It’s not everyday that you do a photoshoot where the artist gets more excited about wearing Drake merchandise than anything else. But Alessia Cara is not a normal teen popstar - in fact, she exemplifies everything that one should aspire to be.
She’s opinionated and outspoken in her beliefs, penning music about parties that no one wants to be at (‘Here’), and the struggle of growing up (‘Seventeen’, ‘Four Pink Walls’). Her debut EP 'Four Pink Walls' chronicles 5 songs that are personal, yet are something that so many teenagers can relate to - an age where so many people go through the same feelings, yet feel so alone in them. Alessia’s music offers a place for people to seek solace in, the type of music to listen to when you leave that lame party and go home early.
She holds strong thoughts on issues that so many people avoid talking about - feminism, the problem with the beauty industry, and placing a price meet + greets. She’s the type of modern pop-star that the world needs, someone genuine and entirely honest, in all senses of the term.
Alessia Cara visited New Zealand last month for a promotional trip, and Coup De Main was lucky enough to shoot her for the cover of our new issue, as well as speak to her about her upcoming debut album ‘Know-It-All’…
COUP DE MAIN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today Alessia! To celebrate the fact that you’re in New Zealand right now, we bought you a lolly lei in case you get hungry later.
ALESSIA CARA: Oh my gosh, thank you! Yes, I always want snacks. This is awesome. Thank you so much.
CDM: Your EP ‘Four Pink Walls’ is SO GOOD. My favourite song is ‘Outlaws’, it has a really romantic sentiment to it. I love the 50s style production on it - the backing vocals are great. What inspired that particular style for this song?
ALESSIA: Thank you! I really enjoy old-school sound; I’m a big fan of Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra, all these cool old-school type sounds. I didn’t really have a lot in the album, I think the album’s very current, it has very current elements. Even with ‘Here’ - it sounds like a very 90s old-school sound, so we tried to do that as well with ‘Outlaws’, to kind of make everything more cohesive. I think it’s just cool, and it fits the whole song - the whole "Bonnie and Clyde" older-day theme, so I thought it’d be perfect to add that in to that song.
CDM: ‘Seventeen’ is such a relatable song - you sing, "I couldn’t wait till I could be seventeen." Do you think that we live in a society where we are encouraged to grow up a lot faster?
ALESSIA: Yeah, people are kind of forced to grow up a little bit sooner now, especially with school and post-secondary and things like that. We’re kind of forced to choose our destiny and our paths very early on, and that kind of sucks, ‘cuz I feel like a lot of people don’t know who they are up until... even now, a lot of adults don’t really know who they are yet. I think it’s a learning process, and the fact you have to figure it out so soon kind of sucks. Through that, you kinda feel like you have to change everything and grow up so fast with every other aspect, and that just kind of domino-effects. As good as it is to obviously grow up and learn, at the same time, it’s just a matter of reminding people that it’s okay to make mistakes and just to learn as you go, and not feel like they have to be perfect and know everything right away.
MY FAVOURITE SONG FROM MY 'FOUR PINK WALLS' EP...
CDM: Do you think young people are disappointed or dissatisfied with being a teenager, especially when you think of the disparity between how teens are portrayed in TV and film compared to what it’s actually like in real life?
ALESSIA: I feel like there’s definitely a false advertisement when it comes to being a teen, and you think everything is fun and perfect, but it’s not. I think that’s one of the hardest times of your life, you’re trying to figure out who you are, what you are, what you want to do with yourself. You’re really learning about yourself, and meeting yourself for the first time. All these changes are happening; I think it’s definitely a very hard time to be a teen, to grow up. No matter where you are in the world, I think just being a teen in general is hard.
CDM: You’ve announced that your debut album is gonna be called ‘Know-It-All’, which is a lyric that comes from ‘Seventeen’. What was it about that line which resonated and led to you naming your whole body of work on it?
ALESSIA: The phrase is: “I’m a know-it-all; I don’t know enough.” That whole phrase summed up the entire album - the concept of each song. Because I think each song, it has a set opinion and a set mood of what I’m trying to say, and there’s just a conclusion. And coming from a teen girl’s brain, I think a lot of the time, I think I have this set conclusion or this strong feeling, and I’m trying to figure things out, but at the end of the day I don’t really know anything at all. Even though we act like know-it-alls sometimes in life, that does’t mean that it’s true at all. It’s very sarcastic.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY DEBUT ALBUM 'KNOW-IT-ALL'...
CDM: We interviewed you for our last issue on the phone, and we were so impressed with how honest and outspoken you were. Do you think that it’s important as you start to gain more attention, to talk about issues like feminism?
ALESSIA: I think it’s definitely important, because I’m given a voice now, and with this voice I might as well say something worth saying, that would impact something. Of course not all the time, not everything I say has to be meaningful or deep, but of course I think it’s good that I’m given this platform to talk about certain things like that - feminism, and all sorts of things that I believe in and that I think are important.
