“It’s always been this weird thing about me…I’ve always had this desire to write,” says Carly Rae Jepsen. For anyone thinking that 30-year-old Carly is a pop star looking for a party, stop right there: she takes her craft seriously, and considers songwriting to be at the heart of it all. This year, Carly released her much-anticipated album Emotion—an album that embraced love, life and heartbreak. It was a favorite among critics, but surprisingly didn’t get a Grammy nomination.
While the album has been her main focus the past year, she’ll play one of the leading ladies in Grease: Live airing January 31 on Fox. Before it airs, we caught up with Carly about her thoughts on the Grammys, Grease and what life after Emotion looks like.
Grease: Live will be on Fox at the end of the month. Who was your favorite character from Grease growing up?
Oh, I think probably every little girl was in love with Sandy. There was something very tempting about the good girl gone bad. But, as an adult, it’s really fun to play a character like Frenchy because she’s optimistic and really corny in a really loveable way. I’m having a lot of fun. I was actually Sandy in my high school production, but I think I did a horrible job in comparison to Julianne [Hough]. So, I feel very happy wtih the role that I had.
Do you relate to the good girl Sandy, or the bad girl Sandy now?
Something in between, I would guess. In high school I was the principal’s daughter, trying to be the best student and in all the musicals and in college I think I unhinged just the right amount. I think it was a healthy balance.
How do you feel about the success of Emotion? You have a ton of critics on your side, but you didn’t get a Grammy nomination, which was surprising.
I don’t think there was really any expectation for [any of the success]. So, having people respond positively—especially critics in the music world—has meant a great deal to me. If there was one thing crazy about ‘Call Me Maybe’ and Kiss, it was ‘yay this is happen, but oh my gosh this is going to take over the whole focus from the fact that I want to keep writing, performing and I have a ton of more ideas up my sleeve.’ It was a big goal of mine to feel that pressure shaken off before I got into the process of writing this albums. At the end of the day, I was listening to it with my bandmates and nobody else, I remember feeling really proud of it. Any reaction beyond that I wasn’t really aiming for, so it’s been a really pleasant surprise.
So, were you bummed about not receiving a Grammy nomination at all?
I can’t honestly say that it was in my radar of expecting it, so, no I wasn’t bummed. I’m more than flattered with the response we’ve gotten from [Emotion] regardless.
Obviously the song that really put you on the map was ‘Call Me Maybe,’ was Emotion an album you made for listeners to see you in a different light or take you more seriously as an artist?
It wasn’t really about me—it was an album with songs that I felt were obviously a part of my thoughts and my experiences, but I wanted to make an album that people instead could incorporate it into their lives, their romances and their chaos.
What’s changed for you the most since releasing Emotion?
I think I’ve experienced the joy of just having a passion project come to fruition, and the joy of getting to perform these songs every single night—it’s a different kind of exhilaration I’ve never felt before. I love performing, and I’ve loved touring before this, but I can’t compare the feeling to being able to tour this album. I think the audience can sense a difference. I think confidence as a performer would be one and also freedom in general, looking at the scope of my career—just allowing myself to write from the heart and feeling like that’s always the best decision.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned since putting out your latest record?
I think I’m constantly learning about songwriting—I think it’s something you can continue to hone in on, learn new techniques, be inspired by new things and get better at. My life’s mission will be to learn as much as I can and be as strong of a writer as I can be. I think one of the beauties of new albums is that they feel like a new chapter of your life, and you get to not do the same thing all over again—I really enjoy that freedom.
You did a great collaboration with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes on Emotion, who would you love to work with moving forward?
There are so many talented people out there that I really admire. I think for collaborations, it’s interesting how you can really love an artist, and you can have different ideas and vice versa where you can get together and it can be lightning. I don’t pretend to say that all of these would work. I think top of the list, it would be Christine and the Queens—I discovered her while I was in Paris. Her song ‘Tilted’ is just deadly. I also think Lorde is incredible as well. I had the pleasure of meeting her this year, and she’s just darling.
They would both make for great collaborations. Who do you think is killing it in the pop game right now?
I obviously really love the Bruno Mars collaborations—I thought those were incredible with Mark Ronson.