Carly Rae Jepsen Colors Outside The Lines
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Now I want to take you back to the summer of 2012. This song was everywhere.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALL ME MAYBE")
CARLY RAE JEPSEN: (Singing) Hey. I just met you, and this is crazy. But here's my number, so call me maybe.
GREENE: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" went No. 1 all over the world. But the Canadian songwriter wanted to show that she was more than just one hit. So she changed her sound. She turned to '80s artists like Cyndi Lauper for inspiration. And her next album - the critics loved it, and she got a cult following. So it seems like she had little left to prove, right? And yet she struggled with the album that's out today.
JEPSEN: I was searching for what it was that I wanted to make and it took me awhile.
GREENE: And you can understand why. I mean, you try writing about a breakup when you're still experiencing all the feelings.
You really take us through every single phase of a relationship.
JEPSEN: I went through every single phase in the writing of this thing, so...
JEPSEN: Yeah. Yeah. I went through a breakup with a longtime, like, best friend. And it was, for the first time in my adult years, really in a place where I didn't have anyone to text after the show to be like, it went great or, like, I tripped. But, like, it was a strange sort of loneliness. And I wanted the songs to show that because I felt like I was going to feel less lonely by sharing in a way.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIGHT WORDS WRONG TIME")
JEPSEN: (Singing) I don't want to see your face. I'm afraid I couldn't wait for you.
GREENE: Carly Rae Jepsen's new album is called "Dedicated." And when she came here to NPR West to talk about it with me, she said one inspiration for it was a trip to Italy.
JEPSEN: I, like, booked a trip with my assistant. And she was like, two tickets for you and your boyfriend? I was like, I think one. I think I need some alone time. And it became clear to me that it was really important to try some travel alone, too. And I'm glad I did.
GREENE: Did you feel, like, empowered being off on your own? Or what did that trip do for you?
JEPSEN: It was an "Eat, Pray, Love." It was...
JEPSEN: It started off real rough. I was nervous at first. And, like, I was also going through a breakup. I was just processing. I would walk around and have those moments in the day where, without properly, like, navigating it, I think I came across the Colosseum and was like, oh, sick.
JEPSEN: Like, this is great. And...
GREENE: Something I should see.
JEPSEN: A lot of my travel was a bit of just exploring and then finding little miracles here and there. And the beauty of Italy did actually work as therapy.
GREENE: Was it lonely?
JEPSEN: Yeah, there were moments of loneliness. But it was also wrapped in these other moments where it felt really empowering. And there were moments where I was not just alone by myself and doing OK but actually feeling really full of joy.
GREENE: I ask about loneliness because "Party For One" is like the ultimate breakup song and empowering and, like, finding yourself and moving on and - what did you learn about how to confront loneliness?
JEPSEN: I mean, I'm not the tell-all of that, I think it's something that you learn and you keep relearning. But it was a new lesson for me the first time that song was written because it had been the actual sort of explosion end of my relationship. And I didn't want to feel sad. I wanted to be able to take what was known as a sad moment and sort of look at it as a brave new patch of my life - of getting good at singlehood.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY FOR ONE")
JEPSEN: (Singing) Back on my beat. You don't want my love. If you don't care about me, I'll just dance for myself. Back on my beat. Back on my beat. Party for one. If you don't care about me making love to myself.
GREENE: You and I share something in common. We both were children of divorced parents who lived really close to each other.
JEPSEN: Really? You had that, too.
GREENE: Yeah. I was in Pittsburgh. My father was like a 10-minute drive, and I would go back and forth.
JEPSEN: How often did you switch?
GREENE: I'd spend, like, one or two nights a week with my dad and, like, every other weekend. And they would talk about how to parent in that way.
JEPSEN: Yeah, which I think is unique. I think we're lucky ducks for that...
JEPSEN: ...Of having people close who actually are talking to each other...
JEPSEN: ...Which is - like, when I was little, I thought they were very best friends. Then I got older and I'm like, oh, they just - they get along. But like...
GREENE: But this is like - they're doing this in part for me.
JEPSEN: Yeah. You realize how much their love kind of goes past all of that.
GREENE: What did growing up that way do in terms of informing you and your curiosity about relationships?
JEPSEN: Probably more than I even realize. I did switch - well, definitely every two days. One of the really uniting qualities of the four of them, especially my mom and my dad, actually, was a real passion for music. When my mom was feeling sad or happy or whatever, she was always the type to, like, sit me down at a very early age and play a song - a Leonard Cohen song, "Famous Blue Raincoat," and be like, what do you think that was about? And, like, what a gift. I'd never gone through heartbreak, let alone cheating, but I felt what Leonard Cohen was saying.
GREENE: I've interviewed a lot of musicians who get uncomfortable when you ask the question you just did, what is this song about? You seem to be OK with that.
JEPSEN: I mean, my girlfriends, when I'm playing them the songs, I always start with like, do you want me to tell you the backstory of where the song came from first?
GREENE: Oh, yeah.
JEPSEN: And that's always my favorite, like, storytelling part because I don't know if I would be willing to share all of those details with the whole wide world. But with my close friends, I'm like, so this one time, this happened...
GREENE: And then you'd play the song.
JEPSEN: And you know that guy? This happened. And, oh, my God. And so, yeah.
GREENE: Is there one that you would be willing to do that for me and the other people listening?
JEPSEN: I guess I could start with the opening track "Julien." I did have a boyfriend named Julien back in the day. The best thing about him was so many things. But the thing that stuck out to me was his name being so musical. He was in a band. And we went our separate ways. And I've been trying to write his name into a song since.
And this was the first one that felt like I finally scratched that itch of getting to describe what that feeling is like when you're young and you feel like you've just met someone but it's going to be eternity. And I think it's more of a metaphor now of what it is to have that person that is the one that maybe got away. Even if you find something else that works, you're always going to be like that guy, that guy.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JULIEN")
JEPSEN: (Singing) Julien, in your heart, yeah, you must believe. Julien, it was more than a fantasy. To the end, through the last breath that I breathe.
GREENE: I struggled with how to bring up "Call Me Maybe" because I wonder if you crave interviews where that never comes up.
JEPSEN: No, I don't feel this big shadow in the way that I think I did at one point when I was just trying to write beyond it.
GREENE: Well, I guess the question I'd love to ask is - especially for people who are just coming to your music now, like with this new album, say - how have you grown, evolved, changed since people knew you through that song?
JEPSEN: I feel less confined to just call pop one thing anymore and myself one thing anymore. I've enjoyed coloring outside the lines a little bit and maybe not which house I'm at anymore but something in the middle.
GREENE: I like the divorce metaphor there, going back to the end.
JEPSEN: There you go, yeah. And I feel like my music's gotten so much more purposeful and authentic, and it's nice to get to share more.
GREENE: Carly Rae Jepsen, thank you.
JEPSEN: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL LOVE")
JEPSEN: (Singing) I only want a real, real love.
GREENE: Carly Rae Jepsen talking about her new album "Dedicated" which is out today.
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