This story is over 5 years old.


A First Date with... Alessia Cara

When I heard her I'm-not-having-fun-actually jam "Here", my heart skipped a beat. I could already envisage us making our excuses and leaving fun places at 9:30pm. Obviously we needed to date.

This article was originally published on Noisey UK.

I can't lie, I have very much enjoyed the recent trend for huge, incredibly successful and fancied American rappers and singers making songs about feeling self-conscious and miserable at parties. Young Jewish men have been feeling this way for only the last 5000 years, but I don't think we ever thought we'd have Drake representing our insecurities about impromptu skinny dipping on a global stage. Fucking hell, The Weeknd is probably the most eligible man on planet earth right now and his whole shtick is basically that he's a lightweight who can't handle his molly, wants to leave as soon as he arrives anywhere, and needs constant self-esteem boosts from anyone he's talking to. UM, HELLO? CAN I GET MY STEEZ BACK ABEL?


So far, this has mostly been a male trend, but the latest in these I'm-not-having-fun-actually jams is called "Here" and comes from Alessia Cara, a new singer from Toronto who just signed to Def Jam. The song is full of lines like "Really I would rather be at home all by myself" and "I can hardly hear over this music" and "Oh God, why am I here?" When I heard it my heart skipped a beat—here was someone talking my language, I could already envisage us making our excuses and leaving fun places at 9.30 PM. Obviously we needed to date.

Of course, when you say first date, only two words come to mind: Jamie Oliver. Whether it's nibbling either end of a grissini at Jammer's Italian or licking the bourbon glaze off a steak at Barbecoa, the Jam Man can provide for every romantic setting.

We met at Recipease in Notting Hill, basically the Paris of Oilver's restaurant portfolio. Now all we had to do was make it through 60 minutes of polite conversation.

Continues below.

Noisey: Hi Alessia! So, have you been to Britain before?
Alessia: No, never. This is my first time.

Is there anything that you want to see?
I have to be really cringey; I want to see the palace, the guards, the telephone boots, the cabs, the buses. The typical stuff. I want to be really extra cliché.

You’ve got to do it once or it’s not a cliché. What about holidays in general—when you were younger—where did you go on family holidays?
The thing is, my mom is from Italy right, she’s from the South of Italy. So the only place we’ve ever been is Italy.


The holy grail of carbs.
It is! Like all of a sudden—ooo—these pants are getting smaller.

Do you speak Italian?
[She replies in Italian in an impressive way. I tried to put it into Google Translate but it came out with something about legs or figs—neither of which seemed right.]

That's very good, do you ever take dates to Italian restaurants just so you can nonchalantly drop that in when the waiter comes?
No! I should do that.

So you’re from Toronto, that’s where you grew up. What is teenage life like in Toronto?
I actually grew up in a suburb of Toronto called Brampton. If you wanted to go to the city, it was like a half hour drive. I grew up in a very suburban area, not many people, the street didn’t have a lot of kids so I was pretty lonely. Didn’t really play outside much, I was on my own.

What about “the mall”?
Honestly, we would spend whole days in the mall, you don’t even have to shop. You just go to the food court—it’s a meeting place. We’d be like, "You want to got to the mall today? You want to go Bram?"—we call it Bram. We’d just meet up there and just bust there. Not even buy anything.

And what about parties, did you have good ones or not really?
Pretty good. I’m not really a fan of parties. My single is kind of about that.

What is kind of party was it?
The ones with people I don’t know at all, songs I don’t sing to, situations that make me very uncomfortable. Like, literally, a guy passed out on the floor, and people were just walking over him. People are drunk, and right in your face, and I’m like “I. Need. To. Leave.” That kind of party.


Music is in a weird place now because you always have those Chris Brown, Jason Derulo songs "I’m in the party, it’s the night of my life!’"and then you have your song and the Weeknd and Drake, "I’m in the party, I’m having the worst time." Someone is lying basically.
Yeah exactly! You can’t be having that much fun. I don’t think everyone that is dancing is having that much fun. Like, they’re dancing and smiling but inside they’re thinking: I hate this.

