Carly Rae Jepsen was an unknown name until 2012, when Justin Bieber uploaded a YouTube video of himself and a gang of friends, including Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale, dancing to an infectious pop song called “Call Me Maybe.” Now, she’s worked with Tom Hanks, performed on SNL and just released her third studio album, E•MO•TION, an ’80s-vibing piece of pop perfection that’s been almost universally lauded by critics. We caught up with Jepsen before her stop in town for a gig at the Paradise Rock Club on Nov. 10.
No, the whole thing was a complete shock to me. The first time he posted the video, I had to call my sister Katie—I was in such a state of “No!” and was like “Can you just go on my Facebook? Someone linked me in a video and he looks so much like Justin Bieber, but I don’t know. It couldn’t be him; that’s crazy.” And she called me back, and she was hysterical. And I was like “OK, I guess that means yes. Holy shit.”
No! The idea was just so crazy to me. I’d never met him before; I was obviously aware of who he was, but it was a complete shock. A couple weeks after that, Katy Perry put one out, and then James Franco, and they just started coming in more and more. And the exciting thing for me, always wanting to kind of break out of Canada, was that they were coming from different countries. And it was like “Oh my gosh!” It was really strange, but incredible.
I moved to LA kind of during the height of that song, and I remember signing contracts and getting things ready for the album, and driving around LA for the first time and it was just always playing. It was almost too intense to even take in properly. Now, in hindsight, I look back at that and it was just one of the greatest adventures in my life. Every day felt a little bit like a weird book or movie that I was in or something.
[Laughs] Well, it was funny because after “I Really Like You” came out, it kind of switched over. And then all the jokes changed from “Call me maybe!” to me being like “Oh, I really like this drink” and them being like “But do you really really really really really like it?” And I was like “All right—I made my bed!”
1989Oh, I think that’s crazy. I love that album. I don’t know that I would ever compare them. They seem ‘80s in their own right, but I think different kind of ‘80s. She’s just like a megastar—but that’s really sweet of them to say.
I collaborated with some people too, of course—a lot of people. It’s all friends, and people I truly love and would want you to meet for dinner. Just really great people. It was so much fun, I felt like I could have kept writing and writing and writing. They’d [the studio] be like, “I think you have enough material, I think you need to narrow it down now.” It was hard for me when I finally did turn in the album, because that bug of writing and wanting to create didn’t just go away. So still today I’m working on writing some things, and I don’t know exactly what they’re for, but it’s just kind of what I realize I do.
I got this kind of shy note from my publisher being like, “So, it’s 200 songs… [laughs] Can I have the rest?” And I was very back and forth with that. Because some of those songs I very much wrote in a moment. So I feel like there are some things that didn’t land right, they weren’t fitting where I was going with the sort of ’80s world kind of thing, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t love the song and won’t hold on to it for some later release. So I think there are like four or five that I need to rework and rewrite, but the rest of them I’m at a place where I’d be happy to see if someone else would take them.
It’s shocking even to me, to be honest. I think even on the day we went to film that, I was just feeling like “This isn’t really happening, is it? This is crazy.” The first little bug of inspiration came from reading a whole bunch of different treatments [for the video] and deciding, oh my gosh, it would be really fun, because the song is sort of sweet and on the lighter side, to have somebody really unexpected and quirky singing the song instead of me and make it a little sort of absurd. We had a whole list of people that we thought would suit the role … but nothing had been solidified yet, and then Scooter [my manager] went to dinner with Tom Hanks—he’s friends with him, if you could imagine that—and was talking to him about this concept. And then he told me, “Tom Hanks is in!”
He’s even nicer. My joke is that he’s like real-life Santa Claus. [Laughs.] Not really, but he’s just so giving, and he did this video for free and gave us all his time on the coldest day in New York that I’ve lived through and was just ready to do as many takes as we needed and was dancing around and into it. I love that he doesn’t take himself seriously. It was obviously not a super stressful shoot for me, so I was just in my trailer with my hot chocolate being like “One more time!”