On ‘Emotion’, Babies and Japanese Pop Stars: A Conversation with Carly Rae Jepsen
She also really, really likes Japan. And also holding and/or stealing babies. And playing with her phone before going on stage. And checking her phone first thing in the morning. And performing “All That” on Saturday Night Live. And writing and recording hundreds and hundreds of songs. She likes so many things!
The sugary-sweet voiced “Call Me Maybe” singer-songwriter is more than happy to discuss the next chapter of her career beyond her inescapable 2012 radio smash. And so, ahead of the release of her forthcoming record E·MO·TION due out sometime this summer, Carly sat down with our own Lisa Paige of PopCrush Nights to talk about touring all around the world, collaborating with J-Pop stars, crafting her new LP and plans for a day off…uh, if she ever gets one.
Lisa Paige, PopCrush Nights: First of all, your new album, E·MO·TION. Please explain what it means.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Pop Star: Well, I think that is sort of what I was fascinated about. I was like, “Emotion. Well, we all have it. What does Webster’s have to say?” So I went to look at the definition, and what I love is that it said as an example: “She was attempting to control her emotions.” And I was like, “This is exactly what I am doing with this album.” So, it felt really cool. And the phonetic spelling just sort of felt like you had to feel out the word. Artistically, I was like, “I love it.”
You were just in Japan, and recently collaborated with a Japanese pop star.
What did you do?
Well, she actually did a video version of “I Really Like You.” It was so funny. Japan’s always one of those, like, a little bit of lost in translation things where you arrive and then on the day of, they’re like “There’s eight different weird things we’re gonna do today!” And it’s always so fun! For example, one time casually I mentioned that I like avocado toast, and I found myself in Japan presenting a cooking show on how to make avocado toast with a translator. I’m like, “There’s really only two steps…but okay, okay! Gonna peel the avocado.”
The collaboration that I did with Rola was slightly similar in the fact that I showed up and they’re like, “So…you’re going to shoot a music video today.” And I was like, “Come again? What was that?” I got to meet her. She’s actually a girl that I had met before, who’s like the sweetest thing on Earth, and she wanted to do a collaboration — basically a translation of “I Really Like You” in Japanese. But then on top of it, we’d do this video together. And I was like, “This is a bit of a curve ball.” So I looked at my team, and I was like, “Guys, if I’m doing a music video, you’re in the music video with me.” So in the last scene, we’re all dancing with these flowers and we had no idea what’s going on.” But we’re in it together, aren’t we?
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Are you serious?
Yeah, it’s a true story.
Do you speak Japanese?
No, we have a translator.
How do you get around doing that?
She’s wonderful, Kyoko. She’s really great, actually. It’s almost entertaining for us because we’ll be in an interview and I’ll say my answer, and then the person who’s listening to me won’t speak English, so they’ll just kind of listen and be sweet, and then Kyoko will try to say everything. But she’ll use all the moments when I get, like, hand gesture-y and animated. She’ll do it in Japanese, and we’ll be like “Oh, I think that’s when they’re saying that part!” because they’ll start laughing, and we’re just kinda watching like it’s some interesting television show.
So you’re doing a nice little promotional tour. How many cities have you been in now? Are you waking up not knowing where you are or what you’re doing? What’s the schedule? Give me your average day.
Well, we came back from Japan and we went almost immediately to China after that. Like, we were here for Dancing With the Stars. Went to China. Came back from China, and then packed our bag that night to go to this promotional tour. So we’ve been hanging in about two to three cities a day. We generally fly twice a day, if not we’re driving. So ,yeah, I very much am in that phase where I am kinda sleep-talking right now. You could ask me anything and I have no filter and I will tell you…
Well, in that case, let’s get the hard-hitting questions out! I remember in one interview I read that Mariah Carey does the whole vaporizer thing at night with hot water and lemon. What do you do? If you’re singing all these shows every day, by the end you’re like…I can’t talk.
Well, this is a different level of performance because it’s usually two to three songs, and they’re acoustic. And you’re not, like, “competing” with the band. But, when I’m on the road with my band, I usually cut out alcohol and I’m pretty strict about things, which is not the rock star story that we all want to envision. I’m very boring.
I like that. It’s worked for you. We never read anything bad about you. There’s never any bad gossip. Are you preparing us for something? [Laughs] You’re so great with the kids.
Well I also have baby urges in a big way right now. It’s a little creepy, but anytime there’s a baby at a meet and greet, I’m like “Can I hold the baby? Is that gonna be weird if I…could I keep the baby?”
I saw that on Instagram! Didn’t you post that a few days ago? You stole a baby out her mom’s arms.
It’s true. My team teases me about it. They’ll see a baby and they’re like “Carly, there’s a baby over there.” Oh my goodness.
Forget all these people.
It’s a phase. I think all women go through it. I don’t know what’s happening.
Wait until you have a couple.
Can I borrow your babies?
