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 recently. “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.”
Jepsen, of course, 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, recently cracked the top 10 on the Billboard magazine Hot 100 singles chart.
It’s quite a whirlwind for this singer, who at this time last year was still largely unknown outside of her native Canada. She was, though, not a fresh-faced newcomer to music, even at that point.
A native of Mission, British Columbia, Jepsen (who turned 27 on Nov. 21) began pursuing music a year or so after high school, playing pubs around Vancouver, British Columbia, working jobs (including being a coffee 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, who suggested that she try out for Canadian 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 recalls, noting that 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 gamechanger. It was “Call Me Maybe,” and by Christmas time, 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 was jumping on the “Call Me Maybe” bandwagon. The song became more than a hit. It was a phenomenon, going number one in 37 countries, including the United States, where it held the top spot on the “Billboard” 100 for nine weeks.
“Call Me Maybe” makes a return appearance on Kiss. “Good Time” (which is also on the current 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, up-tempo 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 plays during her set.
“We’ve definitely been having a lot of fun creating the show,” Jepsen says. “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.”
Carly Rae Jepsen opens for Justin Bieber at Denver's Pepsi Center Monday, Jan. 7. Tickets are sold out. 303-405-1260.