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Carly Rae Jepsen talks new music, Brighton Pride, and why she's become the queen of f**king everything

2016-08-04

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. When Carly Rae Jepsen burst onto the international scene with pop music behemoth that was 'Call Me Maybe', the song's irrepressible success (18 million global sales and counting) looked set to overshadow one of the most exciting pop prospects in years.

So how did the 30-year-old former Canadian Idol star respond to the pressure? By releasing one of the best pop albums of the last few years in the form of 2015's EMOTION, an irrepressible collection of '80s-inflected joy which, while not quite burying 'Call Me's ubiquity, certainly shovelled some dirt on it.

Now, UK fans have a rare chance to see the recently-crowned Queen of Memes bring that very joy to these shores at Brighton Pride this weekend. With an outspoken history of gay rights support (she once cancelled a gig for Boy Scouts of America in protest at their anti-gay policies) and a performance at this year's LA Pride under her belt, Pride-goers will be in for an unmissable show when she headlines the main stage in Preston Park on Saturday (August 6).

Ahead of her gig at the UK's biggest Pride festival, Attitude's Will Stroude caught up with Carly find out where her next album's headed, why her gay childhood friends inspired to always speak up for what's right, and just what the hell has been going on her Instagram page recently...

The whole EMOTION campaign has been so huge for you, how are you feeling about leaving that era behind and embarking on a new record?

I think one of the gifts that EMOTION has given me is the freedom and confidence to make the type of music that feels the closest who I am as an artist. I’ve always loved pop but this was me trying to decide what I loved about pop, being able to bring it into a new world of maturity. I am 30 years-old, and I want it to be something my friends and I could kick to. It took me a really long time to do it and by the time I finished I wasn’t sure if anyone would be paying attention, if it was going to be received in a negative or positive way, but I really didn’t care because I was just so proud of it. It ended up being this wonderful surprise that it was connecting to people. You kind of find a world connection through music and it’s a total gift. I was very, very lucky.

You achieved such huge commercial success with 'Call Me Maybe' and then became this massive critical darling with EMOTION. If you could choose between the two, would you rather have the commercial success or the critical acclaim?

I prefer the latter. I think I’ve had a very strange career actually, the fact that I’ve been able to dip my toes into what it’s like to be followed by the paparazzi - it is intense fame [and] you get recognised everywhere. And then I’ve had the opposite where it has been a little bit more about just music fans, and smaller crowds in theatres, but everyone there has spent time with the entire album and they're sing along with every word, and there's this real hunger to it. And for me, I much prefer that. Part of being a performer is getting to travel and hustle and you work really hard for it - it’s not that glamorous, but at the end of the day it’s much more rewarding.

Be honest: Does the fact that 'Run Away With' Me didn’t become a Number One smash in every country in the world make you want to end humanity?

[laughs] Thank you, that’s very sweet to say. I mean at some point with radio you just have to like, wipe your hands clean of it and realise that, for me at least, it’s a monster and machine that I don’t understand. Songs that I don’t necessarily love so much have worked there, and songs that I feel like are maybe the best material that I’ve done so far don’t get a chance. And [radio] is a place where I sometimes hear songs and I think 'that’s fantastic', and other times I’m wondering how they got in there! I realise that everyone has different tastes and what I connect to is not going to be the same for everybody. Playing the radio game can get really frustrating if you invest in that part too much and I hope that music spreads in other ways.

Have you any idea where this new record might be headed? We heard you'd been getting into the classic disco vibes.

Yeah, I don’t know where this disco idea is coming from. I mean I grew up with my mom who listened to like ABBA and The Beegees on occasion, but there wasn’t necessarily like this big influence at any point in my life with disco being ‘the thing’. But disco’s such a broad thing -it’s like saying ‘pop music’. there’s kind of like really cheesy, crappy disco and then there’s really cool, sexy tight rhythms. I just started writing and I kind of dug in more and more to different artists that I’ve been following. We’ll see what happens.

carly new web

Obviously we’re really excited about you coming over to the UK for Brighton Pride this year…

So pumped!

What have you got in store for people?

Getting to perform at any Pride festival is fantastic, but I’ve been to Brighton and I can just imagine that the setting there is just going to be really surreal in a beautiful way. With a celebration like that, the energy’s just different so we like to make it as much of a party as possible and a feeling that’s like love in the room. This album I think is more fun for us to perform, but I think it’s a chance to really connect with people and, you know, boogie it on out and just enjoy the day.

You once cancelled a gig for the Boy Scouts of America because of their policy against gay troop leaders. Clearly gay rights are something you feel strongly about?

I think it’s been something I’ve been very close to. Growing up I had some very close gay friends who would tell me the struggles that they were dealing with with their own families. Brandon, one of my buddies got kicked out of his house once his family discovered [he was gay]. He was not following rules the way they felt it should go, and it’s just so fucked up to me. Any chance that I can get to bring attention to treating everyone like equals and not being so judgemental and having an open heart and mind; the more I can say that the better.

