Once alone, but never again, Alyssa Reid journeys to the top, now with a legion of fans behind her.
When I pop the Alyssa Reid CD into the stereo of my car for a first listen, I am immediately struck by the first song, “Letting Go.” It’s short and simple—Alyssa’s soulful voice accompanied by the piano—but beautiful in the way that it connects to my emotion. I am suddenly brought back to a particular time of heartache in my life and the painful attempt to move past it. There are literal chills down my arms. And I’m not the only one.
“The songs I wrote myself people relate to the most,” says Alyssa, as she remembers writing this powerful ballad in her bedroom. “I thought that the dance songs were going to be the biggest songs on the album. I was surprised that the other songs got such a huge reaction.”
Of course, this isn’t the only single for which she’s getting positive responses. “Alone Again” featuring P. Reign—the lead single from her album The Game, which is a fresh take on the hit single by Heart from the 1980s—quickly went platinum, with the video earning her some serious time at the number one spot on MuchMusic and a 2011 MMVA nomination for “Best Pop Video.”
But Alyssa’s journey into the spotlight began with some tough times growing up. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Alyssa’s family moved around a lot when she was younger and she had to continually get used to new towns, schools and people. “It was difficult because everyone had friends since kindergarten, and I had always wanted that—the stability and comfort of knowing that somebody knew me inside and out.” In one school she might be popular and then the next year, in a different place, she’d find herself completely alone. “It was difficult being the girl that no one knows but everyone’s talking about.”
Placed in a world that was ever-changing, Alyssa found solace in her music. “Music was the only constant for me. I’ve been singing since I was three,” she says. “I’ve had that everywhere that I went. Whether I was just singing at home in my bedroom, or if I did get the opportunity to perform for people, it was always that one thing that I had.”
So, Alyssa took comfort in knowing that music would be her constant, through all the ups and down. However, every artist needs inspiration and this rising star is no different.
In her album credits, Alyssa takes the time to shout out to her muse. Enter boy, stage left. But it’s not the classic, gushy romance you might assume. She writes, “I’d like to thank my ex boyfriend who inspired a lot of songs on this album. Thanks for being a typical guy, and giving me tons of writing ammo.”
One can only imagine the type of bad behaviour that comes with the label of a “typical guy”—check out the lyrics to the songs on her album if you’re not sure. And even though she still cares about him to this day, she didn’t want to be that girl that took him back in spite of all the pain he put her though. “If there’s a reason that they left your life, there’s definitely not a reason they should re-enter it,” Alyssa advises. “There’s someone better waiting out there and you can’t find them if you’re sitting in your bed, in your pyjamas, eating a tub ice cream watching The Notebook 500 times.”
When two of her closest high school friends departed—one heading to boarding school and the other choosing a different social group—Alyssa found herself all alone in dealing with the hurt and heartbreak of the fallen romance. “I spent a lot of my lunches in the music room, writing music,” she says of that specific year in high school. “During that time, I was going through a lot. I also lost my cousin, which was kind of the icing on the cake.” She decided to switch schools and begin again, with a fresh start.
The new beginning brought new friends, especially when she joined the school’s rugby team. Alyssa also started focussing again on her music. She was then discovered by Wax Records, who saw her YouTube video of the song she wrote, “One More Lonely Boy,” which was in response to “One Less Lonely Girl” by Justin Bieber. “I played a few songs for [the record label] and they signed me on the spot.”
But just because her path lead her to a sunny spot doesn’t mean that she forgot about the storms she’d just been through.“Some of my best writing comes from negative experiences,” she says, thinking back to how she used the breakup as artistic inspiration, which also helped her get over it. “Without that, I don’t think I would be the songwriter that I am right now. Then I would just be writing songs about rainbows and sprinkles. And that’s not real.”
And Alyssa is about as real as it gets. Though she’s currently on tour and getting more and more buzz in the media, she still takes the time to have heart-to-heart conversations with her fans. “What makes my songs relatable is that I actually am a person who does not have this perfect life,” she says. “I’m very honest with people [because] I’m not trying to be some sugar-coated pop-star and I think that I present that best way that I can.”
On days off, Alyssa enjoys hanging out at the beach with her best friend (who came back from boarding school and is now a positive constant in her life) and, until very recently, dominated on the field in rugby games. “My dad was in the CFL, and it was the closest thing to football,” she says. “I fell in love with it.”
Though her management team wasn’t thrilled about the risks of the sport, Alyssa insisted she continue playing while pursuing music. “I had a tournament two weeks before I went on tour. I got kneed in the face and had a bruise about the size of an orange on my chin and my neck. I had to cover it with makeup.”
That’s one tough chica. On and off the rugby field, Alyssa shows the world her strength as she rises to the challenge in front of her. Whether it’s suffering through bruises from the opposing team for the win, swallowing nerves in order to perform live in front of a huge crowd or drying tears and moving on after a difficult breakup, she chooses to embrace each hard time as a chance to learn.
“We just have to take experiences for what they are,” she says. “Be thankful for everything that you’ve gone through and know that you made it out stronger.”
Alyssa takes our Faze staff quiz!
(we made her an honourary team member for the day)
Fave mag (other than Faze)? Cosmo Girl (online)—for my horoscopes and for the embarrassing stories.
Whaddya do in your spare time? I love reading. I like to teach myself new things. Recently I’ve been attempting to teach myself how to make jewellery.
If you came across a magic lamp, what would your three wishes be?That my music could take over the world. I’d wish for a year’s supply of Reese Cups. Are you allowed to wish for more wishes? No, okay then I’d wish for a magical finger that could grant me any wish that I wanted. [laughs]
If you won a million dollars today, what would you do with the money? I think I’d take care of my family’s mortgage and then donate the rest of Leukemia and Lymphoma on behalf of my cousin—he actually passed away because of it.
If you could trade places with anyone (famous or not), who would you pick and why? Lady Gaga—I don’t even think that needs explanation. It would just be so cool to walk down the street in the most eccentric outfit you could possibly ever conjure up in your mind.
Worst thing you’ve ever eaten? In grade three, someone convinced me eat a carrot wrapped in a fruit roll-up.
Dream vacation? I would love to go to Fiji and just eat coconuts.
Strangest thing you’ve ever seen? One time in Toronto, I saw this guy dressed up in a Santa Suit, but no shirt, in the middle of winter, doing push-ups on the ground.
***Alyssa had spotted Zanta: a street entertainer who travels around Toronto doing push-ups and shouting “yes yes yes” and “Merry Christmess” with nothing but shorts, boots and a Santa hat—even in the winter.
What’s your #1 phobia? Spiders. They have eight creepy legs and they run so fast.
Alyssa’s top 10 breakup songs:
1) Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy
2) Forget You – Cee Lo Green
3) You Lost Me – Christina Aguilera
4) I Don’t Need A Man – PCD
5) You And I – Lady Gaga
6) Burned – Alyssa Reid
7) Brand New Chick – Anjulie
8) Irreplaceable – Beyonce
9) Best Thing I Never Had – Beyonce
10) Lost – Jesse Labelle