“I can remember the night I actually signed the contract with Justin and Scooter, to SchoolBoy Records. It felt like my childhood dream had somehow come true. At this point, we didn’t have enough money, the band boys and me, to have our own hotel room, so we were all sleeping on the couches and the pull–out couches of the hotel, and the only way to get privacy was to go for a walk or visit the hotel swimming pool, and that’s what I did. I went to the hotel swimming pool, and nobody was there, and I did a running cannon ball into the pool, and I screamed underwater, and it was the first moment I let myself really feel the excitement of all that was happening… I think that we all equally deserve to go after our dreams. We get one life, and we should do it.” Canadian-born pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen has truly lived by these words and the result for her has been a rise to fame that resembles the stuff of fairy tales. Her break out single, “Call Me Maybe” got noticed by fellow Canadian Justin Bieber one afternoon while he was taking a road trip with then girlfriend, Selena Gomez. Jepsen signed with Bieber’s manager Scooter and the rest of her ever-expanding success is owed to no one but the girl herself. “Call Me Maybe” has climbed to No. 1 on the iTunes Singles charts in over forty-seven countries and has sold over 17 million singles worldwide. It earned her nominations at the 2012 Grammys for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year.
As a young student, Carly Rae Jepsen was possessed of multiple talents, and was supported by her high school drama teacher who believed in her, and suggested Jepsen audition for Canadian Idol. She was hesitant at first. Jepsen explains, “It kind of changed the way of my thinking of the world of music and the business of it. I was actually was really skeptical about that show before I auditioned for it. I just felt like, ‘Ah, a reality television show and music, I don’t know if that mixes well with what I’m after.’ But it was my high school drama teacher, Beverly Holmes, who told me I wasn’t allowed to be a snob about things.” Jepsen admits that at the time she’d try anything just to see how far her dreams could go. “[My teacher] was like, ‘You’re not in a place where you can be picking and choosing. You’re in a place where you have got to knock on every door and see what opens for you, and if this works, you’ve got to be excited about it.”
Taking her mentor’s advice, Jepsen knocked on that door, and pursued the audition for Canadian Idol. By the final round she placed third. “Coming third was sort of a gift, because I got all the exposure and none of the contracts. It allowed me to run with my own projects afterwards.” That she did with gusto. Carly Rae Jepsen not only won us over with her ultimate catchy tune “Call Me Maybe,” but she broke through into theater, landing the iconic role of Cinderella in its 2014 Broadway run. “I actually got into the Canadian College of Performing Arts right after high school, and spent a year training there. It was the same year I grabbed a guitar and started to learn how to write songs. So I ended up taking a left turn, but my initial, original dream had been pining for Broadway. So it’s kind of amazing and crazy to me that full circle, later on in life, I got the opportunity to audition for Cinderella, because that was just another bucket list thing of mine. I didn’t really know if it made sense for my artistic career, but I just knew that I couldn’t not do it. Sometimes you just have got to make decisions, because you know, if you don’t you’re going to regret it.”
While some initially speculated “Call Me Maybe” was so gloriously catchy that her career was destined for a spot in the metaphorical one hit wonder hall of fame, she followed up this March with her equally adorable singles, “I Really Like You” and “Run Away with Me.” Her third studio album, E·MO·TION (stylized in its phonetic spelling) came out this past August. “There is a lot about love, but I think if you listen to the whole album, it’s not just about love and chaos. It’s also about my experience of moving to LA, and at times, just different personal insecurities. I get really inspired by lyrics. And when I’m listening to people talk, in conversations at dinner parties, or over a glass of wine with friends, I’m really triggered by sentences or just words that stand out to me. I’m that annoying friend who, mid-conversation will be pulling out her phone to write something down, because I like the way it sounds.”
Following suit with this method of writing, Jepsen even gets her friends and family involved in her creative process as a way of testing the waters of what may or may not work. “We’d have listening parties where we would have dinner and wine and people would debate in front of me. It was really nice. It felt like a group selection process.”
Carly Rae Jepsen’s prolific work pace has resulted in hundreds of unreleased tracks that have been set to the side. “I would say I have a pretty intense work ethic when it comes to writing music. If not, I probably wouldn’t have written so many songs for this album. I think by the time it was ready, I had about 200 different songs… I have future dreams and projects of putting out other little mix-tapes of some of the songs I really loved, but that didn’t really fit the album.”
As far as women’s rights go, she sees the issues at hand similarly to the way many young millennial women do. “I like the way of going at it that it isn’t just a fight for women, but a fight for men, too. Something that we should all be aware of. Girl power, women power, for me, is just not letting anyone get in the way of what you want.”
For all her success as a pop star, it’s easy to forget that while she knows how to sing a gloriously catchy tune, at the core she’s a songwriter first. “Sometimes you do have a pop star that wants to write their own songs, so that’s been a big fight for me, because I don’t think it’s the normal thing, but it’s my passion, and if I am in this, it’s to write them, and not just sing them.” Her third album, E·MO·TION, is a 12-track album showcasing her growth as an artist. When Jepsen’s not using her status to infiltrate our minds with the catchy chorus of the next summer anthem, she’s using her considerable clout to address issues that matter to her, like fighting for LGBT rights, which she has valued for as long as she can remember. “That has always one of those personal hit home things for me, because one of my best friends, Brandon, he came from a family of adoption, and he came out being gay really early on in life, and had a really hard experience with his family accepting that. And I think maybe for some reason, I came from a place where that wasn’t really an issue, and it was a little shocking to realize that it still is in some places. It makes me angry. So, I think anytime we can make a stand for that, me and the band boys, we do.”
With that said, Jepsen left us with some lighter words of wisdom. “Find out what it is that’s different about you that you have to offer that nobody else has, and hone in on that, because that’s what’s going to bring you the furthest, your uniqueness, versus blending in.” Then she laughs. “My mom is one of the most hilarious characters I’ve ever met in my life, and her quote that I love is, ‘If you can’t be good, be the least bad that you can be.’”
Catch Carly Rae Jepsen on tour this fall in support of E·MO·TION, with dates kicking off on November 9th in Washington DC and stops in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, among many others to be announced.
Carly Rae Jepsen photographed in Los Angeles by Pamela Littky for The Untitled Magazine
Interview by Indira Cesarine & The Untitled Magazine
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