Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about her love of Amy Winehouse and Hayley Williams, how Drake put Toronto on the map, and more

Photo: Courtesy of Apple Music
Photo: Courtesy of Apple Music

In his latest ‘At Home With’ conversation on Apple Music 1, Zane Lowe is joined by Alessia Cara who discusses her love of Amy Winehouse, YEBBA, Remi Wolf, A Tribe Called Quest, and Hayley Williams. She also discusses Drake fandom, how he put Toronto on the map, and how Lorde opened the door for her as an artist.

Video | Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about her love of Amy Winehouse, Hayley Williams, and Remi Wolf, how Drake put Toronto on the map, looking up to Lorde and more

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about her song ‘Shapeshifter’ and working with producer Salaam Remi

Anyone who knows me at all knows like how huge of Amy Whinehouse fan I am. So growing up, I had all the booklets and I would like look into who she made her music with. And Salaam Remi was always one of the names, it felt like some like weird Wizard of Oz character. I was like, “I wanna meet this Salaam person, right?” And fast forward 2019, I had a day off on tour. And I got the chance to work with him in his home in Miami, which is where Amy wrote a lot of Back to Black which was it, it felt like a crazy full circle moment for me. But I think it also made me like extremely nervous and so I told Salaam, I was like, “Listen, I’m like super nervous.” And he was like, “You know what? Let’s just start from the beginning.” And he’s like, “Where are you from? And where’s your family from, what’s your heritage?” And I started telling him about my Italian roots and stuff, and that inspired the instrumental of the song. He like had a guitar in his hand and he started playing this incredible instrumental that felt like it was like plucked right out of an old Italian film or something. And so immediately, I felt my posture change, and my demeanor changed. And I almost like wrote from the place of like a monologue or something, as if it were in one of those old Italian movies that I used to watch with my dad and I would think about the women in those movies and how they were portrayed. And they had this sense of confidence, this perpetual confidence and like sassiness that I loved. And so I wrote from that perspective and I took a real thing that happened to me and I kind of expanded on it and wrote it as if it were like in a monologue of an old film or something.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about being inspired by Amy Winehouse

She’s someone who was so unapologetically honest and raw and real, and did not spare people’s feelings if they hurt her and I always loved that about her. I loved how open she was, I felt like I was always listening to a diary or something that I wasn’t supposed to be seeing. And so I think just being in that space, it really like allowed me to tap into that in myself into that unapologetic nature and sort of say what I needed to say without worrying about the repercussions in a sense and just letting go.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about being a young artist on the rise in the modern pop landscape

It’s a strange thing because I feel like time within the music space moves extremely quickly, but then also extremely slowly. I think you’re expected to rush one part of your growth in the sense that you have to suddenly be responsible for the livelihood of so many other people and you’re expected to be a boss and all this stuff. And you grow up extremely fast because you’re experiencing so much, but then there’s another part of you that is stalled, and it doesn’t process things as quickly and you’re behind in a lot of ways as well, weirdly. So you’re growing up super fast but then also super slow.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music why she loves YEBBA

I adore her, I have known about her for a while now. I just was one of those people who found her early like so far sound session, I just completely fell in love with her. And we have a lot of mutual friends so I’ve had the chance to speak with her over the years and she’s just not only one of the kindest most beautiful people, but her story is so powerful. And I just think she is one of those people where you can hear so much of who she is in her pain and everything that she’s gone through in the way that she sings, she emotes so much that you feel it so viscerally. I, huge music fan and I mean, I can acknowledge when somebody is great and when someone’s good but it’s very rare that somebody makes me viscerally feel them through how their voice sounds and what they’re saying. And she just is one of those people that I physically feel her.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music why she looks up to Lorde

She was actually a huge turning point for me in terms of my self confidence in my understanding of what pop music and what a pop star can be … Lord is one of those people, because she came out right before my career started, right before I started taking music seriously. And like I said, I’ve never had a voice like a pop diva. I can’t do falsetto settle for crap. I’m not one of those people with tons of range, right? And so I always equated that lack of skill as a lack of skill. And after she came out, I not only realized that, because I saw so much of my own voice in her. And I realized like – ok. There is a space for success for girls like me, who sing like me but then also, I think her demeanour and the way that her story went was a lot like mine. She was from a small town, she was talking about… And she was making songs about her and her friends and I don’t know, I think the fact that the world made space for her, just really gave me the hope that maybe they could make space for me. And so she is a great, great artist for me to have and to look up to and use as a guideline for what I was able to do too and I think she opened a lot of doors for young girls and for this whole bedroom pop scene and just like the… I don’t know, girls who sang in the same way and who have similar stories. It was a really, really great person to look up to and I still look up to her for those reasons.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music why she loves Remi Wolf’s songwriting

