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In the Spotlight with Alyssa Rubino

"I’m gonna dance all night and let my soul be free”, Alyssa Rubino belts out in her latest single, “Keep On Dancing”. The catchy, electro pop track opens with an upbeat chorus preceded by a trademark “Girl Wonder” echo, and followed by a series of intricate melodies and runs.

Since its Feb. 1 release, the single has taken the world by storm, debuting with major airplay on Top 40 and Rhythmic radio stations, and slowly inching toward Billboard’s Dance/Club Play and Digital Song charts. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all, however, is Rubino’s ability to captivate audiences at the prime age of 12.

The tween Canadian singer is the latest protégé to gain the industry’s recognition, following a slew of other Canadian artists including Avril Lavigne, Drake, and Justin Bieber. Though only 12, the “girl wonder” shows promise in advancing as the next teen pop sensation, having already caught the attention of Billboard and Sirius XM.

“She’s #1 as of today on XM Sirius, where they’re playing the single 8 to 10 times a day,” says manager Joseph Fisher. “She has more spins on XM Sirius than Britney Spears. It’s all happened very organically-- we put out the record and just wanted to see [where it goes]. We didn’t want to force it down anybody’s throat. It’s just become this whole wave. Billboard has really supported us with this project, and the publisher and the editors are really happy with Alyssa and want to be a part of her future success. This is the beginning of Alyssa for bigger things to come in the future.”

Rubino’s past experience in music largely contributes to her current success. At 5 years old, Rubino began taking vocal lessons and studying music. By the time she reached 10, she had decided to pursue singing professionally. “Around 10 years old when we started going to recording studios, I realized that I actually wanted to do this,” she says.

Producer and father, Danny Rubino recounts, “I found that as she was growing, from 2 years old, she started grabbing toy microphones. I let it go to see if it was just for fun or if she really had the aspiration to do it. Around 4-5, she started singing songs and doing little things with us in the studio. Then we put her into lessons and saw her evolving. Her voice became better and better, and when she started going to vocal classes, [instructors] always pulled me aside and said ‘She’s got this special voice—it’s really full and clear’. Basically, I left it up to her to decide what she wanted to do, and I remember that she started saying ‘Let’s hit the studio’ and ‘I want to work on something’, so we started creating her sound. When I was working production for some other artists, the labels asked me to play it and I did. They really loved it. They said ‘I think you’ve got something really great here,’ and that’s what made me think about starting to pursue this in a different way and we started working.”

Rubino credits the support of her musically-inclined father as a key element in her success. “My dad has been in the industry for the past 20 years,” she comments. “He’s always been musically involved. I was always around him as a little kid while he was playing guitar and piano, writing music, and producing. I was with him and I saw how cool it was. He pushed me to do better and he helped me by encouraging me to never give up and to keep going.”

That encouragement eventually led to the release of two singles, “Wave Your Hands” and “Keep On Dancing”, from a soon-to-be released debut album, “Every Girl’s World”. The record will feature additional dance-pop songs and is slated for release in April or May, while work for her first music video is expected to begin in March.

Rubino admits that the album is heavily influenced from the artists she looks up to. “I look up to Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, Ke$ha, and Mariah Carey, because I feel that they all have great talents. They each have something to offer and that inspires me,” she comments.

“I’d definitely like to do a duet with Justin Bieber, but I’d love to work with Selena Gomez as well. I love her songs and she seems like a sweet person,” Rubino says of her future goals.

The young singer’s aspirations of performing with Bieber were nearly fulfilled in 2009, after being booked as his opening act at Toronto’s Koolhaus. However, Rubino was forced to cancel after being stricken with health concerns. “I was prepared for a long time before the concert and everything was ready, but a couple of days before, I got really, really sick. I tried to fight it but I couldn’t go,” she recalls.

It’s no surprise that Bieber plays such an influential role in her life, as they share much in common. Apart from their early-age interest in the music industry, both singers juggle a busy lifestyle which consists of attending school by day and the studio by night. The Woodbridge, Toronto native claims that she maintains a balanced routine by staying focused both in and out of school. “During class time, I try not to get distracted. I just focus on my learning and finish all my homework there, so I can finish all the afterschool things [later],” the singer comments.

Between her education and her singing career, Rubino also finds time to give back to her community through participating in an anti-bullying campaign with her school. “[Alyssa] speaks to the kids and discusses the issues of bullying, along with different commentators and speakers,” her father notes. “This way, it gives her a chance to reach out to an audience of her age and let them know exactly what she’s facing everyday at school and what she’s gone through.”

Throughout the campaigns, Rubino expresses her concern toward bullying and provides support to young victims. “It’s unbelievable how much bullying goes on in schools and all around the world. People don’t have the right to hurt other people because everyone has a personality and they have to appreciate each other for who they are,” she says.

From recording and performing to attending classes and campaigning with her school, Rubino’s life proves a whirlwind of non-stop activity. The singer recently performed for an audience of 10,000 at Toronto’s annual Youth Day Festival, and was featured on the cover of Billboard Magazine on the first week of February. While one may expect a 12 year old to grow overwhelmed of the rising hype, the singer admits that she’s enjoying every moment of it.

“I’m very blessed and happy that I have the opportunity to do this. I never let it get to my head and I try to stay as grounded as possible.”

Credits: Alyssa Rubino, Danny Rubino, Joseph Fisher

© Veronika Tacheva, 2010. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.

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