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The First Time: Alessia Cara on ‘Horrible’ First Performance and the True Meaning of Popularity

‘The Pains of Growing’ singer took the stage at guitar school — then everything went wrong

Alessia Cara is known for her hit singles: She emerged with the triple-platinum breakout “Here” and followed that with another triple-platinum track, “Wild Things.” More recently, she contributed to the quintuple-platinum Logic and Khalid collaboration “1-800-273-8255.” All that commercial success appears relatively effortless.

But it wasn’t always that way: The first time Cara performed in public was a minor catastrophe. “I went to guitar school for about ten seconds,” she recalled recently during an interview for Rolling Stone‘s video series “The First Time.” “I went onstage and I played guitar very horribly and I sang very badly, and I remember it was like the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life … I remember I got offstage, and I forgot to unplug my guitar, so I knocked everything over and it was like a whole thing. Not a fun experience — but I guess a learning experience.”

“It’s on the internet too, so that’s great,” Cara added sarcastically. “Now everybody can see it.”

The singer is full of similarly self-deprecating stories. At age seven, she remembered two classmates discussing the meaning of the word “popular.” “I had never heard of the word before — I was seven,” Cara said. “So I was like, ‘what does that mean?’ They were like, ‘popular means you have more than 11 friends. Are you popular?’ I was like, ‘let me think’ … I tried to come up with 11 friends. I got to four, and I couldn’t think of any more … they were like, ‘nope, you’re not popular!'”

But Cara ended up with the last laugh. “Look at me now — I have so many friends,” she joked. “No, I don’t. But I have a lot of people who listen to my music, so I consider that popularity.”

Cara released her second album, The Pains of Growing, in November.




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