Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the most critically-acclaimed pop artist at the moment while also being one of the most under-listened to pop artists, if the gauge is quality. Her songs are light and fluffy and invite you to sing and dance along, forgetting what’s around you.The catchiness they carry has the power to turn powerful men into the guy at you saw at the karaoke bar last week.
Coming through Lawrence would usually be a bad sign for someone who once spent nine weeks on top of the billboard charts, but for Jepsen it seems to be another symbol for her change from being known as a pop star to being known simply as a great musician.
Before taking the stage at the Granada on March 8, Jepsen spoke with the Kansan over the phone about her ongoing tour, fame and her 2015 album, "Emotion."
The Kansan: I was surprised to see your name next to Lawrence, initially, but the more I thought about it, if there was going to be a pop star to come through a college town, you seem like the perfect person for that. Does it mean anything to you to be doing shows like this?
Jepsen: It’s my preference actually. I’ve done every kind of performance since I started in this business from little club bars and coffee shops to stadiums and everything in between. My favorite is always when you have a passionate group, but there isn’t too much distance between you and the crowd. I like feeling the connection. I think that’s part of the celebration for me.
The Kansan: You’ve talked in the past about not wanting to be on the level of a Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. Why is that not something that you want?
Jepsen: I have nothing but great respect for any of those artists, but I don’t know. I don’t sense any desire to kind of compare or to say I want to be that or I don’t want to be that. It’s more that I’m just kind of contented with what I’ve got going on personally.
I enjoy making music that I love and I enjoy trying to find people that are like-minded in their taste and just share it with them. I think one of the things is [that I] don’t have as much of a media presence. I was quoted one time in a story that said “Carly Rae Jepsen doesn’t know how to be famous,” and I kind of took that as a compliment. I have my own private life and enjoy the freedom that brings me, and I keep my artist project as something sort of separate.
The Kansan: Do you feel like you want to be any bigger than you are right now?
Jepsen: I think I’m always looking to grow, and longevity is something that I ache for. So, I keep writing, keep changing and exploring new types of music. So obviously right now we’re touring with "Emotion," and it’s the first time we’ve toured since like Justin Bieber studio shows, so it’s a different audience. We’re getting people who are a lot older and more like-minded in age, and that’s really gratifying. So yeah, I think the next step would be to take that even further and bring more people into our circle, always. I think I would also shy away from, I don’t know, too much fame. I think that part isn’t as attractive to me as just the art of it.
The Kansan: You’re definitely different as a pop artist and one of the ways that I think that comes through is critical reception. Does that kind of stuff matter to you?
Jepsen: It feels good, yeah. You work so hard on the project, and you never know how it’s going to be received. I think in the making of [Emotion] I was really diligent about not allowing myself to think too hard about that and worry or concern myself while I was writing about what people would say about it. If I was thinking about that I would quickly go the other direction and go, "Hey you’ve got an opportunity to finally showcase who you are musically outside of 'Call Me Maybe,' and this is your chance to do it." But at the end of the day, when it’s out and about and people are saying good things, it meant a lot to me. More than I expected.
The Kansan: What has playing the album live been like?
Jepsen: Really fun. More fun than I’ve ever had performing before, actually. I think I always felt that my comfort zone was being in the studio in like sweatpants and just like writing up stuff. Then I’d get on stage and kind of feel like, it was fun but never as fun as this. I think that’s because these are songs that I’m just really passionate about, and it’s a different kind of passion than I’ve ever had before. It’s the longest I’ve ever taken on something, and I don’t know, I think it surprised me how much different songs feel from [the studio] to playing them live. A song like “Warm Blood” and “Let’s Get Lost” are my favorite tracks to perform live because of the sax solos and the weird vocal stuff we do with “Warm Blood” that just feels really fun. I don’t know, we’re having a lot of joy with it.
The Kansan: "Kiss" (Jepsen’s first major studio album) was covered as being rushed out because of the success of “Call Me Maybe." "Emotion" seemed to be the opposite; what were some of the differences making the two?
Jepsen: I worked on this record for two and a half years, on and off. I was writing material and figuring out what I wanted to make. In the process of finding "Emotion" I probably wrote a few other albums that no one will ever hear, but that was necessary. With "Kiss," it was rushed, but it was decidedly a quick time frame. That was exciting for me at the time. I had just moved to Los Angeles and all of a sudden had access to all these writers and producers and collaborators that I wouldn’t have dreamed I would have even met before. It was a challenge that I was happy to take on at the time. I listen back to that album, and I like it and it feels good, but I think "Emotion" feels a bit more like my passion project because I did have time and I was very vocal about needing that time and that allowed me to really A and B things and go back and assess a song and make sure it was right.
The Kansan: Looking ahead, is there anything you’re working on right now?
Jepsen: Yeah, I’m actually working on a song today with Tavish, my guitarists. He’s one of my favorite co-writers and one of my best friends. We never know if it’s going to be a song for the album or just for us, but either way it’s something I’m always working on.
– Edited by Sarah Kruger