The pint-sized Canadian pop star has long graduated from mega-hit ‘Call Me Maybe’, and now Carly Rae Jepsen talks Jane Casey about her finely polished gem of a pop album, E•MO•TION.
In 2012, instant ear-worm single Call Me Maybe became an overnight success despite it knocking around Canadian radio since the year before and failing to pick up much traction.
The catalyst for her shot to stardom? A money-can’t-buy endorsement from the machine that is Justin Bieber and his brat pack of then-teen stars.
After hearing the song on Canadian radio, Bieber and his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez tweeted about the single and even made a perfectly shareable webcam video of them and their buddies goofing off an lip syncing to the song.
About one hundred million views later, Jepsen was snapped up by Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun and groomed for stardom.
But when your first single becomes the best selling record of the year and one of the best of all time – does she feel the pressure to deliver a follow up to match Call Me Maybe‘s success?
“I think in the beginning I did, yeah,” Carly tells me from her hotel in Toronto. Today she performed at Canadian youth event WeDay, and is finishing interviews before getting to “cushion up” in her hotel with Netflix and ramen noodles for the night.
“After my last album Kiss, with Call Me Maybe, I wanted to take time to figure out what I wanted to do next.
“I have a couple of great people around me that share my love of pop music. They are always telling me ‘you don’t have anything to prove, it’s just about trying to make something that you love’, and they’re totally right,” she explains. “I am so lucky to have stage on which I get to share that – and it’s a gift. If I just keep writing and don’t let the pressure get to you, it will come. 200 songs later…”
“200?” I gasp, wondering how she managed to whittle it down to just 12 pop tracks. From the second Jepsen starts recalling her writing process, it’s so clear her despite her bubblegum image and sound, that she is certainly no manufactured singing puppet. She’s sweet, and seems pretty excited that she was asked about the album production – clearly something that she helmed and poured her heart into.
“Yeah! I just kept writing and writing and writing hoping that it would somehow lead to something – and it did. It allowed me to experiment. That sometimes lead to dead ends of course, and I’d have to find my footing again.”
She continues, “I met a lot of amazing people that were into collaborating…” She’s humble and grounded and doesn’t drop names, but with artists and producers like Sia, Ariel Rechtshaid (HAIM, Vampire Weekend), Shellback (Taylor Swift) and Dev Hynes (Solange, FKA Twigs), I have to pry.
She recalls how two of her main collaborators came on board. “I knew I wanted to make something unique. So I just sat down with my A&R guy, and we made a list of all the music we love and that inspired us.”
Her love of the Solange EP True lead her to invite producer Dev Hynes on board, while HAIM’s debut album Days Are Gone prompted her to ask Ariel Rechtshaid.
“We really wanted that 80’s pop sound. It was so much fun to work with them.”
The resulting E•MO•TION is nothing short of a perfect pop album, with Rolling Stone calling it a “a pop master class” and Vulture claiming that it was even better than Taylor Swift’s triumphant return to music, 1989.
“I really wasn’t expecting such a response. I didn’t have any expectations for it actually, I wanted to make it just for the love of making pop music and write songs that I like.”
She also had a big role in the production of her video for lead single I Really Like You, a bubblegum banger that is more reminiscent of Call Me Maybe, but stands out of the album like a sore thumb.
The video stars, randomly, Tom Hanks – a move by Hanks which led the internet to let out a collective ‘WTF?’.
“It was a WTF moment for me too,” she laughs. “I really loved the song. But I knew that if I was going to release it as a video, I want it to be something tongue-in-cheek and not like, a sweet love story narrative.
“We thought that it would be really funny to get a very famous actor to like, lip sync the words.”
“So we began the hunt with a few people in mind, and so it happens my manager Scooter Braun was having dinner with his buddy, Tom Hanks. He told Tom the idea and he was totally on board – I couldn’t believe my luck!”
Despite her intense music schedule, Jepsen has been involved in other projects – most notably taking on the role of Frenchy in the TV revival of Grease, but is there any other aspects of showbiz that she’d want to dive into?
“Songwriting is definitely the number one thing for me – always has and always will be. It’s not so much a need to sing, but a need write music.”
Jepsen’s passion and drive is evident from the get go, and with her stellar new album, she is certainly going stick around for the long haul – proving that Call Me Maybe was no accident.
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