Alessia Cara on playing the game of life

Alessia Cara has a mean streak in her - well, when it comes to video games, at least.

"I love video games, obviously the Mario Kart franchise ... I used to play Rollercoaster Tycoon and make pools and drown the customers, or make pathways and trap them."

The confession comes while discussing Nintendo Game, a track on her most recent album 'The Pains of Growing', documenting a pursuit of love which she ultimately deems juvenile.

Growing pains

Thematically, there's a lot to process with this most recent record. More representative of her true self than her previous offerings, EP 'Four Pink Walls' and debut album 'Know It All', 'The Pains of Growing' presents itself as an inner-turned-outer monologue on growth and how to deal with the burden of change.

"[The reception] has been awesome," she tells Goldenplec. "I suppose you never really know what to expect when you're making a second album. There's a whole thing around album two that feels very scary, but the fans have responded wonderfully to it."

It comes after Alessia's rise to the top, helped in large by sleeper hit Here: the Isaac Hayes-sampling, media christened a "wallflower anthem" in which Cara talks about her disdain for parties. Collaborations with producer Zedd and rapper Logic followed, resulting in two more global hits in Stay and 1-800. Given she was a teenager when her whirlwind started, Alessia regularly takes stock as to where she's come from and where she is now.

"As an artist, I'm a lot more confident than I used to be. I guess as a person ... So much has changed. I was a teenager when I made the first record and I'm pushing 23 now!" she jokes.

"In anyone's life, there's going to be a huge difference between 18 and 23. I think I'm different in so many ways, in a lot of good ways."

"I was a teenager when I made the first record and I'm pushing 23 now!"

On and off

Given the marked sense of maturity on her latest record, and the intensity with which Cara examines her subjects, the question of how she allows herself to decompress after the writing process comes up. Surely it's a lot of weight to carry?

"It's tough to switch off," she admits. "This whole career is very much intertwined with my life. I don't really know how to separate the two anymore. It's hard to differentiate between the two.

"A lot of my writing is very intense and deep but that's because that's primarily how I'm feeling a lot of the time. I have very intense emotions. I find it hard to turn them off in general.

"It's good to find little moments for yourself. I've tried meditation and tried to dabble in breathing exercises [...] Being present in the moment has been very helpful to me."

Case in point, however - 7 Days attempts to cast shade on media critics: “Oh, the land of poor taste/The spectacle of cut and paste.”  She's a young woman who takes pride in having agency over her own work - she wrote 'The Pains of Growing' entirely on her own - but can struggle with others' interpretations of her

"When the interpretations are positive or helpful to people, I love that," she says. "That's why I write music. By default, [the music] becomes everyone else's when it's out in the world.

"When it's interpreted in a more negative way, or misread, it's kind of frustrating because it's like "no, that's not what I meant!" But that's always going to happen, when you put something out regardless."

"I have very intense emotions ... I find it hard to turn them off."


The misconceptions which surround entering adulthood come in their multitudes - realising that friendships don't last forever and that quicksand really isn't as much of a problem as the movies make it out to be. For Cara, however, the revelation came closer to home.

"I always used to look at my parents and see them as adults and think, 'wow I can't wait to be an adult and be responsible and finally feel figured out and understood!'

"Now that I'm getting older, I'm realising my parents had me when they were in their early twenties. They were kids. They were just people figuring it out, learning so much about themselves. It was kind of jarring to realise that, realising that they're no superheroes."

'A Little More'

Cara made the conscious decision to work alone on this record, writing every song herself as well as trying her hand at production. A Little More - a sparse lament recorded in Cara's basement - is a cut off the record that fills her with pride, despite the fact it almost didn't make the final cut.

"A Little More I made totally by myself. It's very awful, bad quality, not tuned, very raw," she laughs.

"It seems people all over the world love that song and appreciate that song for what it is. I made something that I didn't even think was that good but really meant something to me. I put it on the album hoping that someone would care about it and now it's one of my highest listened to songs, because of the emotion of it.

"When I made A Little More, it was originally going to just be the demo of it. I tried to re-record and produce it and nothing felt right. Even now, when I perform it live, it's never the same. I captured something that day that I can't ever get back, so I just kept it."

"I captured something that day that I can't ever get back."

No wallflower girl

Cara finds the wallflower label has stuck since the release of the track that made her famous, Here. It's something which frustrates her.

"It's a strange thing. People have to label you as something to understand it. I think that's the way the general public works and pop culture works.

"Instantly, with that song, I became the awkward, shy girl who speaks up for all these people, which is amazing of course. But I think people evolve and change ... I'd like to think I'm better socially now than I used to be. It's a very weird thing that people always have to corner you into a label, which has been hard for me. As people, we're all just so many things. I try my best to remind people that I'm everything and you're everything and I can just be a girl who makes songs and feels different ways."

That said, Cara regularly thinks about what she'd be doing if she wasn't doing music. She feels a huge draw towards media production and film-making, which would explain her involvement on the soundtrack for Disney's Moana.

People have to label you as something to understand it.

Take care

Here in Ireland for the second time in a support slot - this time for Shawn Mendes - she's grateful for how receptive his cohort of eager fans have been to her and her music.

"It's been amazing, genuinely. I really didn't know what to expect as an opening act, but the fans have been so kind. They've made me feel like they're there for me.

"They just love him so much that they trust that if he has me on stage that they should love me too."

While she admits to constantly brainstorming while on tour, she's looking forward to time off to focus on some dedicated writing time for her next project.

As a young artist, Cara remembers the best piece of advice given to her by record producer Tricky Stewart in an airport - something he himself wishes he took on board earlier.

"Take care of yourself," she says. "I always keep that in mind."

During her previous stint supporting Coldplay on the Head Full of Dream tour, frontman Chris Martin also shared a pearl of wisdom with her.

"He said, 'you know, when you're writing music, we always tend to think too hard about it. Songs are already there, we just need to pick them from the sky'.

"Ideas and songs are always floating above our heads, we just need to be vessels for them."

Alessia Cara's new album, 'The Pains of Growing', is out now on Universal records.

Songs are always floating above our heads, we just need to be vessels for then.