Canadian Entrepreneur Aliah Guerra Uses Her Skills to Create Access to Resources for Independent Artists

Photo by Nick Merzetti

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Special Edition 2022 – I Belong

Aliah Guerra is a Canadian-Trinidadian artist from Montreal, Quebec. Exposed to music at a young age, Aliah’s determination to hone her gift gave way to a multitude of creative avenues she would later venture into. In 2021, she released the “Aliah Guerra” app, a global platform dedicated to providing creative entrepreneurs access to the essential resources necessary to build. From there, she released several projects, including her most recent single, “Show Me.” She has been featured on CBC Montreal and has toured around the world. Aliah is a hustler and continues to use her art as a form of communication to bridge the gap between creatives in various industries. 

How did your musical journey begin? When did you start playing the guitar?
I’m a Neo-Soul Jazz artist from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Growing up, I was always in music programs and talent shows as a little kid in school. When I got older, my grandfather (who was also a musician) put my sisters and me into piano lessons. This gave me a more robust foundation when it came to understanding music. After a few years, my desire to learn how to play guitar kicked in. Soon after, I realized the guitar was my best friend. I fell in love with the instrument once I realized I could create music with the guitar and learn how to play jazz songs by Amy Winehouse and radio pop songs. I would practice for hours, simply trying to nail whatever piece I was obsessed with at the time. Eventually, I learned to play so many songs that my repertoire grew, and I gained a lot of good skills and confidence in playing the guitar.

Growing up in Canada, I am sure you had different experiences that have molded you into the boss you are today. Is a specific memory setting the tone for your approach to pursuing success? What was/is the foundation of “Aliah Guerra,” the brand and business?
When I was 19, I decided to go to the studio and record my first demo; I wanted to take a step into taking “this music thing” seriously. I used to think all it took was a phone call to an ex-Sony employee and friend, and all my dreams would come true. But the day I decided to take action was the day that every challenge and new hurdle presented itself. At one point, I dealt with lost recording files, attempts to steal my creations, and the exploitation of my talent. One day, I realized I was paying each person to work with me, like a CEO running a music company. At that moment, I realized that if I wanted a music career badly enough, I would have to push through every challenge like a boss and figure out a way to never give up on my goals. Choosing to run my business as an independent artist opened my eyes to a world of creative and entrepreneurial freedom. I finally felt like I could create the kind of music I wanted, travel where I wanted, and accomplish every goal I had been dreaming about. In retrospect, I’m constantly thanking my 19-year-old self for having that epiphany and consistently making the bold decision to never give up on my craft.

You have a lot of experience in the business side of the music industry in various countries. In your opinion, what are some of the most significant differences between music industry operations in the U.S. and Canada?
I have learned quite a bit from both the U.S and Canadian music industries. One of the first differences I’ve noticed is that in America, most artists (generally) come from a solid musical background rooted in church. Another big difference is that Canada is a younger country with a developing entertainment scene (compared to the states). Often, many Canadian artists are forced to venture outside of Canada for more significant opportunities, especially for R&B and soul; however, the U.S has a bigger market and audience for that niche.

Another difference is that when Canadians leave Canada to go to the United States, the standards are higher and more competitive if you want to “win” access to the opportunities and resources available. This makes it very expensive to constantly travel outside of our country to where most of the music and entertainment opportunities are. Regarding fundraising and grants for indie artists, there are more opportunities to receive grants in Canada. Still, I have experienced challenges with fundraising in the U.S. due to the high saturation of talented artists pursuing the same small pot of funding opportunities. In conclusion, getting creative with fundraising is essential to being independent, no matter where you are.

Now, you have toured throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Is there a favorite city you have visited that you want to revisit? And, what is a city/show you did not care for?
Los Angeles and Toronto have certainly been two of my favorite cities to perform in; people were so encouraging. Due to COVID, my European tour was canceled. Still, I am most excited to perform in London because of the fantastic support I received from my many Amy Winehouse covers on YouTube. I feel I will be at home the day I get to perform there. As for cities I have toured, I love New York, even though audiences can be challenging to engage during a set. But, once you get the crowd catching the vibe, it’s smooth sailing. I appreciate New York for its honesty and raw experiences.

