Sometimes all it takes is one celebrity endorsement. Just ask Canadian singer-songwriter, Carly Rae Jepsen, who got the shock of her life when her country's most famous musical export, Justin Bieber, posted a video online of his girlfriend,Selena Gomez, and him dancing around to an insanely catchy pop number with the rest of their Disney entourage.
Now when the Biebz posts a video you know you're going to have a fairly sizable audience tuning in...let's say around 18 million? The fans liked what they saw, and liked even more what they heard, and a few months later the song at the middle of all this, Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe", is everywhere. It's spent five weeks at #1 on the Australian charts and has wormed its way into our heads as possibly the most addictive song of 2012.
What is Call Me Maybe about, exactly?
Well, it's scary to ask someone for their number and I've never actually been brave enough to go up to someone and ask them for their number, especially in those words. I think what's fun about writing is that you can explore braver versions of yourself in songs, and this one just kinda happened. My guitarist and I were on the road and we just started jamming. Sometimes you just sing what comes out, and those were honestly the words!
You've definitely inspired a lot of people in thinking that well, if she can do it, then I can do it!
Well I'm glad to hear that. It's fun to hear that a song can play a little cupid you know?
Was it inspired by a real guy?
There's a particular line that is. The beginning of the song actually started with the bridge: "Before you came into my life I missed you so bad". And that's about the guy I'm seeing right now! The line's basically about how you don't know what you're missing until you have it, and that's how I felt with him. Everything was going good and then I met him and it was like woah! Life can be this awesome?! Like it's so much easier now! So we're still together, and he's actually here with me in Australia! (I keep him locked up in my hotel room.)
Haha! How does he feel about the fact that this mega-hit is all about him?
Oh he's used to it- I've written so many songs about him! Haha. He and the rest of my family are all just really stoked! They've seen how hard I've been working at this and this is just one of those opportunities that you don't expect to happen and when it did, it sort of transformed my life and made my wildest dreams come true. So it's just crazy.
So you've attained worldwide success with this single-
You say that and I'm like ooohoooo!
Did you ever think it'd get this big?
No I never imagined that this could happen in this way especially. I've spent all my life trying to be a singer and now it has just happened so fast. I'm still reeling! I think if this had happened to me a little younger, say at 21, I would probably curl up into a little ball and be like,"It's too much!" but I feel really ready for it.
And how is Call Me Maybe different from your other material?
My first album,"Tug of War", was a little folkier and I released it under my own name and label. I was happy that I got to have that experience because in a really strange way, it's helped me to fully appreciate all the help I'm getting now. That was a really precious time in Canada where I got to experiment with different sounds and find out the artist that I was. I think so often you see artists who are international and so young, you kind of get to watch their growing pains. I'm not saying that I still won't have those, I think to mature and to grow, you still have to keep pushing yourselves in new directions, but I generally know who I am, what I'm about and the music I want to create. It's good timing.
What do you think of the fact that your song has kinda turned into this hit video meme? First there was Justin and Selena's video, then Katy Perry and her friends did their own cover version...
It's the coolest thing to see that people are having fun with it- I think that's my favourite part of all of this! It's cool that I get to travel and see places I've never seen before, but it's when I get those alone moments and I go online and I see that there are people from Germany, from Japan, who've taken the time to make their own videos- like I remember doing that! I remember me and my sister dressing up and picking our favourite song at the moment and just making a dance and lipsyncing to it. There's one online video made by these two really macho guys, you know football players, and it's a mock-up how they're both secretly addicted to the song but ashamed to admit it so they're just doing their own little dances in secret. That was hilarious, because it was totally not who I expected to be listening to this! So that was pretty cool.
So we've got to mention 'the Biebz' in all this crazy. How did it all start with Justin, who's now being portrayed as your mentor.
So it all began with this acknowledgment from Justin on Twitter saying that he liked the song and thought it was catchy. I actually first heard about it when I received a hysterical phone call from my teenage sister and she was like "Omg,have you met him?! Ahh I'll kill you!"
I just remember thinking that's so cool that he would do that and he likes the song, but I didn't think it was going to go any further than that. And then the following weekend I saw that his girlfriend, Selena, posted a picture of him smiling while he was listening to the song and then saying how much they both liked it. Then a week later, him and his friends in their jet plane doing a little dance to it. And every week I was getting this online love from them! And then out comes the video and, right before this, Scooter and Justin had contacted my label and found out that I was signed in Canada but free for the rest of the world. And they said, hey, do you want to join forces, you'd be our first signing on the new label! And I said to my manager, do they even have a label? And he said yes... but they havn't decided on the name yet! And I said, um ok! Let's talk, that sounds cool.
It sounds like you and Justin have a pretty good relationship.
Well I'm just starting to get to know him but I feel like I can safely call us friends. He's a really cool guy and he's been my main supporter so that's cool.
What's he like to work with?
Well the first night we actually met each other was in LA. I was flying there to kind of meet Interscope, meet Justin, meet Scooter , meet everybody. And obviously I was very intimidated by it all. But he took me into the studio and showed me a few tracks from his upcoming album and I think the fourth song in, he played me a really different song, it stood out from the rest, and I was like "Oh I love this!" And he was like,"really? That's great because I was really hoping that you would sing on it!" So on top of being thrown into the deep end, there was suddenly this great chance. And then I went into the vocal booth and sang not just to Justin, but to all these producers and record label people who were also in the room, I sang to all of them that first night. I was just like "Sound, come out of my voice! Pleeeeeease!"
What was it like filming the video-clip? How did you come up with the story's fun twist at the ending?
I wish but I could take credit for the story idea but I can't. That idea came from the video director, whose a good friend of mine. We decided we wanted to make a funny video, something that was a bit of a joke. And we actually debated the twist at the ending! Like there were people who were all for the guy gets girl storyline, while I was firmly in the camp which was all, "No! He should be gay! And it should be totally unexpected!"
How do you find the song-writing process? Who are your musical influences?
A lot of what inspires me to write is what I've just been hit by when I listen to a song. I remember when I was little, me and my mum would have listening parties where we would listen to people like Leonard Cohen and go through the lyrics and be like what is he trying to say here.
That's pretty intense for a kid!
Yeh! And I think my parents guided me in that sense, this fascination with lyrics and words. I get a spark from a word here or a sentence someone might have said and then I'll write that down and later build the song around that phrase! I'll write lyrics and melodies together in moving forward. It can be personal experiences, it can be stories that I've heard, artists that I love- Robyn, Le Roux, Dragonette, John Mayer.
Do you have any favourite aussie musicians?
Gotye is amazing. And because of "Somebody I Used to Know" I discovered Kimbra who I would put in my top 5 female artists. And Sia! I've always been a big fan of hers. She actually played one time at the place where I was bartending in Vancouver. And she came in and she had all these stuffed animals over the stage and I was like, what is this chick doing! But then she started to sing and I was like ok! I get it. She's very playful and childish but at the same time her songs are so emotional, and she's a very captivating woman on stage.
Is there anyone in particular in the music industry who you'd really like to model yourself after?
There isn't really one artist I want to totally emulate. There's elements of each artist and what they're doing that make me go, hey, that looks really fun! Or rad shoes! I really like Robyn and that song, "Call Your Girlfriend." That's perfect, like well done to you! What i'm excited about though is that there's something I have to offer that isn't being done and i can finally share that.