I feel like she’s just like her writing style, I mean her melodic choices are so, so good. She’s one of those artists and I think Sia is another artist that does this, where she’ll give you such an amazing melody, a phenomenal melody and then never give it to you again. It never comes back in the song, which I love. All her verses are different, I just think it’s so, so interesting because she gives you a taste of if then she, she doesn’t give it back, which applies to that unapologetic side, which I love. You could tell, she makes music for her, which is a great thing to aspire for. But yeah, so I think she’s like just one of the most fun songwriters out right now, I love her.And I don’t know, I think she’s just brilliant and writes for herself. She’s an artist for herself, which I think is so, so good and freeing. And yeah, I love, love, her stuff, it’s so colourful.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about being a fan of A Tribe Called Quest

I honestly, I don’t even know when I first discovered them or how. I think it was just one of my own finds, I would spend hours and hours on YouTube, watching music videos and stuff and I was obsessed. Well, we don’t have… Well, we do have MTV in Canada, but we have this thing called Much Music and it’s like our version of MTV. So, I would always just watch all of the music videos on a loop and I saw the music video for check the rhyme like years and years ago and I just thought it was so cool. They’re just like on the street and there’s… I was just always obsessed with Phife. I love them so, so much. I’m a huge fan of that style of Hip-Hop and 90’s Hip-Hop. But I feel like they were just the catalyst for this whole movement. And I don’t know, I just love them so much. I love the break beats that they use, I love the style of writing. I think they also were very humorous in light in their music but I don’t know. I just I’ve always loved them.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music About Being a Fan of Fellow Toronto Native Drake and how he made the city cool

Yeah, the six. He just put us on. I think honestly, I was thinking about this the other day when I was listening to ‘CLB’ when it came out and all my friends and I and my brother, we put timers on and we were waiting till like 2:00 AM to listen to it. And I was just thinking like, “Why do we do this?” Because I don’t do that with a lot of artists. I’ll just listen to it the next day, I rarely stay up for artists but I think there’s such a sense of community in Drake’s music. Honestly, it’s like an event every time. And I really just love that sense of community. I sit around with my friend then we wait for the time and we wait for it to drop when we listened to it together collectively. And there’s, I don’t know why he’s able to do that but there’s just such a sense of community where it becomes like an event for a Drake album to come out in the city. It’s a big deal, it’s like a holiday or something. And I don’t know, I just think that’s part of the appeal to me, is I just love the sense of community that his music brings in and also he just put us on the map too. Toronto wasn’t cool before Drake, now it’s I feel happy that I’m from here now. We got a nickname and everything, I’m excited and be happy to from Toronto.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about being a huge Paramore/Hayley Williams fan

Oh my God, I’m a huge Paramore fan. I have loved them for years and years specifically, the ‘After Laughter’ album, I thought it was one of the most genius albums of the last 10 years. It was so, so beautifully done and I think specifically Haley, I watched her perform so many times and she just to me, is one of the best performers also ever, not even female performers, just performers ever. I think she’s just a legend and I wanted to include her solo stuff on this project because like you said, again, going back to that unapologetic nature of it, some of this stuff is so painful and real and raw. And I feel like I almost shouldn’t be listening to it but I’m so glad that she was able to say those things. And I actually had the chance to tell her this. I told her like, “I’m sure it’s so strange to have people telling you that your pain is useful to them in a sense.” But it really was, listening to ‘After Laughter’ during some hard times in her latest albums like, ‘Petals for Armor’, there’s some stuff on there that really hit me, it felt like a mirror right up to my face. And it’s just so, so great and I think that’s the importance of just being honest, because someone’s to understand you and I’m sure it was very difficult for her to say those things. But I think it just goes to show the importance of music and honesty and I just see so much of myself in her sentiments and in her words. And even I saw her interview with you actually and I my mind was blown at how… I found myself being like, “Yes.” Tearing up the screen and being like, “I get this.” So, it’s so nice to be able to see yourself in other people’s words and you feel so seen and turn too.

Alessia Cara tells Apple Music about Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’

The song that I included in his place is the first song I’ve heard of his, Pink Moon. I don’t remember exactly where I heard, it might’ve been in a movie or somewhere on TV and I stopped what I was doing and just was like, “What is this?” I think his voice is unbelievable, his music is so, so gorgeous and stunning. And this song particularly, is one of those songs where it’s almost like yellow. It’s so deep and you know that it makes you feel something and you know it makes you think of a feeling, but you don’t know quite what it is, and it’s ambiguous. And for me, this song is like weirdly helpful but painful in the sense as well. And I’ve looked up, I’ve tried to research what this song is and there’s not a lot of information about it, which I love. But I just think it’s just so beautiful when artists can make you tap into a feeling in yourself that you didn’t know was there without even really saying anything specific, which is why I wanted to include it. And I think his voice, the texture of his voice, he’s like barely singing. He’s barely pushing his voice, but it just placed so beautifully and yeah, it just is one of those songs that make me feel like pain but hope at the same time. And I think it also makes me feel a lot about our collective experience and our shared experience this past year, not to make this a pandemic conversation, but I mean, we all know it was very dark. But I don’t know, it just makes me feel like there’s something over the hill in a sense. I don’t know, it gives me that feeling this song.

Written by Manny King John

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