Do you get anxiety? Or do you just think: this is boring?
To be honest, it’s a little bit of both, there’s this anxiety, but in the back of my mind it’s like why are you here—it’s so stupid. I do love parties, when there are people I know, but not the one’s where everyone else is having so much fun and you feel alienated. Of course, I think there’s this reputation now where I’m supposed to hate every party. But I don’t! Sometimes I just don’t know how to talk to people.

So, what would you do instead of getting shitfaced at someone’s house?
Singing really. Just alone, in my room. It was the best time.

Was it actually?
Yeah it was the best time!

Are you the kind that can spend the whole day in their bedroom and still be so happy?
I can spend weeks inside if you leave me there with food and water. You need time like that. It’s good.

I can’t do that. If you leave me alone for 15 minutes I will be calling everyone I know desperate to meet up.
Really? Can you not use that time for meditation? Or to just chill?


I like the idea of just chilling but after half an hour I am desperately craving human interaction.
What star sign are you?

I’m very good with signs. Like, Leo’s, they’re leaders, but I feel bad because I’m a water sign and you’re a fire sign, so apparently the water signs douse the fires of the fire sign. So, sorry.

Disaster. I should probably leave.
I’m not that into it, I’m just fascinated by it. I’m not sure if it’s bullshit or not yet, I’m still trying to figure it out.

I’ve heard about Mercury being retrograde, lots of girls talking about that. I don’t know what it means.
I heard this, somebody in New York told me about it, the planets are aligned in the wrong way so people have bad days.

So, are you big on dating?
Not really. I’ve had a boyfriend, but we met in school, so we haven’t had that typical date thing. I’ve never had an "Oh would you like to go out," so this is literally my first date! Thank you for taking me on my first date.

Oh god really? I'm really hope your second date is a lot better than this.
No this is great, this is fun.

Are you worried about being a pop star and romance? It must be quite hard to meet people.
At the moment not so much because people don’t really know who I am. They’re not chasing after my fame. Maybe in the future, it could be a scary thing. I think it would be best to date someone you knew before, so you know they’re loyal, or someone who is as big as you, because then they’re not looking for anything.


I call that a prestige pull. What’s your favorite food?
Oh I like everything. I’m obsessed with hot wings, I love hot wings. Bad for my stomach, but…

That’s terrible date food—you’ll get your hands all greasy.
I never thought about that, something I’d order on a date that wouldn’t get me messy. Maybe a salad? Actually ew… I don’t want a salad. I want something to eat. Not a salad.

I feel like I always end up at Asian restaurants on dates so you have to use chopsticks which I am terrible at. Bits of rice and chicken flying across the table. It's not a good look.
There are these things, these beginner chop sticks that have this elastic on them so you just have to hold and pinch them.

I might buy some and take them with me.
Yeah! Ask the restaurant next time, "Do you have the beginners ones? The learners?" They call them the learners.

That’s even worse than asking for a fork! Can you even imagine. So what’s going to happen with you, are you going to stay living there or will your music career drag you inevitably to New York?
I want to stay there, and I want to milk that as much as I can before I move, because it’s cool, and I’d like to stay there.

It must be weird get signed so young and then moved into an apartment somewhere.
I come from a strict Italian family. I highly doubt that my father will ever let me live on my own. He doesn’t even let me travel on my own. He’s actually sitting right over there now! He’s definitely not letting me live anywhere else anytime soon.


Wow. Are we being chaperoned? Is going away with a parent quite stressful?
If you see them consecutively for a number of days, you just start to annoy each other. It’s like "Argh your face." But now that I’m doing this and meeting so many strangers, it’s good to have a familiar face. It’s good to have parent support.

