What happens when Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez—the first couple of teen pop—invite their friends over to a mansion, put on fake mustaches, film the ensuing silly dance party, and put it on YouTube? Chances are it’ll go viral. But the soundtrack of to the video wasn’t one of Selena or Justin’s tracks—it’s “Call Me Maybe,” by singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen. Perhaps you’ve heard it? The black-and-white clip has amassed over 30 million views (the official video has over 18 million).
It turns out Carly Rae Jepsen isn’t your typical tween sensation. For one thing, she’s 26, having spent the years scraping by on the bar circuit before her first break, a spot on Canadian Idol. She placed third, got a record deal, and found modest local success. And then her country’s most famous musical export heard “Call Me Maybe” on the radio, couldn’t get it out of his head, and signed her to his Schoolboy Records. A few tweets from Bieber, and the song’s a top ten hit.
We caught up with Jepsen as she was riding to Boston, and talked about the boyfriend who inspired “Call Me Maybe”—sorry, she’s taken—her favorite jazz clubs in New York, and her upcoming an album, which may or may not have a Bieber cameo.
NATE FREEMAN: Hey Carly!
CARLY RAE JEPSEN: Hey Nate!
JEPSEN: Nate! How you doing!
FREEMAN: I’m doing great. So, where are you right now?
JEPSEN: Good question! Um, we are on our way to Boston.
FREEMAN: What’s going on there?
JEPSEN: Well, more radio work. We’re just popping all over the country, saying our hellos, and playing them songs.
FREEMAN: So, did you even think this song would get as big as it did?
JEPSEN: No, of course not! I was really happy it was doing good in Canada, I was really enclosed in that bubble and feeling quite content there.
FREEMAN: Well, everyone here [in New York] seems to be listening to this song, oh, 15 times in a row.
JEPSEN: Yeah, well, and the fact the Justin came and took it to the next level, it’s like nothing I’ve ever dreamed of.
FREEMAN: I can’t crack the code—how can I not stop listening to this song?
JEPSEN: It began as a folky acoustic number. I was at my uncle’s house and then the bridge, you know, “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad,” that’s about this guy who I’m seeing, he makes up for all the things that I’m not. It’s awesome! I missed him before he was even in my life.
FREEMAN: You’re still with the guy who you wrote it about?
JEPSEN: I am, yeah.
FREEMAN: How does he feel about this very personal statement being shared with the whole world?
JEPSEN: I think he feels pretty special about it. I hope he does, at least! The way I write is generally about love. I have a great fascination about the subject.
FREEMAN: So, Justin started to reach out to you…
JEPSEN: It began with a hysterical phone call from my sister, saying that he had tweeted. I don’t know why he had chosen me out of everyone! That was beyond my wildest dreams.
FREEMAN: Justin and Selena made that video…
JEPSEN: I had no idea that was coming! I was just home in Canada at my place when I saw it on Facebook, someone had tagged me in it. It was just crazy to me!
FREEMAN: It seems like you and Justin have a good relationship. Is it just like hanging out with a normal person?
JEPSEN: He is Justin Bieber! But he’s just so relaxed and comfortable and chill about everything. He let me jump in on one of his songs and sing on it.
FREEMAN: You have an album out this fall. Is he going to jump on any of your tracks?
JEPSEN: Well there’s no immediate plans for that, but I’ve learned lately from this experience to dream big and see what happens.
FREEMAN: And you’re coming to New York next week?
JEPSEN: I am! And I love New York, I can’t wait.
FREEMAN: Do you have any places in New York that you love going to?
JEPSEN: I have a great love for jazz, so if there was a good place to see jazz, that would be rad.
FREEMAN: Do you have a favorite jazz place in mind?
JEPSEN: If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!
FREEMAN: There’s a really cool place in the West Village, Smalls, it’s downstairs, and it’s like an old Greenwich Village institution, you should check it out.
JEPSEN: You like jazz too? That’s so rad.
FREEMAN: My friend’s dad, he’s a bass player, he had a gig there, and there’s also the Village Vanguard, and Birdland..
JEPSEN: I was there when Duke Ellington’s grandson was there, it was pretty crazy.
FREEMAN: And the Blue Note. Maybe they haven’t caught the “Call Me Maybe” bug yet.
JEPSEN: “Call Me Maybe” on the trumpet!
FREEMAN: They’ll have an impromptu cover for you when you walk in.