As she prepares to perform at this year’s Brighton and Hove Pride, Carly Rae Jepsen exclusively opens up about her gay fans, her love of 70s disco, 80s pop and the Spice Girls, and becoming the internet’s queen of memes.
Carly Rae Jepsen is so excited to hear our English accent that she agrees to test out her own, which turns out to have a northern twang. “I can only ask for one thing: ‘How about a cuppa tay?’ Is that right? But yeah, it’s horrible, I’m embarrassing myself!” Carly’s accent is actually better than she thinks – certainly more northern-sounding than what some actors on Coronation Street have achieved. If Carly slips into some British during her Brighton Pride performance in August, she’ll surely earn herself a roar of approval.
Carly, who’s Canadian, says she got “hooked” on Pride events after performing at World Pride in Toronto in 2014. “I just felt like the energy in the room was a different level of celebration. You could feel the love and the purpose and the freedom of the whole thing. I think Brighton’s going to be an amazing party.” These days, Pride events have their critics who reckon they’re increasingly irrelevant and commercialised, but Carly is convinced they still matter. “It’s a wonderful tradition to keep going,” she says in response. “It’s especially important for our youth to realise that this is something that’s been going on for a long time. Though it might mean something different now than when it first started, it’s still important to honour the history of it.”
Carly’s breakthrough single Call Me Maybe became inescapable in gay bars in 2012, but last year’s album Emotion seemed to deepen her bond with her LGBT fans. “The music that I’m drawn to is very 80s pop and maybe that’s connecting with people?” she suggests. “But we’ve certainly noticed at my live shows that a big part of the crowd has been from the LGBT community. That feels like the ultimate gift because it’s my favourite crowd to perform to. I stand on stage and feel great acceptance rather than judged, which you can sometimes feel when you step out there. I’ll look to my right and see a couple kissing, or look to my left and see a couple dancing slow, and that’s a beautiful thing to be part of.”Press[/caption]
“Writing lyrics is something I want to get better at,” she says modestly. “I think you can kind of settle for something that just fits and works. But you get to the really good stuff by coming back and re-examining and really challenging yourself. Sometimes it’s grungy work – you’ll spend forever on one sentence of one song, being like, ‘Why is this not working yet?!’ But then when it feels right, everyone in the room can feel it too, and I think that’s what makes the music connect. I know that’s what I connect to: when I hear a song and feel like the artist must’ve known the secrets of my life and written a song sort of exposing them and making me feel a little less lonely.”
Carly’s already started writing her next album and says disco is a somewhat unexpected influence. “My parents were into folk music like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. So when I got my hands on the Spice Girls, it was like I was completely reborn! I always wanted to make a pop album and then, eventually, I wanted to make an 80s pop album. The attraction to 70s music that I’m feeling now kind of came out of the blue. I think I heard a couple of songs with disco elements to them and thought I could maybe create my own understated disco sound. But who knows?
“I will say, as a disclaimer, that when I was making Emotion I let myself go in about eight different directions before it really felt right. So disco could actually turn into something completely different by the time I’m done. But at this moment in time, I’m having a lot of time fun playing around with it.”
Obviously, we now have to ask: is Carly behind the idea of a Spice Girls 20th anniversary reunion tour? “I’ll literally cancel my own tour to go and see the Spice Girls if they get back together. It’ll be inconvenient for me, but so worth it!”
But what if it’s not the whole group – just three or four members? “That’d still be worth seeing, but nothing could beat the magic of all five together. But yeah, it’s easy for us to say they should do something again, but imagine it from their perspective. It must feel like a total time warp – putting on those costumes and singing those songs. I don’t know whether they’d be excited or terrified. But hey, if they decide to put on a show, I’m coming!”
It’s fun hearing Carly gush about the Spice Girls the way fans online gush about her. They call her “Carly Slay Jepsen” and create memes inserting Carly’s “Baaaby!” from Run Away With Me into all kinds of video clips – from Regina George being hit by a bus in Mean Girls to Coco Montrese talking about the perfect orgasm on Drag Race.
“They’re hilarious, they’re all so good!” Carly laughs. “There’s been some made for Boy Problems too and my wicked humour really enjoys the one where this older sister runs over her little brother in a little kid car. It’s so funny for me to hear Boy Problems playing in the background as he gets mown down – gently, I should add!” Though she’s inspiring all these memes, Carly says she couldn’t make one if she tried. “People ask, ‘Was this a big part of your strategy for getting your music out there?’ But I’m the most technically un-savvy person you’ll ever meet. I mean, I was calling them ‘mimes’ for a long time before I got corrected. I’m so out of the loop and clownish when it comes to this kind of thing, so it’s hilarious that it’s become a part of the story.”
Carly’s fans also really like calling her “queen” in comments on her Instagram posts. For example, if a picture showed Carly sitting outside on a bench on a sunny day, the comments might read: “queen of benches”, “queen of the outdoors”, “queen of sunny days”.
What does she make of this? “It’s getting out of hand, but it’s so funny!” Carly smiles. “My band are always making jokes about it. I’ll be drinking an orange juice and they’ll say, like, ‘Queen of drinking orange juice.’ I’m like, ‘OK, OK…’ I think it started around the time Emotion came out. There was a little hashtag that someone started calling me #QueenOfPop and I guess that got played out, and then it started becoming queen of all these random things. I saw one the other day on a picture where I was holding something, and the comment was ‘queen of picking up arbitrary things’. I’m like, ‘What?! This is so weird.’”
It’s not too hard to work out which one Carly will be seeing next: Queen of Brighton Pride.
Carly performs at Brighton Pride this weekend – August 6 – August 7