Plus parents are always a good judge of character. So this record? What’s it about? More feeling insecure in the corner?
No that’s just the one song. I think that conceptually it’s all about the brain of me and the brain of a 19-year-old girl, so hopefully a lot of young girls can relate to it. Because I don’t really have that much experience in life because I’m young, all I really have are my opinions and thoughts on the world. That’s all I have. I don’t have these experiences, I don’t have this crazy love story. So that’s what I had to give and what I tried to give.

What are those experiences?
There’s one song, called "Wild Things", which will be my next single, and that’s about self acceptance among all different types of people. It’s a song that needed to be out there. I don’t think there are many songs rebelling against standards that people expect you to be. I know that sounds really extra-political, but it’s not. It’s about appreciating yourself.

The standards of what? Of what you’re supposed to be?
Especially as young people, we’re expected to be so many different things. It’s like, I can’t be everything—wait am I bleeding?


Um yes, I think you are.
Anyway, sorry.

I don't think you should apologize from impromptu bleeding.
Yeah, I don’t have to conform to your standards of first dates, I can bleed if I want! Yeah, so we’re expected to be so many different things. This and that. But it’s like, shut up, you can be whatever you want.

And do you feel that pressure? I’m always surprised speaking to female friends coming out of college and stuff, and who say their teenagers years are the worst years of their life, that everyday was a nightmare. And I’d say "But you seemed fine!" and they’d say "Yeah I'd just go home and cry every night." I’m not saying everyone. But people have serious problems and you never realise. Why do you think that is? Why are people so unaware of what’s going on?
I think it’s because people don’t believe that young people can have problems but there’s so many pressures as a young person for so many reasons—and I think people overlook that.

And even non-serious problems are so much worse the first time you experience them. The first time you’re heartbroken, you’re like "WHAT IS THIS?!?!"

Life will never be fine again!
Do you want some water?

That’s good manners—yes please. So, have you met any other pop stars yet? Do the youth get awkward around famouses?
I’ve had people tweet me, like Lorde tweeted me, but it’s good because you can save your awkwardness on there—you can edit what you say. So you can still be cool. I don’t think I would know how to interact in person.


Are you not any good at first impressions?
I don’t know. I was working in the studio in LA and I found out that Bruno Mars was in the other room and they were pushing me to go take a picture with him and I almost died. I was like, I can’t do this. My heart was beating, I couldn’t do it.

So what did you tell Lorde?
I told her that her tweet is going in my stash of important screenshots.

I should ask you more dating questions. What is the current state of the teenage boy dating pool?
You know what, it depends where you’re from. The 18 year old boys I’ve met are cool. I guess everyone is different.

I just feel like, having been one not that long ago, teenage boys are the worst people in the world.
That’s the thing, they’re teenage boys, they’re learning, they’re going through a phase.

Even though at the time, you might think, I’m not like those other teenage boys. I’m sensitive and I understand other people’s feelings—and then afterwards you’re like—no I don’t, I dealt with all of those situations so badly.
Yeah, I'm like, "Oh wait, this one is so different and actually interesting," but then no, they’re the same. Which kind of sucks. When you meet someone and you think they’re so interesting, but eventually you realise—people aren’t as interesting as you thought. It’s like, "Oh you’re so mysterious" but then you find out they’re like everyone else.

Is your pizza already gone?
My dad says I eat like a caveman.

[Alessia's PR comes over and ask if we're getting married?]

Of course, we’re getting married right?
He is the one.

What shall we do on our second date? How do you feel about activities?
I feel good about activities, activities are cool. We can go drinking at the park!

Cider in the park? Great.
I think I had you at, "Is my arm bleeding?"– is that where I got you?

Absolutely. You know what, we’re in Notting Hill. Notting Hill is a great place to drink in parks. Have you seen the film? We can jump over the fence into the private garden.
Yes! See you then. Call me.

Please approach Sam Wolfson for dates via Twitter.