Nobody was surprised when Canadian musicians like The Weeknd, Drake and Justin Bieber each landed a slew of nominations from the 2016 JUNO Awards, but a new face at this year’s JUNO Awards is generating lots of buzz. Nineteen-year-old Alessia Cara is nominated for the Fan Choice Award, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Single of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
So who’s this up-and-coming artist? Here’s what you should know about Alessia Cara:
1. She had the most viral track in the US in 2015
You probably know Cara from her single “Here,” which Spotify named as the most viral track in the United States in 2015.
2. Taylor Swift is a fan
Taylor Swift has given major props to Cara, who joined her on stage at the end of Swift’s tour, 1989. The two sang Cara’s hit “Here” together, after which Swift gave her a shout out on Twitter for being “fearless” onstage.
3. “Here” is autobiographical
Alessia Cara’s hit “Here” is actually based on her own feelings. “‘Here’ is a true story,” Cara explains in a Def Jam media statement. “It’s a party song, but really it’s the complete opposite of a party song. It’s absolutely me; it shouts out the person in the corner of the party, looking around uncomfortably. I feel like this song narrates what the wallflower is thinking.”
4. She was surprised by her success
When Cara’s hit “Here” — which she calls an “introvert’s anthem” — got 50,000 plays in just 24 hours, she was shocked. “Not only did I not expect the reaction, I didn’t expect people to even hear it,” she tells BBC News.
5. She’s from Brampton, Ontario
Cara’s a proud Canadian and happy to use her talents to help give her country a good rep.
“Everywhere I go, every city, they’re always like, ‘What’s in the water in Canada? What’s in the water in Toronto?'” she tells CBC News. “I feel so proud … It’s like, ‘Yes! Finally!’ We’ve always been considered underdogs and I feel like that’s definitely shifting and I’m so happy to be a part of that.”
6. People told her that her goals weren’t realistic
Alessia Cara admits that she never actually believed her dreams of musical stardom would come true. “I really didn’t realize this [career] was an achievable goal,” she tells BBC News. “You’re always told at school and at home that it’s unrealistic. And when you’re told so many times, you get discouraged. And that’s definitely what happened with me. But I was too stubborn to not try it, anyway.” Thank god for that!
7. “Four Pink Walls” is an homage to her bedroom studio
Before she made it big, the teenager was making music at home in her bedroom, and her song “Four Pink Walls” pays tribute to that.
8. She’s been posting things on YouTube since she was 13
The first song Cara ever shared on YouTube was a cover of Jessie J’s “Price Tag” when she was 13. After that, EP Entertainment reached out and the young star signed a management deal at 16.
9. She did a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling”
After Drake showed his support for Cara, following her on social media, the star did a slowed-down, sultry acoustic cover of his “Hotline Bling.”
10. She got signed to Def Jam
Cara is signed to legendary East Coast music label Def Jam — the same ones to sign stars like Frank Ocean, Jhene Aiko, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.
11. Taylor Swift loved her “Bad Blood” cover
Alessia Cara added her own down-to-earth flavour to Taylor Swift’s hit “Bad Blood,” even doing the Kendrick Lamar lyrics herself. And it just gave Taylor Swift, who Tweeted “You’re AMAZING” another reason to love her.
12. Sebastian Kole co-wrote “Here”
Cara co-wrote her hit single with songwriter Sebastian Kole, whose name you may already know as he also co-wrote Jennifer Lopez and Flo Rida’s single “Goin’ In.”
13. Her name isn’t actually Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara shortened her full name, which is actually “Alessia Caracciolo.” Probably a smart move as “Cara” is much easier to remember!
14. She’s Italian
Though born and raised in Canada, Alessia Cara has Italian roots: “My family is from the south of Italy in this little place called Calabria,” she tells BBC News. “It’s a big part of my family, the Italian culture. I grew up around it. My parents speak Italian and I speak Italian.”
15. She dropped an album in 2015
She may just be a teenager, but Cara put her debut album, Know–It–All, out with Def Jam. And we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in 2016.