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Alessia Cara is not your 'anti-social pessimist'

She's actually quite the opposite.
Meredith Truax

Alessia Cara's anti-party party anthem, "Here," was inarguably the most ironically cool tune of the summer — landing her in the top 25 of Rolling Stone's best songs of 2015, coming in as runner-up in BBC's "Sound Of"competitionand dueting with Taylor Swift on the 1989 tour stop in Tampa.Even Drake's a fan.

The 19-year-old singer-songwriter (born Alessia Caracciolo) was discovered via YouTube, where she uploaded raspy, soulful covers from her Toronto bedroom before she was swept into a series of successes leading to her November full-length release of "Know-It-All" from Def Jam Records. Cara is now set to headline her first-ever North American tour through April — with stops in Boston (Jan. 22), Philadelphia (Jan. 23) and New York (Jan. 29) — before joiningthe Coachella lineuplater that month.

We caught up with Cara from her hometown before her tour kicked off.

You rumoredly started using YouTube to overcome your shyness, and now you're performing in front of a crowd almost every night. What has that been like?
Doing YouTube really helped because I was always in this weird phase where I wanted to do music, but I was always too scared or too shy. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t that confident in myself. It helped me get through that because I was still singing for people and they were hearing me sing, but I didn’t have to be in front of them yet. It helped me break down that barrier I was hiding behind.

Do you ever get stage fright?
I think it’s nerves than fear. Before I was scared to, but now I’m not so much scared as much as I am nervous.

Do you ever watch your old YouTube videos? Do you ever want to take them down?
I’ll go back and watch them sometimes, but not for too long. It’s just kind of awkward and weird. But I don’t ever get tempted to take them down, because they’re for a reason and they show the progression [of my work]. I like having them in my archives.

Do you feel like you have to fulfill this role as of "loner" or "anti-social" before "Here"?
I never really claimed to be that, you know? I think people assume that’s what I am because of [“Here”] when I say “anti-social pessimist” one time. But I guess a lot of those people don’t really pay attention to the lyrics and aren’t really hearing what I’m trying to say. I don’t think I was ever that, and I don’t think I ever have to be that because that’s not what I am.

I heard the host of the party from "Here" knows the song is about him.
Yeah, he’s one of my friends, actually. He knows it’s about him and I don’t think he cares. We all think it’s kind of funny.

"I'm Yours" is a standout track on the album for me because it's sort of an anti-love love song. What made you to take that route?
There are so many love songs out there and I think every time you hear of someone falling in love, it’s like, “Oh, I’m so happy to be falling in love!" But I think a lot of the time, for me anyway, you don’t want that. You’re perfectly fine and OK being alone, and you get to that place where you’re happy being by yourself, and someone comes along and ruins that in a way. Even though they’re nice and awesome, that still kind of sucks.

Anyone you're dying to collaborate with?
I love Ed Sheeran. I’d love to do something with him.

What's the best industry advice you've received so far?
The best advice has probably been from my parents. They always tell me to take things a day at a time instead of thinking so far ahead. Having that day-by-day reminder has been really good.

Does anyone from your family tour with you?
My dad travels with me, and sometimes my mom when she has a chance. I always have a parent with me, and I think that’s good to havesomeone from home who can watch out for you and make sure you’re OK, especially when you’re young.

You're at the point where a lot of your friends must be off at college or finishing their first years now. Is it weird for you being in different life places?
We’re all doing our own things and it may seem like mine is more exciting, but it’s only exciting for me because it’s my dream. My best friend is studying psychology and the other is studying teaching, but I feel like if they were doing [what I'm doing], it wouldn’t be fun for them because they’re not into music. We still try to be together whenever we’re not working, and it doesn’t feel that far off from normal because we’re all following our dreams.

What do you wish people knew about YouTube fame?
I think a lot of people think the people who become successful from online stuff have just happened overnight and they don’t have credibility. I don’t think that’s true because it takes a long time to get to that point. For me, I was posting videos for three years before anyone even noticed and my videos still never went viral. I think people assume it happens quickly, but it takes time and you have to work for it. It doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.

If you go:

Boston
Jan. 22, 8 p.m.
Brighton Music Hall
158 Brighton Ave, Allston
617-779-0140
musichallbrighton.com

Philadelphia
Jan. 23, 9 p.m.
Theatre of Living Arts
334 South Street Philadelphia
215-922-1011
lnphilly.com

New York City
Jan 26, 8 p.m.
Webster Hall
125 E 11th St, New York
212-353-1600
websterhall.com

 

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