The big story in the States over the last few months has been anti-trans bathroom laws in places like Mississipi and North Carolina, and we've seen really quite high-profile artists cancelling gigs there. Is that something you’d ever consider doing, taking a stance like that, or would you want to play for the LGBT fans there?

I mean, that issue is just the same, simplicity-wise, as the last one: if you’re a human being and you need to use the washroom, you should be allowed to use the washroom, right? And you use the one that you’re comfortable with. At the end of the day that’s about it! I think [artists] are trying to bring awareness... it's very important and if cancelling shows is the way to do that then cancelling shows is the way to do that. But I don’t think everyone from that city is probably like-minded in their views, so it becomes a little confusing on how to make that call. So yeah, I don’t know, I haven’t been put in that position yet.

Another thing that's been unavoidable over the past few months are the 'Run Away with Memes' that have been all over the internet - have you seen any of them?!

I have, I have a very adorable mother who sends them to me, which is pretty impressive that she even knows what a meme is! I was like ‘well done technology mom, you’re growing up!’ Those are just hilarious and the exact reason why I love connecting with fans because you get to kind of see their creative brains - and they’re right up my alley with the whole comedy side! I love when I can laugh and enjoy a song at the same time. There’s one for 'Boy Problems' - and I sound like, really mean [laughs] - and girl runs over her brother with the toy car, and he doesn’t look okay! [cackles] But for some reason it’s so funny! Oh I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person! I’m pretty sure like ten minutes after they posted that he ended up in the hospital! I need to check myself like, ‘you’re a bad girl!’

Another thing we need to talk about is what's going on with your Instagram account, where you're fans are quite literally proclaiming you the queen of f**king everything...

[laughs] I don’t even know what’s going on!

What is going on? Do you know? Or has this gone totally out of your control?

I have no idea! I wish I did. When we did the 'Give Me Love Tour' sometimes fans were making their own shirts and they would be like ‘Carly Slay Jepsen’ or ‘Carly Bae Jepsen’, and then ‘Queen of Pop’, and now they're just calling me queen of really random things, like, I don’t know, ‘having friends wearing wigs’! It’s gotten so strange. We get a kick out of them, the band boys are hilarious because they’ve just been fuelling it now by teasing me. My guitarist Travis had me outside the other day and he just shouted ‘Queen of leaning on fences!’ and I was like, ‘You asshole!’ [laughs].

carly

Do you find yourself worrying about the things you might be queen of when you're taking photos now?

No! I’m pretty much sure it’s gonna die down soon, but then I’m always surprised. Like, I literally just posted a picture of my mother the other day and it was like 'nope, nope that didn't work - okay!' It's kind of funny.

Getting Tom Hanks in the video for ‘I Really Like You’ was such a stroke of genius, are you guys buddies now?

Well we don’t go for, like, hikes every morning in LA, but like I see him where I’m we're on friendly terms obviously! He made a plan to come to my LA show and it was really cute, and he was like ‘yeah I really want to go’ and I was like ‘Tom, you can have free access to any of my shows whenever - that’s how this works'! You know, He wasn’t in my sight as somebody who I thought would even consider being a part of my video, so i have to credit Scooter for that. I did come up with the concept, I'd been sent a bunch of treatments from different directors, and because the song is so cheeky and cute and kind of adorably sweet, I didn’t want there to be an adorably sweet video on top of it: I wanted something that was like my fanbase - a little comedic and a little absurd! So I had this idea of having this Bill Murray-type character sing the song instead of me. So I even had him on my list, I think at one point I even called him. And while we were on the hunt for this Scooter was at dinner with Tom Hanks who he is friends with by coincidence and he mentioned what I was up to and Tom heard the song and said ‘hey, I’ll do it’. That was kind of it - it was Christmas come early.

hanks

Do you know how long he spent trying to get that lip-sync down?!

Well that’s kind of our favourite part, because at some point you're just like, well I'm not going to direct Tom Hanks so we’ll let this be... a little bit like... He’s not the best lip-syncer in the world, but that’s kind of what makes it charming; it’s real - that’s how he would do it!

Staying on the subject of videos, obviously your 'Call Me Maybe' video had the big twist of the romantic male lead turning out to be gay. Did that ever feel like a risk at the time, giving your first massive international hit an LGBT angle to it?

I remember actually explaining the concept to my friends and they were like 'that’s awesome, that’s gonna be perfect' but then I told my family about it and one of my uncles was like ‘why not at the end, the boy just comes up to the girl and gives her a rose and then they could kiss!’. And I was like 'erm, because that’s so boring!' I had a couple of people who were questioning sort of the idea behind it, not necessarily from it being risky but them not totally getting what we were going for, which was the surprise and a little bit of something unexpected - a happy twist, you know?

Carly headlines the Brighton Pride festival main stage this Saturday, August 6. Tickets for Brighton Pride 2016 are now available here. For more information visit brighton-pride.org, or check out our ultimate guide to the weekend's events.