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Insightful. Impactful. Inspiring. Alessia Cara Quenches Our Thirst for Something Real Words by Vanessa Pascale Photo credit: Meredith Truax "I guess I have a hard time... leaving my own body and trying to see what other people see 'cause it's just always been me," says Alessia Cara in response to my compliment on her amazing and unique voice. "I'm just lucky that people like what I do." Great voices are magnetic, memorable, and moving. And this 20-year-old musician has it. When I first heard Alessia's song "Wild Things" on the radio, I remember thinking, who is this? Becoming a musician has always been her dream. "I just didn't know if I was good at it or not. Once I realized that people liked it [she showcased her talent at high school talent shows and open mics], I was like, 'OK. I really think I can do this and I want to do this.'" It is Halloween weekend, and Alessia and I are sitting inside Hard Rock Live Orlando. Tonight is the last show on her Know-it-All Part II U.S. tour with special guests Ruth B and Nathan Sykes. The venue is virtually empty, but in a couple of hours the Canadian singer-songwriter will be in her element — on stage singing to a crowd of dedicated fans, many of whom waited in line for 4 hours just for the Meet & Greet. She'll play guitar, beat the drums, pepper the crowd with anecdotes, cover Amy Winehouse's (her biggest inspiration in music) "You Know I'm No Good" – even turn the spotlight and stage over to a man with a marriage proposal for his boyfriend [he said yes!] as her fans drink it all in – singing along to her lyrics, dancing, and videoing the experience. Part II of the tour is like Part I, which took her through the U.S. and Canada in the beginning of 2016, except it's grander. "We have big screens now with cool graphics and it's more of a story. Everything is a lot more elevated than the last tour." The fresh-faced artist has her dark, wavy hair up in a ponytail and is wearing a black sweater over a tee, black pants, and white kicks. Around her neck hangs a necklace with a cross on it which she has layered with a choker. A friendly familiarity radiates from the songstress. Pretty, silly, chill, insanely talented yet modest – Alessia reminds me of the friends made in grade school and kept for life. Within the first few moments of sitting down with her, I feel like she genuinely gets it. And if you're familiar with her music, you know that she gets it. She sings about what many are so often thinking, feeling. She is a voice that says what you're afraid to say aloud, a light that illuminates the dark corners of your life and makes you feel not so alone —all of which is undoubtedly why she has accrued over 1 million Instagram followers in such a short time span. It was just three years ago that Alessia was discovered on YouTube. "I didn't have a YouTube following or anything I just happened to post a video and someone came across it. It was a very fate kind of thing because I never went viral or anything." At 18 she signed with her production company EP Entertainment and began writing songs with label mate/mentor Sebastian Kole. The two co-wrote her debut album Know-It-All together. "For a year I was going to different labels, shopping around, hoping that someone would like me. A year later, Def Jam came into my life and I signed with them." Today, the pop star has three of her songs from Know-It-All, "Here" (#5), "Wild Things" (#50), and "Scars To Your Beautiful" (#17), ranked on Billboard's The Hot 100 chart. "Those songs would not be possible without him," she says of Sebastian. Her raw debut single "Here" resonated with anyone who has ever felt out of place. "That song is about a high school basement party I went to 3 years ago, that I just did not like and I felt so uncomfortable — so I just stood in the corner all night observing and just asking myself, why did I come here? So I started ranting about it the next day and then in the studio and this song happened." Did you think, 'This is gold. This is good'? "Yeah, honestly, I thought that the second we wrote it. I asked for a demo of it to be emailed to me and showed it to my mom and dad and was like, 'This is the song that is going to change my life,'" she says so ardently that it elicits goose bumps to surface. "They didn't like it at first, a lot of people didn't. I was like, 'No, guys, trust me, it's just 'cause it's a demo. Once it's all edited, fixed, and once we reproduce it, it's going to be great. Trust me. It's going to change my life.' And they were like, 'I don't know about that.' But it did. I was like, 'Ha, it did. Told you, guys!'" She smiles. "Here" hit double- platinum status in the U.S., and it's music video has racked up over 114 million views. And then Coldplay asked her to join their tour (they share the same agent), where she performed in stadiums with 50,000+ people in Europe and the U.S. Mic drop. To tour with a group revered as one of the world's best-selling music artists (they have hundreds of music nominations, dozens of wins, including 7 Grammys) is an invaluable experience for a rising star. What did you take away from your time with Chris Martin and the band? "Their artistry and their musicianship is so, so admirable. I was in awe every time I would watch. Just seeing, not only how they are on stage, how they perform, and

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