CDM: Like with most industries, the media industry is dominated by male voices, who traditionally - and as convention - belittle and trivialise the opinions and thoughts of teenage girls. For example, just because a young girl loves One Direction, doesn’t mean that her political viewpoints are any less valid; the two are not tantamount. What are your thoughts on the rise of young girls blogging their own think-pieces and engaging with their peers on an intellectual level online?
ALESSIA: I think it’s good, ‘cuz it shows that they do have some sort of intellectual abilities and they’re not just crazy teen girls, and I think that young people in general are a lot smarter than people think they are. It’s important for them to put that out there, and share their views and opinions, especially as young women, because they get the most flack for trying to be serious or think things, because nobody really thinks that we’re capable, and that’s not true. I think it’s important for everyone to just share their opinions and say whatever they want, because I think that that’s what it should be like. People should be able to say what they want, and talk about things.
CDM: We live in a world where an entire beauty industry revolves around body-shaming, and thinness is exploited as a privilege in entertainment industries. Do you think that it’s dangerous that body privilege is such a powerful social advantage?
ALESSIA: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think it’s kind of horrible, to be honest. Just the way that it’s portrayed, and the way that it pressures people to think that they need to look like that. Even the models that do look like that, I feel like they’re pressured into doing that, and that’s kind of unfair, because that’s not the right depiction of what beauty is, and of what confidence should be or is. I think that it’s wrong to put it into one box and say that this is what it is - like, who decided that? We don’t know who decided that, it’s just whoever’s saying that, ‘Oh, this is what beauty is’ - but it’s not, it’s very subjective, and everyone can be beautiful obviously. There’s not one set of beauty, I think it’s important to really discard whatever is going on in the media.
CDM: Some celebrities are infamous for over-sharing; I think we've all unfollowed someone on social media for posting too many selfies. As you become more and more a public figure - do you consider there to be a fine line between vanity and updating your fans?
ALESSIA: I guess so, yeah. I think Instagram and selfies in general are just vain in themselves, but it’s like a… everyone does it. Just the whole point of a selfie is very vain ‘cuz you’re taking a picture of yourself - that’s not really updating anyone, that’s just taking a picture of yourself. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I just think it’s like, you think you look good and you wanna take a picture. I definitely think that there’s a fine line between vanity and updating - you’re not really updating anything, you’re just posting a picture.
CDM: Maybe if you get a new haircut or something, it’s updating?
ALESSIA: Yeah exactly. But even if it is vanity, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with it. You’re just taking pictures, and you like the way you look, and it’s fine.
CDM: The music industry is today monetising artist-experiences for fans in increasingly transparent ways - I’ve heard of meet & greet packages being sold to fans for US$6,000 that don’t even include a concert ticket. So I think it’s interesting that two of the biggest artists in the world today, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, both decided at the very beginning of their careers that they would never ever charge fans to meet them, and to this day have stayed true to that promise. How do you feel about musicians charging their fans to meet them?
ALESSIA: That’s something that I don’t want to do either. I definitely don’t want to charge people to meet me because I don’t think I’m above them in anyway, and I don’t think they should have to pay - I mean it’s different if they’re paying to go see you because that’s your job, and you’re playing for them, that’s entertainment, there’s other people on stage, it’s different - but to meet you, and just to say hi to you, I don’t see that there should be a reason to do that. Especially if someone on the street can see you and meet you anyways, why would you charge certain people to do it and some people not to, you know what I mean? I think no, I would never charge anyone to meet me, and I don’t think that you should, but I guess everyone has their own reasons to.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND...
CDM: I loved your song ‘Over’ that you performed last night at the showcase, it was beautiful. You sung lines like, “Why did I let you in?”. Do you think that in relationships, and friendships, it’s important to let people in, regardless of how it’ll turn out in the end?
ALESSIA: I think even though it could suck in the end, I think it’s important to give your all. Because it’s worse to regret letting someone in, rather than it not working out and thinking, ‘Oh I wish I did let them in,’ and it not working because you didn’t. I just feel like I would be more regretful if I didn’t let someone in, or if I didn’t do something rather than if I did and gave my all. Because at least if you do, your conscious is clean, you gave everything and it just didn’t work out. But if you didn’t, then you can probably pick at your brain every time you think about it, like, ‘I should have done this, I should have done that.’
WHAT I HAVE LEFT TO ACHIEVE BEFORE I TURN 27...
CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for songs, or do you write them as poems or prose and then evolve them into a song form?
ALESSIA: I think I mainly do it with the intention to write a song. Only because there’s a structure I like to do it in, and I think if you try to write a poem and then fit it into a song it’d be harder, but I’ve never tried. It probably could work, if you take things out and add things.
Alessia Cara’s EP ‘Four Pink Walls’ is out now - click HERE to purchase it via iTunes.
PHOTOGRAPHER: GARTH BADGER
MAKE-UP: JOSIE WIGNALL (M.A.C COSMETICS)
HAIR: TUPOU MAKA (D&M HAIR DESIGN)
STYLIST: SHAHLIN GRAVES
ASSISTANT: ALICE HUNT
WORDS: ROSE RIDDELL
Watch the ‘Here’ music video below…