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Interview and photography by Justin Tyler Close
makeup and hair by Aga Dondzik
Collage art by Darya Kosilova

I’ve known Carly Rae Jepsen for over a decade now, which seems crazy. Oh that ticking clock! I’ve seen her go from sweet and innocent Carly busking on the street of Vancouver, so that we could bring a nicer bottle of Pinot Noir to whatever party we were crashing, to this fierce artist and businesswoman who is taking the world by storm. From number one pop songs to New York City, where she’s starring in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. 

Sitting backstage at the show, I watched her in action, getting directions from everybody all at once and still remaining composed and smiling back at me while I was snapping some photos. I was so impressed! She’s such a pro and whatever she does I know she will always be great at it. Good people and hard workers deserve great things.

JUSTIN TYLER CLOSE—Where are you right now? Cafe Pick Me Up? Some dingy pub in the East Village?

CARLY RAE JEPSEN—I’m in the back of a taxi cab headed towards a studio to meet a producer/writer I’ve never worked with before.

JTC—How much do you love living in New York City?

CRJ—It’s saving me. Living here is bringing me back to life. Artistically I was getting a little stuck in LA. I can see that now but hindsight is always 20/20.

JTC—OK! I know we both love Billie Holiday! I’ve kind of based my whole interview around her. “A kiss that is never tasted, forever and ever is wasted.” I loved when she sang that. What is your favorite Billie Holiday song? 

CRJ—My Man. Hands down. I think it’s beautifully sad. And I think it gives us a little glimpse into the power struggles of her relationship. “What’s the difference if I say… I’ll go away… When I know I’ll come back on my knees someday.”

JTC—What do you think Billie meant when she said, “If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all?” 

CRJ—Part of what makes Billie so amazing is the fact that you believe every word she sings. It’s like she’s writing the song as she sings it. A performance that honest and that sincere has to come from the soul –from her own life experience. You can’t mimic it.  

JTC—Tell me about Cinderella? What is like playing her six days a week? Are you constantly living in a fairytale where racoons can sing and dance and a pumpkin isn’t just a pumpkin? 

CRJ—It’s a romantic fantasy. I dare to say it’s the ultimate romantic fantasy. A prince literally carries me away six nights a week, but I fear I am ruined for real romance forever now. Ha! I want the rush, rush, rush…

JTC—Do you ever feel like everybody is just searching for the six-year-old version of themselves? Has playing Cinderella helped you find her?

CRJ—I like that theory. I feel like my dreams developed early. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to spend my life doing by the time I was seven and that never wavered. Performing as Cinderella has been an extension of that original dream and I feel proud and fortunate that I get to see it through. 

JTC—You write a lot about love in your songs. Billie once sang, “Love is just like a faucet, it turns off and on.” What is it about love that makes such great music?

CRJ—When you’re in love everything else stops. Love rules all other emotions. Love is KING. My fascination with love is ongoing… I think I will write about it forever.

JTC—As a female performer, do you feel the pressure to always look a certain way or dress a certain way or act a certain way? Or sometimes are you like, “Fuck it! I’m gonna do whatever I want!”

CRJ—Sometimes I feel pressure but I think I put that on myself. I am much happier when I stop worrying so much. 

JTC—You told me a story when I was in New York about how you love to walk into churches and sit down and how fascinated you are by them. Tell me about the magical church in Mexico?

CRJ—It was one of my favorite church moments. I have this desire to seek out all the old churches I can find while on the road. I find it so peaceful to be inside them. I love the old architecture – that detail; it’s breathtaking. Anyway, it was a hot day in Mexico City and we found a big old church to slip into for shade and a quick sit down. I had dragged my friends with me. They don’t have the same church love affair that I do, but they played along. We sat at the back and it appeared we were all alone in there, until a choir stood up as if on cue, and sang three numbers back to back just for us. I can’t tell you what that music sounded like, but we were all in tears. It was one of those moments in life that makes you stop. 

JTC—Back to Billie. She said, “If I don’t have friends, then I ain’t got nothin’.” Considering how crazy your life has been the past few years, do you find it hard to stay close to friends?

CRJ—If anything I think my friends are the people that get me through. My band mates are more like my brothers. We go for family dinners every week and it feels like home wherever I am if they are around. 

