Carly Rae Jepsen is the biggest “girl next door” on the block
by Ben Kaplan
“I thought it was a fun pop song, but it’s taken me on the adventure of a lifetime,” Carly Rae Jepsen says of her breakout single Call Me Maybe.
The first person booked to perform at Sunday night’s MuchMusic Video Awards was Stratford, Ont., superstar Justin Bieber. Sheila Sullivan, the show’s executive producer in charge of, among other things, choosing the live performers, can’t remember who she booked next, but knows that Carly Rae Jepsen, the 26-year-old Call Me Maybe singer from Mission, B.C., was her third phone call.
“She’s like the pretty girl next door who’s just having fun; she’s not too scary,” says Sullivan, who’s been producing the awards show for nearly 20 years. “She’s fresh, she’s upbeat, she’s fun and you can’t deny the music. Plus, I think our audience, as well as the rest of the world, appreciates that she’s not too over-the-top.”
Jepsen first came onto the scene in 2007, finishing third on Canadian Idol. Reached this week on the set of NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the pop star says that afterIdol was over, she wanted to release an album.
“I figured I had my 15 minutes of Canadian fame,” says Jepsen, who released Tug of War, her folk-tinged debut, the following year and moved from Mission to Vancouver, where she was influenced by Robyn, La Roux and Bieber. “Call Me Maybe then happened in segments. The first line I wrote was the bridge, ‘Before you came into my life/I missed you so bad.’ That was directed at my boyfriend.”
Jepsen’s still with her boyfriend, but everything else has changed since releasing the song. In December, while visiting his mother in Stratford, Bieber heard Jepsen’s single on Canadian radio and immediately professed his love for it on his Twitter account, which reaches more than 23 million hardcore “Beliebers.”
“His tweet was like a total game-changer, I don’t know if he even knows how much of an effect he had on my career,” says Jepsen, who’s now opening the 45 dates of Bieber’s fall stadium tour. “He brought the world’s attention to something I was doing and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to properly thank him, but it’s just one of those experiences where a door opened and I feel blessed and thankful to be running through it ever since.”
In 2010, Jepsen was nominated for two MuchMusic Video Awards and, as a relative unknown, she recalls feeling star-struck by that year’s performers, including Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Now, Perry has appeared in Jepsen’s video — along with Bieber, James Franco and Selena Gomez — and she won’t just be watching Sunday night’s ceremony, she’ll be one of the main attractions.
“Everyone wants to perform, but the show’s only two hours and we only have space for the biggest and best,” says Sullivan, coming off last year’s ratings coup, the highest-rated program in the history of MuchMusic. “It’s a no-brainer having Carly perform — she’s relatable. Girls watching her performance are sitting at home and thinking, ‘That could be me.’ ”
In addition to performing, Jepsen’s also nominated for four MMVAs, including favourite artist and video of the year. She’s currently writing her new album, which will be released this fall on Bieber’s Schoolboy Records, and riding the momentum of the Call Me Maybe craze, which has been both sung on-air by Colin Powell and spliced together online with speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I thought it was a fun pop song, but it’s taken me on the adventure of a lifetime,” Jepsen says. “I’m totally stoked — everything that’s happening has been beyond my wildest dreams.”
The MuchMusic Video Awards air live June 17 at 9 p.m. Carly Rae Jepsen plays Winnipeg on June 23, Kirland, Ont., on June 29 and Owen Sound on June 30. For her complete tour dates with Justin Bieber, visit carlyraemusic.com.