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THE GRAMMY CONVERSATIONS: ALESSIA CARA

Interview by Samantha Hissong

In 2015, Def Jam singer/songwriter Alessia Cara, then just 17 years old, exploded onto the scene with the left-field smash “Here,” and her assured, sophisticated sound announced the arrival of an artist who was—despite her young age—fully formed. Next came another big hit, “Scars to Your Beautiful” and the collaboration with Zedd on “Stay.” Most recently, she guested on Logic’s giant breakthrough, “1-800-273-8255.” The Canadian artist has earned a pile of awards and nominations in her short time in the spotlight. But when we called, she quickly wished she’d said it was a wrong number. 

A lot of what you do digs deeper than most mainstream pop these days. Do you find yourself actively trying to change the pop narrative and shine a light on topics often swept under the rug? 
I knew when I started, I didn’t wanna just sing songs that would be forgotten. there’s a lot of nonsense out there, and so much music gets pumped out on a daily basis, which takes away from the creativity, in my opinion. I really wanted to say something important that would stick, not only to be part of the movement to bring realness back to pop music, but also potentially help people in the process. That’s all that really matters to me. I want to maintain integrity and feeling, no matter how mainstream my music gets. Mainstream can still be artistic—and it can definitely be real. 

What struggles do you face as a woman in the music industry, and what steps do you think needed to be taken to level the playing field?
As a young girl in the industry, it gets difficult to let the music speak for itself. Unfortunately, because of my gender, people will automatically look for more: What am I wearing? How much weight have I gained or lost? Who am I dating? Etc. I feel like I’m constantly having to prove myself and show people that I am a more-than-capable songwriter and singer who doesn’t have to carry her music through her looks. Who I am is enough, and what I’m saying should be sufficient. Not everyone sees it that way, but I’m trying to help change their minds. 

Did you expect “Here” to be as groundbreaking for you as it was? 
I definitely didn’t think people would take it to the level they did in terms of meaning or even popularity. I knew it’s how I wanted to be introduced to the world, because it was the most “me” song I had at the time, and I knew it would make some sort of statement. I really didn’t expect it to become an anthem for introverted people! I just figured they would think I’m a weirdo who hates fun and move on with their lives. 

What was it like to work with Logic? 
I had been a fan of Logic for a really long time, so him asking me to be on his album was amazing. After I heard his verses on the song, I knew I wanted to be part of it—because of what he was saying and what it could potentially do for people. I’ve dealt with my share of dark times, whether it was me or people close to me, so putting a verse on this song was a no-brainer. 

What do the Grammys mean to you?
Of course, for me and any artist, winning a Grammy would be such a milestone. It’s crazy that you can receive such high acknowledgement for self-expression alone.  

Can you give us a taste of what’s on the horizon?
I’ve been writing my new album, which has been a really exciting and almost cathartic process. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. This project means a lot to me. 

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