You can have them for a couple of hours, yes, yes, yes. Saturday Night Live… oh my gosh. I was nervous for you when I watched that night.
You and me both.
Were you nerve-wracked or what? What was the rehearsal like? Do you show up during the day? How many rehearsals do you do? Soundcheck? I want to know about that.
It’s very intense. You show up on that Thursday and do a run-through. Friday, you have the day off and that’s when we were rehearsing…trying to figure it out live. We had been in the studio, so it’s different. Then we wanted to incorporate little shoulder shrugs all choreographed, so it was a fun little day. Then, on the actual day, we have three run-throughs before the actual show. So you’re kind of like “Okay, the performance went well, but I hope that wasn’t the best performance of the day. I hope I saved that for when it’s live.” I felt nervous, especially for “All That,” the second song. I was like “Listen, I don’t think I’ve been more excited to do a television show because I feel like it’s such a sincere, heartfelt and authentic song and I’ve been trying to show this side too. I think sometimes with songs like “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You,” you can get pigeonholed as that’s all you’re able to do. It’s nice and refreshing to be like…there’s more!
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It was nice and slow and calm. Before shows, do you have any rituals that you do?
I’m starting to do a diva-ish thing, only recently.
I love it. You being a diva? I can’t.
Normally I’m on my phone, or socializing and then I find myself on stage kind of catching my breath. It takes me a song or two to be aware of where I am, if that makes any sense. [Laughs] actually, one of the guys on my crew recommended this: He’s like “Why don’t you just kick everyone out for five to ten minutes before you go on, turn off your phone and chill for a minute? It’s been really affecting the quality of the performance. So I’m not thinking about the last Instagram thing I just posted. I’m really there now and it’s helped a lot.
Studies show that if you “power off” a half hour before bed, you can sleep better.
I read this article. Do you go to your phone immediately when you wake up and dive into emails? I’m like, “yes.” Then your email blows up and you’re immediately stressed. You haven’t even been awake for ten minutes. This article suggested that you do two to three things before you grab your phone and I’ve been cheating on them. I looked out the window, number one, had a sip of water, number two. We’re almost there! [Laughs] I’m trying really hard. I’m always proud of myself if I can shower before.
That’s a challenge to get up, not look at your phone at all and do the routine.
Especially if your phone is your alarm, because then you’re like “I see this text. I’m curious.”
What do you do on a typical day off?
I’d love to know! [Laughs] I haven’t really had one in a significant amount of time. It’s interesting. Even in interviews, they’ll be like “So what do you do with your time off?” I’m like “Well, I was on Broadway and writing an album.” I feel like I haven’t had a day off in a long time. And because I think I was feeling the pressure of “Call Me Maybe,” and really wanting to come back with something, on days that I did have off, I was scheduling extra sessions for myself to compete for the songs I already had so my album could be even stronger. I wrote 250 songs. It’s a true, sad story.
How do you even come to the point where you’re narrowing it down to 12?
We had a lot of listening parties. I had a lot of sleepless nights, and we had a lot of heated debates between family, label and friends and everyone who was involved in this, and somehow we landed with them. I’ve thought to myself: “What will I do when I have a day off now?” I’m a little afraid I’ll be bored. What does one do with themselves? [Laughs] I’ll probably start writing my next album.
You’ll be archiving your emails and putting them in folders.
I’ll go for a walk I guess, I don’t know.
What do you want fans to take away from this album? It’s obviously going to be a summer album, but when they listen to it all the way through, what do you want to walk away with?
It’s a pretty colorful album. I think what I’m most excited about is that it isn’t just one thing. I think with Kiss, for example, we had a month or two to get it done and ready and try and chase “Call Me Maybe” and have everything turned in on time.
It was fun pressure in a way, because there was no debate about this song or that song because it was “This song better work because I don’t have time to do another one! Let’s just do it!” I like challenges like that with writing. We figured it out.
This has been very different. I’ve had two years, a lot of left turns and experiments and, to my delight and surprise, some of the weirder decisions I’ve made on collaborations. I’m just going to try and do something completely different with Rostam from Vampire Weekend, and those have been the songs that have made it. We haven’t had to convince or fight with label people. They’re like “It’s weird, but we like it.” I feel pretty excited to share an album that’s stuffed with some radio songs, but also some very left turns.
What are you going to do on the day of release? Refresh your Twitter feed?
I’ve thought about this. I’m going to hold that CD in my hand and then step on it. It’ll be so therapeutic. In honesty, it’s been the biggest project of my life. I’m very proud of it, but it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears — even the songs that didn’t make it into this project. I don’t know if I’m going to cry or kiss it…or throw it out the window.
I’m excited for you. It’s nice to have you back on the radio. We love “Call Me Maybe,” but it’s been cool to hear “I Really Like You.”
We’re not upset with having to sing something new. [Laughs]
E·MO·TION will be released later this summer.