Published Nov 12, 2015As Alessia Cara prepares to deliver her debut album Know-It-All, she admits to feeling a bit overwhelmed by her sudden fame. But it's nothing the 19-year-old singer-songwriter can't handle.
"It's definitely like a crazy thought process right now," she tells Exclaim! about the days leading up to her impending release, due out Friday (November 13) via Def Jam. "I barely have time to think. But the best way to stay grounded is to take it one day at a time [and] just remember how much you wanted this before and where you were before all this."
Born Alessia Caracciolo, the Brampton-raised artist notes being a successful musician is something she's always dreamed of, starting from age 10 when she taught herself to play guitar. During high school, she would post performance videos of cover songs to YouTube. But it was the co-written and Pop & Oak/Sebastian Kole-produced track "Here" — a song dedicated to "everyone who secretly hates parties" — that became a breakout summer hit and set expectations on high.
"That song did so much for me," she says. "It's cool and strange that it happened. It wasn't even supposed to be a single, it just kind of grew online. It's a huge thing that I never thought would be that thing. It's been a crazy, strange experience."
Taking about two years to create from start to finish — working with collaborator Kole — her debut addresses her experiences growing up in her hometown.
"I think Brampton is just a diverse place. Toronto in general, but Brampton is really diverse. I grew up around all different kinds of people and different kinds of music. So I had a bit of everything — all cultures, all genres — and that's helped me with my music. I just wanted to make some songs. I was talking about experiences and realized these things were what a lot of teens where talking about. Halfway through the album, I realized that's what I wanted it to become. And so every song after that had a purpose."
Nearly 30 tracks were created, ranging from acoustically driven outsider anthems to R&B numbers to more pop-minded efforts. "I just wanted to make an album that was cohesive, whether that was sonically or conceptually. I wanted it to be a story of youth — being a teen and what that's like. Love, life, things like that."
Know-It-All builds off her recently released five-track EP, Four Pink Walls. It takes her now trademark rebellious, non-conformist, awkward outsider slant and runs with it. Not everyone is the cool kid, she says, adding that adolescence can be a tricky period to navigate.
"Being a teen is such a life purgatory phase — you're not an adult, not a kid, but you don't really know where you fit in. You are still trying to figure things out. That's definitely something that I'm going through right now and everyone goes through," she says. "I call it Know-It-All because we all act like we know everything in life, but nobody really does. That's what I want people to realize."
The fact that the album is a true representation of Alessia Cara is something that she hopes resonates with listeners.
"It very collaborative," she recalls, noting that there were points where she was "fighting for things and speaking her mind." It was important to maintain this creative control for this album, she says, which is something that she's proud of. "I have an opinion and people respect that more."
Upcoming singles and concepts for videos are still being worked out. "Every day just something new happens. Recently, I performed with Taylor Swift, which was just unbelievably insane — performing in front of 55,000 or so people."
As for success for her debut, Cara is resolute and optimistic. "Success is if you can make something that lasts. If people are still talking about me years from now, that's success for me. I've done my job."
You can see all Cara's upcoming tour dates here, though for now, they are all in the U.S.