At age 26, Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen has turned heads by storming the U.S. pop charts with her indelible hit single “Call Me Maybe,” which recently celebrated its second week at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Produced by Josh Ramsay and written by Jepsen and Tavish Crowe, “Call Me Maybe” began its stateside ascent when Justin Bieber posted a shout-out to the song on Twitter, which lead to a label deal with Schoolboy Records, the U.S. label headed by Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. With all the pieces in place, Jepsen has quickly become a household name — and that’s before her sophomore album comes out in September and her massive North American tour with Bieber kicks off this fall.
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For Billboard’s latest cover story, Jepsen chatted about her rapid rise to the top, Justin Bieber’s influence, her next album and writing with LMFAO. Check out the full, online-exclusive Carly Rae Jepsen Q&A below, and for the revealing “Call Me Maybe” story, read an excerpt of the Carly Rae cover story here .
Billboard: What’s been the most surprising moment of this whole “Call Me Maybe” ride – something that’s taken your breath away?
Carly Rae Jepsen: Pretty much everyday, there’s a moment where I’m having to pinch myself and think, “When did this happen to my life?” I think Mexico City [on June 11] was a pretty huge concert. There were something like 300,000 people there and I’d never been to Mexico City before, and right in the middle when I got breathless-and it takes a lot for me to get really scared lately — but this did it. I got really nervous and kind of lost my breath. The entire crowd, 300,000 people, started singing the song back to me, which was actually insane.
You recorded “Call Me Maybe” over a year ago. Did you have any idea at the time that you made it that it was something special?
I mean, it’s hard to tell. There’s always a special feeling I have while writing any song. I know with this particular one, it happened the way a lot of songs happen, with just Tavish [Crowe] and me on the road together, with an acoustic guitar. I would sing out ideas and he would play off some chords. Actually, the chorus lyrics came out really easily — the entire thing: [singing] “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy.” We thought it was a nice little pre-chorus or something. We brought the idea to Josh and he was like, “That’s your chorus right there, keep that, that’s it.” After a little while of production and just working together we had the song done. It was really easy to write.
Obviously the song took on a whole new life when Justin Bieber tweeted out his admiration last December. Were you a fan of his?
Yeah, he’s a lovable guy and his music is amazing. I’m especially into his new record [“Believe”], which just came out. I know my sister is dying, because she’s also kind of a mega-fan. It was very out-of-the-blue to get some attention from him.
Once that happened, it accelerated the song’s growth, especially in the U.S. You’ve been doing this for five or six years now — what was that like seeing “Call Me Maybe” grow at such a rapid pace after taking years to develop as a singer-songwriter?
I remember feeling the growing pains in Canada, but I really wanted it to be like this. I feel like I’ve gotten to go through the awkward years in my hometown and in my country, in Canada, and to take the time to develop the artist that I am, the music that I want to be putting out there. In a way, I felt like the timing couldn’t have been better — right when I’d come to this peak of honing it in and having all of the experiments that succeeded and failed. It was nice to feel confident in what I was doing and feel like I really liked it. And to have someone like Justin, and of course Scooter [Braun], come along and say, “What you’re doing, we don’t want you to change it, we just want to share it in a bigger way,” it was just really cool.
The “Call Me Maybe” phenomenon has had such a viral presence, in covers and YouTube clips, with everyone from Katy Perry to Colin Powell riffing on it.
I think definitely it’s played a huge factor. I remember after Justin’s tweet, getting online videos from some girls in Germany. I remember just thinking, “This is crazy. I’ve never been to Germany!”
Do you have a personal favorite viral video?
There’s been some pretty crazy ones… but I think there’s always going to be something special about what Justin and Selena and Ashley Tisdale and the guys from Big Time Rush did. I remember watching it thinking, “That guy looks a lot like Justin Bieber. Wait a second… that is Justin Bieber! Holy crap!” And then that was the moment where I was like, “What is happening?” Literally it was like pressing the ‘Go’ button, and since then my life has literally changed in every way.
You’re recording your album now, and apparently it’s composed of stuff you worked on at the same time as “Call Me Maybe” and stuff that you are working on now. What can fans of “Call Me Maybe” expect?
Well it is hard to completely talk about it, because it’s not all the way done yet. It’s been a cool day today — I ran into RedFoo from LMFAO at the airport, and we’ve been writing a song together today. Over the phone.
What I really love about music is that, despite all this craziness the creative process remains the same. And that same exciting feeling I had before anybody knew me, when I was just beginning to work on “Call Me Maybe,” is the same feeling I had today with RedFoo from LMFAO. You can sense the people who really have it are about writing that right word or that right melody to make it lift and make you feel that perfect emotion. I’m enjoying writing this record. I have a song that happened while I was in Paris, and a song here today in L.A. [There are] definitely some oldies, and collaborations with Owl City and the song with Justin there, and some new ones with some amazing producers that I am lucky enough to be working with now — Dallas Austin, I’m working with Ryan Tedder next week. It’s going to be really cool to have this project done.
The new album is due out in September, which is when your arena tour with Justin Bieber kicks off. What’s your mindset going into these rehearsals? Is it a totally different experience?
It’s like playing dress up with better clothes. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s not that I didn’t have my dream show built in my head before all of this — it’s just that I never had the resources together to actually put it to life. I feel very giddy with the idea of making my imagination take form and being able to put on a show where people leave feeling like they’ve experienced something.
“Call Me Maybe” is a bigger hit than anyone could have guessed. Is that daunting at all? Is part of you scared to say, “I have to come up with the next act”?
No. It’s the same mentality that I had in “Canadian Idol.” I placed third on that show, and everyone was like, “Are you upset that you didn’t win?” I was like, “No, I’m so stoked that I came in third!” It’s farther than I thought I would go. And to have a Billboard No. 1 single in the U.S. is farther than I would have dreamed, and I don’t expect that I get six more of those. Now I have a great opportunity to put out more music, and that is all I could ever ask for. And if it goes well, it goes well, and if it doesn’t, I mean, I am still a very happy girl.