Arts & EventsCanadian Pop Star Stays Grounded Despite The Hype

Canadian Pop Star Stays Grounded Despite The Hype

Canadian Pop Star Stays Grounded Despite The Hype

In last Saturday’s blistering heat, it was a struggle for Alyssa Reid to remain on stage during her afternoon performance at Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest. The sun pounded directly down on the up-and-coming 18 year-old singer throughout her entire set, leaving her dizzy and nauseous as she powered through her R&B songs – desperate to make it to the end of her show. The crowd was oblivious to her discomfort, because vocally she was entirely on par, but the young Canadian pop star crumpled into a heat-stricken ball when she left the stage. Looking back on the unpleasant show, the resilient teenager shakes it off – like she has to do with so many of the obstacles a rising young star faces.

“It’s better that I pushed through the set and got heat stroke, instead of collapsing on stage,” says Reid, in a postponed phone interview. “I just felt bad I couldn’t communicate with my fans why I wasn’t all there.”

This kind of level-headed commentary is expected from the hard-working star after only a few minutes of speaking with her. I’m talking to her on her “day off,” a phrase she’s used few and far between in 2011, now that her hit pop single “Alone Again” earned her a MuchMusic Video Award nomination in a category alongside her Canadian pop star peers and recently went platinum. On the Brampton-native’s day off, she isn’t packing theatres, rushing to a venue or being hooked up to festival sound checks. She’s relaxing by the pool with her best friend – who laughs at Alyssa as she picks up the phone to intermittently answer interviewers like myself.  “I need people like her, who know the Alyssa they grew up with,” she chuckles. “I need at least one person in my life who doesn’t take me seriously.”

This is an understandable sentiment when as a young woman – born in only 1993 – Alyssa is being taken extremely seriously on her road to success. Only in February was the tall brunette listed at #1 on Billboard’s Canadian Emerging Artist chart. What she calls “catching up” to the unexpected success of her pop single “Alone Again” (that samples the chorus from Heart’s 1983 song “Alone”) – is really a juggle that involves non-stop touring, the top spot on video countdowns, a new band and sacrificing some of the ease of being a regular 18 year-old.

“I work really hard, which sometimes people don’t get,” the YouTube-discovered singer says plainly. “Because it’s so easy for younger artists to become a product of their label, people are surprised at how busy and involved I am with every single part of the process.”

The vocally impressive teen introduced several songs at Bluesfest as ones that she wrote herself, alone in her bedroom; songs that she says are easily some of her favourites on The Game, her June release. On numbers like “Letting Go” and “Burned”, Reid explores some of the first heartbreak she suffered in her young years. Despite potential speculation about her age and experiences, the singer reveals she writes more emotionally when she’s upset, and whether or not people like it – she’s had a boyfriend and knows “the drill.” Plain and simple.

As for her outstanding acrobatic vocals, those come from an unexplained place.  There’s no cited family member with a strong musical background, so it can’t be known what prompted Reid to enter her first vocal group as a three year-old tot – or what now allows such an extraordinary sound to blast from her pipes at the drop of a hat.

“I definitely stuck to the script when I was young,” she admits. “But then I started to pick techniques I liked from other artists and incorporate them all into one particular singing style. Believe it or not, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of scream-punk and have even started changing my voice to be raspier. I love that.”

So, can we expect to see the fresh-faced Reid growling on stage and head-banging on her next release, imitating her new favourite band Escape the Fate? Not quite. Growing up on jazz and blues has gifted her with extremely flexible vocal chords; a style that works well with catchy pop and soul, and therefore works well for her. “I’d like to stay within those genres for now because it’s so close to home for me. I love rocking out in the car to punk, but not necessarily on stage."

But surely she doesn’t intend on sticking in one genre forever. The use of both hip-hopper P. Reign’s rhymes and famed female-rocker Heart’s words on “Alone Again” have to mean that she’s at least a little curious about other genres, and what would happen if she explored them.

“Well, to be honest, I would maybe want to try rapping someday,” she laughs honestly. “It would either be an absolute disaster or it would be great. I could be like the white Nicki Minaj, who knows!”

While acknowledging she might need to wear some “spanks” (translation: what young people call spandex) or find herself a “bum cushion” to pull off this voluptuous Minaj-credited look, Reid is open to anything – as long as she’s in control and still having fun doing what she loves. For now, future plans involve sticking to music as a career, riding this wave as long as she can, and staying right where she is musically.

Although to us it sounds like staying put might be a little difficult for a skyrocketing star, to her it’s more of a figurative plan. We would assume it would be quite the feat as a recognizable jet-setting teen to stay in one mind-set; but for Reid, who knows who she is at heart, certainly knows “the drill” and her dreams – she can undoubtedly pull it off.

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