You developed an app from scratch that was designed to be a directory for independent artists around the globe. How did you learn to create apps, and what inspired you to build one of your own?
During the pandemic, I watched many artists and businesses go digital. When my European tour was canceled, I became inspired to go digital too. At first, I didn’t know anything about app development. Still, after a significant amount of trial and error, mentorship, and various online courses from “YouTube University,” I figured out enough to build an app that would provide something valuable to independent artists such as myself. There was no designated plan on how I would accomplish this goal, but I took a visually creative approach to map out the arrangement for how this app would look. I wanted the app’s design to give artists the tools to become more efficient with the digital lifestyle we were all forced to adapt. To date, I have users worldwide connecting in ways I never thought my app would facilitate, but I am thankful for the final product and am excited to see how it continues to evolve.

As an independent artist, you know the struggles of building a music career from scratch. How does the “Aliah Guerra” app help independent artists, and what do you hope users get out of the app?
Coming up with the concept was difficult because there was no direct blueprint to follow. Before the pandemic (and even still today), one of the biggest questions I get is ‘’How do you balance creating music with entrepreneurship?” One of my immediate responses has been, “Your network is your net worth.” The people I have met over the years have all contributed to my success in some way or the other. I wanted to create a platform where I could not only share exclusive content but also provide something to fellow independent artists that find themselves stuck in the same “at-home” boat we all were/are in during the pandemic. Independent projects and collaboration became more feasible by having an app that links various global networks in a central place. That was the app’s primary goal: to provide access to viable partnerships with others around the world. 

What is one goal you have not yet hit on your journey thus far that you seek to achieve within the next five years?
Now that COVID looks like it might be ready to take a back seat and let the artist get back on the road, I would love to carry on with my Europe tour, play more shows in America and the Caribbean, and continue acting in film and TV projects. I also aspire to get endorsements from Bite Beauty and Gibson Guitars. Lastly, I’d like to attend a few major industry red carpet events. I’m confident in my strategy planning process, so I am hopeful these goals will be met in the future.

The pandemic interrupted many artists who planned to tour in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How (if at all) has the pandemic interrupted your journey? Discuss the art of pivoting amidst the world around us.
In hindsight, I can’t say the pandemic interrupted anything. Of course, I had a tour planned, but the pandemic gave me perspective, newfound clarity, and, most importantly, time. I was able to build an app and secure a lot of press that would propel me to my next stage. My biggest goal in business has been never to give up. As an entrepreneur, it is second nature for me to create new sources of income for my brand. Going from a canceled European tour to app development, modeling, and new music was merely a detour that has prepared me for this moment. 

What is a piece of advice that you would give to you a young entrepreneur seeking to start a career in music?
Never give up! Even if you have to do it alone, cry for a day, and figure it out later but don’t give up. Always try to pivot and challenge yourself to create a logical strategy to get back on track. If you try to put yourself in the best possible position to win, even when life presents you with challenges, you will find a way to elevate yourself to the next great opportunity.

Let’s talk about your upcoming single, “Show Me.” What inspired the song, and when is it set to release? Will there be a music video coming with it?
This female pop hit is a nostalgic summer jam inspired by old-school roller skating and ‘70s/’80s funky soul classics. I produced the entire song and got my inspiration from attending many boat parties and cookouts where all of the classic jams were on rotation. The song is now out, and the music video is up next. We wrapped filming in Toronto with my team of videographers and editors. What can you expect? Vibrant colors, rollerskating, and summer vibes will get you grooving. 

What upcoming projects are you working on? What can we expect from Aliah Guerra this 2022?
I worked on the hit song “Another Tear” during the pandemic by Guitar Gabby & The TxLips Band. The song was placed in a new Jordan Peele x Netflix show called Wendell & Wild, coming out this October 2022, so we are excited for the master re-release of that song that will be out with the show. Additionally, I was most recently selected to join the Honey Jam collective, a non-profit collective dedicated to providing access to resources and media platforms for Canadian female artists. I’m excited about the opportunities that will come from these fantastic projects!