People use the “M” word a lot when it comes to sophomore albums, but in Alyssa Reid’s case Time Bomb is a more mature musical venture than her breakthrough pop debut, 2011’s The Game, which yielded the million-selling global single “Alone Again” and the gold-certified title-track featuring Snoop Dogg.
Going from age 16 to 20 will do that to you (usually). But make those four years a wild and wacky work schedule most teenage singer-songwriters would only dream about — including touring internationally with One Direction and performing on the Juno Awards as a nominee — and that is the Alyssa Reid we meet now.
“My first album I was very green at this. I was just entering the industry and ‘Alone Again’ had taken off before I was really prepared for it,” says the Edmonton-born, Toronto-based musician, who turns 21 on March 15. “So with the second album, I was more equipped for it and I had time to hone my writing skills. This album is more personal to me and I was able to have more of a hand in what I wanted creatively because I knew what I was going for this time around. Whereas before I was just trying to write good songs, I had a direction on this one.”
That direction includes the urban-pop single “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” already a Top 10 pop hit in Canada; the alluring bad-boy swagger “Clyde;” tough ‘n’ sweet “See Me;” upbeat and fun “Hurricane” (inc. a rap from Alyssa); big bright pumping “Running Guns;” plus some simply gorgeous ballads, “Radio Silence,” “Change Your Mind,” “Last Chance” (feat. JRDN), “Time Bomb,” “Let It All Go” and “Gravity.”
Alyssa wrote or co-wrote every song on Time Bomb, collaborating with such noted producer/songwriters as Billy Steinberg (Madonna, Heart, co-writer on “Alone Again”), Josh Alexander (Demi Lovato, Leona Lewis), Thomas “Tawgs” Salter (Walk off the Earth, Lights), as well as Jamie Appleby, the co-founder of Wax Records, who signed her in 2010 after seeing her cover Justin Bieber on YouTube. But the song that kicked off the writing process Alyssa wrote by herself after a sleepless night and it ended up the title of the album, as well.
“I was up at 5 a.m. and I had a lot on my mind so I just started making jot notes,” remembers Alyssa. “I allowed myself to go to sleep and in the morning I woke up and ran down to the piano and I started playing and writing and that was the very first song for this album. I’m really happy that we got to name the album after the song because it’s very personal to me and it’s 100 percent Alyssa.
“It’s about a relationship that I was going through. There was a lot of arguing and I guess one night I put that on myself. I tend to nitpick every little thing and because I’m a songwriter I’m very emotional and I have this need to dissect everything, instead of looking at the big picture. I was really blaming myself for it, so what ‘Time Bomb’ is about for me is how I was burning that relationship to the ground.”
Alyssa finds it easier to write those kind of emotional songs, the ballads, and “Radio Silence,” another destined single, was inspired by the passing of her teenage cousin Gregory who had leukemia. “When I first started writing the lyrics for that song, it was about how I still feel his presence, especially when I’m feeling in a dark place and I’m feeling very lonely,” she says, “but as the song was developing, I broadened it out to not only be about somebody being near you, but being in a situation where the silence is deafening and you’re feeling scared and by yourself.”
“Clyde,” more a fantasy song which includes the line “we came from the bottom but we live at the top,” was produced by The Dream Machine (whose Kevin Figgs produced for Jesse J and Mike Posner). Alyssa wrote the melody and lyrics to the track with Jamie Appleby and The Midway State’s Nathan Ferraro. “I love that song because I find it very badass and it’s different than everything else on the album,” she says. “It’s more edgy and it has a cool subject. It kind of follows the story of Bonnie and Cyde, how they live a very dangerous relationship and they’re getting into trouble together, having fun and misbehaving.”
“See Me,” a standout on Time Bomb and Alyssa’s current favourite, is more responsible and is a perfect example of her mature side. “The subject matter is very important,” she says. “I think with today’s music, everyone’s just making beats that people want to dance to in clubs and just want to party to and I think that a lot of the time the song is compromised because of that. But what I like about ‘See Me’ is it’s got a cool vibe, but it represents something that’s real. It’s not just a stupid song about getting drunk and dancing. It’s vulnerable. It’s about people not feeling good enough and feeling they need to change themselves and be something they’re not to please other people. I think that’s a very important topic.”
Alyssa, who outside of her music commitments is an ambassador for Plan Canada’s Because I Am A Girl campaign and a supporter of Kids Help Phone and MusiCounts, has been giving quite a lot of thought lately to her role in the public eye and what motivates her to pursue this unusual career path.
“What’s inspiring me to write music and what’s inspiring me to keep doing this every single day is that I have the ability to send out a lot of very powerful messages and I’ve been trying my best to do that through my music and through my social media. I have a responsibility — and I don’t want to make myself out to have a Disney cookie cutter pop image because that’s 100 percent not me; I’m not perfect — but I want to encourage people to be themselves and to try new things and to love themselves and to love other people and to take risks.”