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The Conversation: we have a chat with Carly Rae Jepsen

A quick read with someone in the public eye

By Andy Welch

The 29-year-old pop queen behind global smash hit Call Me Maybe knows that it takes guts to build on such success, but she has proved to be up to the challenge.

Does sitting in this London hotel room looking out at the rain make you miss home?

I actually like the rain, I live in LA now, there's too much sun. They all lose their minds if it rains. I'm from Canada, and look at my skin - I'm like half albino or something. I need the rain, it reminds me of home.

You're here to promote your new album, Emotion, which follows on from the huge success of its predecessor, Kiss, and more specifically, 2011's Call Me Maybe. Why different release dates?

Emotion was released in Japan in June, at the end of August in North America, and now in Europe. I think, because there have been so many releases, I'm just happy to have it out everywhere. There's normally a grace period after you've finished an album where you're waiting to release it, sitting on it for months, but I was past the deadline with Emotion. It was finished right before it was released in Japan.

You wrote up to 200 songs between Kiss and Emotion, how do you decide what makes the cut?

The worst song I wrote was about Mike Tyson. I was at Justin Bieber's birthday party (she and Bieber share a manager, Scooter Braun), and Mike Tyson was there.

He was telling me this idea of his that pain doesn't really exist, it's just in your mind, and I wanted to try to get it into a song. But it was absolutely awful.

Call Me Maybe was hugely successful - it's nearing one billion YouTube plays and went to No 1 in 18 countries - this must raise expectations for your next release?

Yeah, there was a bit more pressure because of Call Me Maybe, and the time I took to be away before coming back.

I was deliberately trying to write songs that rebelled against it. Then I realised I was doing that, and that's not really the right motivation to make another album. I checked myself, and that's why I took a break and went to New York to do Cinderella (Rodgers And Hammerstein Broadway musical she appeared in for five months). I needed some more healthy perspective before starting something else.

I knew I had more to me than Call Me Maybe, but everyone that gets famous for one thing gets pigeonholed. From the outside, we think that one thing is their identity, and it's very easy for a person to rebel against that.

You toyed with making an indie folk album, but decided to stick with catchy pop. What was the motivation?

I saw Cyndi Lauper in Japan. I was struck by how, when she sang Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, that it could be released today without anything being changed. I have songs from six months ago where I'd change everything. I started listening to more Lauper, early Madonna and Prince - there's something about that era that called to me.

Is it true you used to sing on the street?

I'd released my debut album in Canada, but was still working in bars and a coffee shop to make ends meet.

One day my dad's secretary saw me busking. I needed some more money to pay my electricity bill.

It was really embarrassing, but also great because she gave me 20 dollars. Things weren't working, and I couldn't make any money from music.

I was waitressing, and then a song of mine would come on the radio, but I still wasn't earning.

When things finally took off, it was unexpected, and I was very grateful.

Was that early struggle useful?

Looking back, I'm very glad I was 26 by the time I had a successful album, as it gave me time to experience normal life, and for fame to hit at a time when I was able to deal with it.

If I'm honest, Call Me Maybe took me on this incredible ride, and it's been so much fun, but I don't think I would want a song that big again.

It becomes your whole life and there's not a lot of balance. Near the end, I was very ready for it to calm down.

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