in me making any music. So I would want them to feel something, whether it makes them sad, or takes them to a place where it reminds them of something, I just want to take people somewhere. That’s important to what I do. If I make them feel like there’s someone out there who goes through the same things and that has the same views, that’ll be great too, but as long as they’re feeling something.

–Andres Tardio