Pop star Jepsen to play in Auburn Hills on Nov. 21Written by Alan Sculley | | ASculley@toledofreepress.com
Carly Rae Jepsen admitted that she felt a little uneasy when she stepped on stage for her first night opening for Justin Bieber on that teen star’s fall arena tour. It was, after all, her first time performing in such a large venue.
“It was one song of nerves on the first night, the very first song, where I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, how’s this going to be?’” Jepsen said in an early October phone interview. “Then it went right back to feeling like home again. I don’t know, it’s funny, you can kind of be a bigger and louder and a more excited version of everything in arenas like that. It’s really kind of satisfying and the biggest thrill and the biggest rush that I’ve ever experienced in my life. And it’s a good thing. I want to keep doing it. I can’t wait for the next show and the next one. I just want to keep trying to make it better and better.”
If Jepsen’s immediate future is anything like her preceding year, she’ll have plenty of chances to play arenas and improve her live show.
Jepsen rocketed into the spotlight earlier this year with the chart-topping single “Call Me Maybe.” Now her first American CD, “Kiss,” is out and “Good Time,” her collaboration with Owl City, has climbed into the top 10 on the Billboard magazine Hot 100 singles chart. The singer will appear with Bieber at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 21.
It’s quite a whirlwind for the 26-year-old, who at this time last year, was still largely unknown outside of her native Canada. She was not a fresh-faced newcomer to music though, even at that point. A native of Mission, British Columbia, Jepsen (who turns 27 on Nov. 21) began pursuing music a year or so after high school, playing pubs around Vancouver, British Columbia playing pubs when she could and working jobs (including being a barista and a bartender) to pay the bills.
Jepsen wasn’t on the verge of any real breakthrough when, in 2007, she talked to her high school drama instructor. He suggested that she try out for “Canadian Idol,” the counterpart north of the border to the highly popular U.S. version, “American Idol.”
“She was like, ‘Carly, I know you’re trying everything, but try this. Why not? It could be a bit of exposure. Worst case scenario, you go to audition and it doesn’t work and you just keep doing whatever you do,’” Jepsen said.
She said she resisted the idea for a time. “It wasn’t until season five that I finally caved in to her suggestion and went and tried it.”
Jepsen passed her audition and landed on the “Canadian Idol” television show, eventually finishing third in that season’s competition.
That led to a record deal and the release in Canada of her 2008 debut CD, “Tug Of War,” which produced a pair of hit singles, “Tug Of War” and “Bucket.”
It would be three more years before Jepsen released more music, but when that next song arrived in September 2011 in Canada, it would be a game changer. It was “Call Me Maybe,” and by Christmastime, the song was getting airplay in Canada.
And it was on Canadian radio that another Canadian star, Bieber, heard “Call Me Maybe” and instantly fell for the song.
He started tweeting about it and then made a viral video parody of “Call Me Maybe” (with Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale among others) that spread like wildfire across the Internet. Soon, Jepsen had signed on with Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and Bieber’s record label, Schoolboy Records, and radio beyond Canada began jumping on the “Call Me Maybe” bandwagon. The song became more than a hit. It was a phenomenon, going No. 1 in 37 countries, including the United States, where it held the top spot on the Billboard 100 for nine weeks.
That success, of course, has been nothing short of mindblowing for Jepsen, but one thing that helped her deal with her sudden fame was that she was working while “Call Me Maybe” caught on — either on the “Kiss” album or on various promotional activities.
“The pace of things has been really fast,” Jepsen said. “So I feel like if anything, that’s been on my side because I’ve always had some kind of work to do or some kind of traveling to get done, and it’s kind of given me something to focus on if it’s been a little overwhelming or if it is a little bit like ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ It’s like, ‘Well, we’re flying to Japan today. We’re going to do some promo,’ and it’s like ‘OK, I’ve got to do that.’”
“Call Me Maybe” (which was included on the six-song EP, “Curiosity,” which was released this past February) makes a return appearance on “Kiss.” “Good Time” (which is also on the new Owl City CD, “The Midsummer Station”) is also featured on “Kiss.” And the rest of “Kiss” sticks to the playful dance-pop of those two songs, as Jepsen sings her way through 10 additional tracks that include cheery uptempo tunes like “This Kiss,” “Turn Me Up” and “Hurt So Good” and an occasional ballad, like “Beautiful,” which features guest vocals from Bieber.
Jepsen’s opening set on Bieber’s “Believe” tour will feature many of the songs from “Kiss.” While Jepsen said there are a few visual bells and whistles in the show, the focus is on the music Jepsen and her band play during her set.
“We’ve definitely been having a lot of fun creating the show,” Jepsen said. “We really focused in on wanting the music to feel great. So we’ve been perfecting the songs as best we can and making a set list that feels like home.”