JTC—When I was watching Cinderella, I couldn’t help but notice all the kids bug-eyed and so caught up in the magic of the play, convincing themselves that this is all real. What is the most terrifying part about playing Cinderella?

CRJ—I think it’s just such an iconic role that I pray each night I’m doing it justice. Thinking back to Julie Andrews – the original Cinderella – I always feel so terribly tomboyish in comparison. But I like the challenge of defining my own Cindy story. It’s what keeps each night so exciting still.

JTC—Because of technology and how lazy people are getting, do you think text messaging killed the phone call? Or do you think it still has a chance? Call Me Maybe? Kidding!

CRJ—I think texting is wonderful for casual convo but nothing compares to hearing someone’s voice. It’s so much more intimate and clear.

JTC—“Sometimes it’s worse to win a fight, then to lose.” Why do you think this is important? Do you like to win?

CRJ—Don’t play Settlers of Catan with me, ever. I become a monster. I love to win, yes, but I think you learn more from losing. I think the moments in my life where things didn’t go my way are the moments when real growth became possible. 

JTC—If not music, what would you be doing? 

CRJ—I don’t know. I love acting. But that’s in the same vein I guess. I’d love to write books. I’d love to open a quaint little bakery. And I like party planning, so who knows? 

JTC—So I hear that we’ll be able to travel to space soon. Want to go with me? Shotgun!

CRJ—No, I’m too scared. I like earth, and my telescope. That’s fine for now. 

JTC—There’s this brilliant TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was basically about her feeling doomed after Eat, Pray, Love came out, because of the idea that anything she did afterwards would never live up to its success. Because of Call Me Maybe and its massive exposure, do you feel a lot of pressure to create something as big as that song? How do you handle that? Do you feel the pressure?

CRJ—It’s funny I’m reading her most recent book right now called The Signature of All Things, and I am enjoying it a lot. But I know what you mean. I feel that pressure sometimes and then I ask why and I can let it go just as easily. Success with Call Me Maybe was such a gift and the challenges I face because of it are all good problems to have. And I embrace them… I don’t let fear paralyze me.

JTC— “Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.” Do you make time for romance? Have you ever had a Richard Linklater moment on the road, where you meet someone, stay up all night, walking, talking, maybe kissing, and then have to go back on tour and always wonder about it?

CRJ—Maybe when I was a kid, yeah… But it’s been a while since I had a romance for a day. I am not as attracted to that idea anymore. I want real connections – something that is more than a quick flirtation. 

JTC—I know you’re putting out another album, when can we expect that? And should we expect a similar sound or have you gone into heavy metal and now play in an eight-piece band with two drummers?

CRJ—Haha… That’s for me to know and you to wonder. It’s too soon to tell. But I think you can expect to be a little surprised.

JTC—If you had to listen to five songs on repeat for the rest of your life, what songs would they be? 

CRJ—Impossible question, Justin.

Pink Moon – Nick Drake

In the Garden – Van Morrison

Georgia on My Mind – Ray Charles

A Case of You – James Blake cover of Joni Mitchell

La Vie en rose – Edith Piaf

I’d also want something classical….

JTC—Are there any non-musician people who have influenced you, or that you turn to for inspiration when writing your songs?

CRJ—My girlfriends – while “girl talking” I always find a common theme in our love lives and daily stresses and joys. I usually listen like a hawk for lyric ideas on those coffee dates.

JTC—When was the last time you cried?

CRJ—Last week. I waited till I was alone. We have been doing some work with young cancer patients and I couldn’t keep it together after one of these visits. She is eleven years old and it just feels so extremely unfair.

JTC—What is your oldest memory of our friendship? Mine is how we were always big dreamers. We talked a lot about the future and where we wanted to be. 

CRJ—I remember doing a shoot on a rooftop in a hand-me-down blue dress and a pearl necklace that I borrowed from my mum. You were shooting all these weird angles and “experimenting” and I was trying to catch that perfect balance of confident meets coy and failing miserably. But somehow you snapped a pic in a rare moment when I was just relaxed and we got it. And we’ve been shooting just like that ever since.


Justin Tyler Close is creative director of The Lab Magazine.