Carly Rae Jepsen: 'I Want to Do Justin Bieber Proud'
Just a few months ago, Carly Rae Jepsen was a budding singer-songwriter best known for her third-place finish on the 2007 season of Canadian Idol. Few people in America had even heard of her. That changed last December, when Justin Bieber heard her song "Call Me Maybe" on the radio while visiting family in Canada. "'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen is probably the catchiest song I've ever heard," Bieber tweeted to his 22 million followers. "Lol."
In that moment, Jepsen's life changed forever. "All of a sudden people were direct-messaging me from Germany and all over the world," she tells Rolling Stone. "It was crazy." Things got even crazier in February when Bieber, Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale uploaded a YouTube video where they lip-synced to the song – kicking off a slew of similar clips by Katy Perry, James Franco and many others. The song is now Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 and approaching Song-of-the-Summer status. We spoke with Jepsen about the origin of the song and her humble beginnings.
I think a lot of people assume that "Call Me Maybe" was written by a bunch of pros off in Sweden or somewhere, but that's not really the case.
No, it was written be me and two of my good friends, Josh Ramsay and my guitarist Tavish Crowe. It started like any song starts, just sort of a folky tune that I was playing while I was on the road with Tav. The lyrics came very easily. We weren't really over-thinking it. We brought in Josh, and he helped us kind of pop-ify it. He's really good. He's got a little bit of pop genius in his blood. It was written, recorded and produced within four or five days, tops. It was a pretty easy song to write.
How long ago did you write it?
I think it was a little before Christmas.
What first sparked the idea? Was there an actual guy you were thinking about?
Oh, there's always a guy – and this case is no different. The first line was, "Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad," which was written for the guy I'm still seeing today, actually. It was just the idea that I felt that something was really missing, and when he came into my life he was the person I was missing.
I guess a lot of people can relate to the butterfly feelings you have when you meet someone you connect with immediately.
Yeah. I think there's also that time when you do have chemistry with a complete stranger and you kind of wish you had the nerve to go and approach them or say something, and so often you kind of leave it instead. I know that I've experienced that, where I've been like, "Wow there's something there and I don't know what to do about it." So it's kind of fun to write a song about, what if you actually turned around and went and introduced yourself? I mean what harm could come from that?
After coming in third place on Canadian Idol, did you think it was all over for you?
So many people seem to have that take on it, that third was not quite good enough. But to be honest, I was really stoked to be third. I didn't expect to get very far in the competition. I didn't look at it as my ticket. I looked at it like one of those fluke-y things that if it worked, great, and if it didn't, no big deal. But the fact that I wasn't eliminated every week was a very pleasant surprise to me. And when I got third, I kind of used that as, "OK. I've had my 15 minutes of Canadian exposure and this is the best opportunity I've ever had to put out a CD now with my own songs" – and that's exactly what I did.
Tell me about some of the crappiest gigs you ever did before you got your break.
Before Canadian Idol was on, I did everything, you name it. At one time I fronted a swing band. I remember they were advertising for a saxophone player in a local newspaper, and I called them. I was like, "Hey, so I see that you need a saxophone player." And they were like, "Yeah! Do you play?" And I was like, "No! But I sing!" They were like, "OK...". They ended up auditioning me anyway, so I ended up playing these weekly swing dances. Also, I worked at a coffee shop where I basically ran this weekly singer-songwriter night. It was called Choose Organic Coffee. And every Friday night, I would have different people come to sing and I would open the shop late.
And I waitressed for a while. I remember waitressing at Browns, this restaurant in Kitsilano, and at the time my music was being played on the radio, so I'd be asking people if they wanted fries or Coke or what not, and in the background my song was playing. It was a very weird reality.