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November 30, 2018 at 11:52 AM EST
Daniele Venturelli/WireImage

In 2015, Alessia Cara catapulted to world fame with the release of her anti-party anthem “Here.” In the two years that followed, she dropped her debut album Know-It-All, collaborated with Logic and Zedd for two smash-hit singles, and won the Grammy for Best New Artist (amid criticism that she wasn’t “new” enough compared to her other nominees).

EW spoke with Cara about her upcoming record The Pains of Growing (out now) and exploring the difficulties of early adulthood.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long did it take you to write The Pains of Growing?
ALESSIA CARA: I started writing it about a year and a half ago… I was in the middle of a tour and I hadn’t written an album in about two or three years, so I had a lot I wanted to get off my chest. It just kind of came out. There was never a moment where I decided “I’m going to start writing my second album now”…. Once I got off tour, I started going to the studio to record it over the last year and a half. I got an Airbnb in Los Angeles and stayed there, and it just felt like a really natural, fun process. It didn’t feel like the making of a second album, which can seem kind of scary in regards to the stigma around it. It was actually pretty nice, and I was excited to be putting something out. I haven’t put anything out in a long time.

Did you feel like you completely bypassed the sophomore album pressure?
I honestly think so. Maybe I’m feeling it a bit more now that it’s done, but when it came to making it, I just figured, if it wasn’t good, or if I didn’t like it, then no one would have to hear it. That’s the beauty of writing new stuff and getting to release it when you feel like it’s ready. You don’t have to put anything out prematurely, so I didn’t put too much pressure [on it].

How was it working with new producers like Rick Nowels and Ricky Reed?
It was great. I think it was kind of needed for me to branch off and just meet different people and be in different spaces because I felt like that was where my headspace was at. I just needed to feel something fresh and new. Of course, I love Pop & Oak and working with them again was amazing, but I don’t know. It felt nice to work in different environments and meet new people even to just have new conversations.

What are you trying to say on this album?
The album is about growth and transition. I used to think [the] growing up shift happened once. You’re a kid then you’re an adult. But I think that through writing this album and growing up myself, I realized that it’s an ever-changing, everlasting process. It’s also an album about acknowledging the fact that things are constantly changing, and that we grow from every situation.

Def Jam

The title of your first album, Know-It-All, felt very true to the teenage experience, whereas The Pains of Growing captures a universal feeling in early adulthood. How did you come up with the name for the new record?
We all go through really similar things. It’s comforting for me to remember that and comforting for the listeners, hopefully. I think for me, I was going through a lot of stuff, and I think when we go through negative things, we just don’t really know what to blame it on…. I think calling it the Pains of Growing was a reminder to me that there is a silver lining, no matter what we go through. It just means we’re growing. It was my way of reminding myself, “You’re going to be ok. You’re going to grow from this.” Because, when you’re in the thick of pain, or when you’re in the thick of a situation that’s negative, you just think that that’s the end-all, be-all and you’re never going to get better — or you sometimes think, what’s the benefit in this? So, that was just a reminder for me and to my listeners, that everything is something to grow from.

Has entering adulthood been as you expected it to be?
Yes and no. Of course, it’s a little bit strange to go through personal things, and then have to deal with a career that’s very 24/7. You kind of have to be on all the time. That was tough to balance at first, but at the same time, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one dealing with this. 

In the new song “Not Today,” you admit that you aren’t okay in that moment. Why was it important for you to include that on the album?
It was important, because [with the release of] my first album, I was labeled as the artist who was positive and the one who spread positivity. It’s a great thing to be labeled as, don’t get me wrong, but I just felt like it was important for me to acknowledge the fact that sometimes I’m not ok either, and that’s okay. Positivity is amazing and it’s so important to keep hope in any situation. But sometimes we can have days where we’re not so hopeful and we’re not ready to be happy yet… That’s more than okay. It’s not unhealthy to have a day or two or however long you need to just bask in whatever you’re feeling and just be sad. You gotta recharge before you can heal. 

Many of the songs on the album are very introspective but “7 Days” talks about the state of the world. Why did you feel that was an important song to include?
I just felt like I couldn’t really turn on the TV without seeing something horrible or tragic or go online without seeing people being mean to each other and people compare themselves to other people. I started thinking about how we got here and what all of this is and wondering if we’re doing a good job, and if this is what was supposed to happen…or if whoever created us is really upset. Like, what are they thinking? What is the purpose of all of this? Sometimes it’s hard to really see the true reasons for certain things happening… It was just an important song for me to write at the time, and I think it’s still very relevant, unfortunately.

Are there any other artists you would love to collaborate with in the future?
I’m really into Anderson .Paak. I say this in like every interview, [but] I would love to work with him.

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