This Friday, Carly Rae Jepsen releases E•MO•TION, a synth-heavy pop album that’s equal parts Cyndi Lauper and Dragonette. It both is and isn’t the album you would expect from Jepsen — the songs are “Call Me Maybe” catchy, but with a more expansive dance-worthy soundscape. EW sat down with Jepsen at Jones in Hollywood for Three Rounds. You can read the interview (ideally with a glass of Pinot Noir!) in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly. Below, Jepsen talks about her influences, her early days, and the moment “Call Me Maybe” changed everything.
On the original name of her new album
“There was a song called ‘Eternal Summer’ that was originally going to be the album’s title. It’s about how LA is this eternal summer. You lose perspective of time.”
On the new album she’s not releasing (anytime soon)
“I made an indie album that probably no one will ever hear. I think there is a natural rebellion when you have success in one are to completely rebel against that. I needed to get that out of my system, I think. I made really weird music. But I didn’t want to release that album. It felt not like the move I felt like making. At first, when I was in LA [working on the new album], I was making very pure pure pop again, kind of almost Kiss. I wasn’t feeling that. The indie album was too hot, too cold. E • Mo •Tion felt like the right balance.”
On her influences
“I grew up in a very folk-influenced family. We were listening to Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison. I still love all those artists. The first songs I was learning to plug out on my dad’s guitar were very folky songs. But then the Spice Girls record came out and ruined everything for me.”
“I also grew up listening to jazz, because of my grandmother. Pop Music reminded me of jazz, in its simplicity. It reminded me of a really good 1940s standard jazz song, and how it can condense so many thoughts into a simple six-word sentence that hits you.”
On her early days as a struggling singer-songwriter
“It was a very bohemian lifestyle. For a while, I was living with a girl named Veronique, a French Canadian girl, who had a pull-out couch, and she was renting it for 400 dollars a month. Which is more than I could afford. I was working as a coffee barista. And then I soon became the pastry chef’s assistant, because the actual chef went away to see her internet lover in Norway. I was the only one who knew how to make all those pastries. I could make you eight cheesecakes at a time. Slowly building my way to the top!”
I was also a bartender at this place called Media Club. God only knows how I passed my bartending exam. Actually, I do know. The guy asked me to dinner at the end of it. And I was like: “That’s why I got 98 percent.” [laughs] Somehow I got a job out of that thing, and all I knew how to make was a screwdriver. And beer.”
On making it
“I remember negotiating the deal with Schoolboy Records I was in the back of a soccer-mom van, which we had rented, which was all [the band] could afford at the time. We were all sardining ourselves into hotel rooms together. We were opening for the Hanson Brothers on their Canadian Tour, in the middle of winter, and it was freezing cold. I was in the back, with my laptop, on the phone, with my managers, lawyers, being like: ‘Say it again? I’m gonna need you to repeat that like eight more times, and then maybe it might sink in.’
I flew the following week, when the tour wrapped up, to meet Scooter [Braun] and Justin [Bieber] and then the entire team at the label. I did one of those label teams at Interscope, where they say: ‘Hi! I’m involved in marketing!’ ‘I’ll be taking care of all your booking!’
I can remember me and my sister walking around Vancouver, trying to post my posters for a show that I had, and making that concoction of milk and flour, that glue that you make. And we got it wrong, so it just looked like someone had thrown up all over my poster. It looked like vomit all over town. We did everything! I folded my own merch shirts, and had a company that was volunteering to make stickers for me. After my show, I didn’t have anyone that I could afford to do merch for me, so I’d be watching my merch while I was singing, and then running over there afterwards hoping no one had stolen anything.
So to be at this table, going around the whole huge table of people. I just stood up and said: “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet all of you.”
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A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1377-78, on newsstands now.