Alessia Cara says that her latest project, a live covers EP of her own material, This Summer: Live Off the Floor, “brought a whole new life” to her songs.
“I feel like hearing them this way just makes them a lot more nostalgic, cathartic in a way,” she tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen below). “It feels a little bit more emotional than they do on the original record.”
The project sees Cara putting a new spin on the songs she released on her last release, 2019’s This Summer EP, in addition to a couple earlier hit singles not found on the set, like “Scars To Your Beautiful” and “Here.”
Released on July 17, the new live effort also has a charity bent, as all of Cara’s proceeds from the album, for the next 21 years, will benefit Save the Children. She says that so much has been “uncovered about the way the world operates” this year, she “wanted to find a charity that would help out all those little pockets of issues in hopes to fix them,” specifically focused on aiding children, “because those are the future leaders.”
Below are some highlights from Cara’s chat with the Pop Shop Podcast, including her excitement over the new arrangements her songs received on the new album, how she feels the songs sonically changed in their new setting, and how the state of the world has impacted her songwriting.
Where did this idea come from, to develop this new take on existing songs of yours? Initially, it was gonna be just like an acoustic EP. Just guitar and vocal. Which is usually what I do with a lot of my songs. I typically give my fans an acoustic version. My manager Chris Smith brought up doing that for the entire project, instead of a few songs this time. So, I got on the phone with my friend Jon Levine who produced the entire EP and he was like, ‘well, why don’t we do an even bigger, cooler thing where we do like all live, off the floor, with a bunch of musicians and make it like a full thing?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, let’s do it!’ It sounded so awesome. I had never done anything like that. I mean, that’s how I love to listen to music. I love recording music that way, like, you know, raw — as raw as possible. And so this was like the perfect thing. I’m so glad we did it because it brought a whole new life into … to the songs that were typically, originally very like confident, straight-forward songs, and now they’re like, I feel like hearing them this way just makes them a lot more nostalgic, cathartic in a way. I don’t know. It feels a little bit more emotional than they do on the original record.
What was it like incorporating wildly different arrangements on the album?
It was so cool. It was amazing. I’m such a music fan before anything. I love jazz music, I love older music. I love anything with strings. I feel like if you put strings on anything it sounds gorgeous. And getting to do that was so awesome. We did a really cool thing in the beginning, which was also Jon’s idea, I can’t take credit. But he somehow managed to incorporate “Summertime,” by Gershwin, into the intro of “Ready,” which is the first thing you hear off the top. And it’s so gorgeous. I feel like even just the song “Summertime” into this summer is perfect. It just sounds so wonderful and I’m just glad we got to experiment with these songs.
What’s been the reaction from fans to the new project?
It’s been great. I always get so nervous about what they’re gonna think about this stuff, just because I know they’re so adamant about me writing new things. So, I was worried about giving them the same songs, and just hoping that they take it as something new and enjoy it. But they love it, so far, from what I’ve seen, anyway. They’ve been so supportive. Their comments always make me really, really happy and I’m glad that they are connecting with this, the way that I hoped.
Cara is donating all of her personal proceeds from the album, for the next 21 years, to the Save the Children charity – how did the charitable aspect come about?
That was a decision I made pretty early on. I knew that I wanted it to have some sort of charitable aspect. But I think as we got closer to the release date, or the period of time that I was planning on releasing it, the whole world flipped upside down. Not only were we seeing the whole COVID-19 pandemic happening, but we were also seeing movements in terms of racial injustice. And all these things were being uncovered about the way that the world operates. Things that I was discovering that I had no idea were going on. Like the famine and war in Yemen. The mistreatment of indigenous communities in my own country (Canada), which was really eye-opening because I didn’t realize how grave the situation was.
So, as the world started progressing, and things were being uncovered, I wanted to find a charity that would help out all those little pockets of issues in hopes to fix them, and in hopes to be as progressive as possible. Save the Children is great with that because they have so many emergency funds for those specific communities across 117 countries, which is great. And I feel like, getting to the root of the situation, which is children, is going to be so beneficial for our future. Because those are the future leaders. It’s important that those kids are protected and rightfully equipped to be the future leaders and hold the torch that us adults are holding now.
Have you been writing and reflecting on what’s going on, in terms of your upcoming music?
All this stuff has been so at the forefront, that it’s almost impossible to not incorporate it in some way into my music. So, it’s definitely there. I mean, all I have is my own perspective, really. So, I’m writing definitely from an introspective place. All of that stuff is definitely making an impact on what I write about, but also just the way that I write. You know, it’s just been a really reflective year so far. So, it’s like I said, almost impossible to not talk about those things.
In addition to the Cara interview, Pop Shop hosts Jason and Keith down Taylor Swift’s big debut on the charts with her surprise album Folklore and its single “Cardigan.” Plus, how the left-of-center project (which sees pop superstar Swift collaborating with alt-rock acts like Bon Iver and The National’s Aaron Dessner) perhaps brought new fans to the fold. In addition, the team discusses how Folklore could factor into the race for album of the year at the upcoming Grammy Awards.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard’s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard’s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and senior director, music, Jason Lipshutz every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)