Q&A: Carly Rae Jepsen On How Justin Bieber Made 'My Dreams Come True,' The Sly Gayness Of 'Call Me Maybe' & Becoming An LGBT Activist

Chris Azzopardi

Carly Rae Jepsen is calling – and no, not maybe.
This is a real-life phone date (pegged, of course, to the release of her latest synth-pop concoction, "E*MO*TION") wherein the 29-year-old is bubbly over, well, just about everything: Her career. The gays. Marriage equality. Being "the little mermaid." And that time Justin Bieber changed her life.

Growing up in Mission, British Columbia, in Canada, what was your introduction to the gay community?
In Canada, I had tons of friends who I grew up with who are gay or lesbian. I had one friend in particular, and I saw just how hard it was for him when his family found out he was gay – they shunned him, actually. He thought he was gonna have to make it on his own and move out – it was heartbreaking for all of us. We didn't really understand it, and that's probably when I began to really get angry about the pain that was caused for what I thought was no reason. Moving to the U.S. and seeing how big of an issue it is made me want to help and bring awareness to the subject.

As a steadfast ally, that's exactly what you've done. Though the group has since adjusted its policies on both fronts, you famously canceled a Boy Scouts of America gig due to the fact that gay members and leaders could not work and volunteer.
You know what, I've had a couple "I think I'm gonna tell my kids about this" moments. When we got marriage equality and there was a celebration for that in New York City (hosted by Freedom to Marry on July 9), it was an honor to be a part of that. I can't explain it. There are some performances that you do and you're like, "That was cool, that was fun." That one was different fun. It was so memorable and an incredible thing to be a part of. The band and I had a moment backstage where we all kind of were like, "Wow, this is really cool. This is a different kind of cool, to be a part of this."

As an artist, when did you first feel the support from the gay community?
We were performing during a lot of different events like the White Party (in Palm Springs), which is an amazing celebration. That's probably one of the best times we've had. Everyone's in the best mood ever! But I've always felt, when we go to wherever it might be – a festival or something along those lines – it's just a different kind of energy. Everyone is so joyful and you feel all of that as a performer. There's just a mutual lovefest going on for me anytime I can get in front of a crowd like that.

You immediately established yourself as an ally when you ended your "Call Me Maybe" video with a gay twist. The influence of the song's video on the mainstream cannot be denied. In a 2012 Huffington Post article, you were called "a poster child for the post-gay pop generation." How aware are you of the influence the video's nonchalant approach to homosexuality had on mainstream culture?
It was a very innocent video… because I am nonchalant about it! (Laughs) It wasn't meant to have a huge impact – it actually shocked me that it did. I think there was so much going on with that video and with that song that my life was sort of being flipped upside down. I moved to LA for the first time and I was meeting all these people, so it was just a nice thing to hear that it was making a positive impact, but there was no intentional motive. It ended up being a beautiful outcome, though.

Is the gay guy you fell for in the video available? Can he call me maybe?
(Laughs) I'm sorry to inform you that I think he's actually straight, but you can see what you can do, at least. Go for it!

Have you ever fallen for a gay man?
Oh, I'm completely in love with one of my best friends, but he's very gay, so yeah. I'm very in love with him, but it's more of a brother / sister love. Whatever man actually does land him will be a very lucky man, indeed. He's everything I'd want and more.

Have you ever gone on a date with a guy where he's like, "Here's my number, so call me maybe"?
(Laughs) I haven't. But I actually experienced a pretty comical thing after "Call Me Maybe." When I had written that song I had a boyfriend, and throughout the whole process of promoting it and touring with it, I was a taken lady. It wasn't until I was single I had realized what a flub up I had made… because who's ever gonna ask me for my number now?! It's such an awkward situation. "Soooo. Here's my number." We're gonna have to exchange emails or something.

Text me maybe?
Text me maybe – yeah! Eh, I'm kind of screwed.

How does it feel knowing you'll have to sing that song for the rest of your life?
When I was very little, actually, my grandmother would say, "Be careful what songs you put out there because you might have to sing them for the rest of your life." I bring that up to her now and again and I'm like, "Did you know? You knew!"
And yeah, it is one of those songs where I'll be 89 and I'll still be singing it. The thing with a song like that is, yeah, it has its moments where we're like, "Really? 'Call Me Maybe' again?" – butting our heads against the wall – but you see all the joy that happens when we play it and it's worth it. Plus, I never have to sing it alone.

For the new album, you were inspired after seeing a Cyndi Lauper concert in Japan. What about seeing her live influenced the direction you took on "E*MO*TION"?
This last year I had one of those "pinch me moments" when Cyndi Lauper was inaugurated into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and she actually allowed me to be the person to give the inauguration speech and sing ("Time After Time"). My parents were in town, and I don't think I'd ever been more nervous about something. To have (Cyndi) kind of beside me, watching me, was like, "Oh god."
I think that there's just a timelessness to her songs. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is so epic; it's one of those songs that has stood the test of time. I feel like it's an intimidating endeavor, but I wanted to at least aim at trying to make songs that weren't just for the moment but that could be lasting. There's something about '80s music that I really hooked into. Old-school Madonna, Prince – it all jives. I didn't necessarily want to make a complete period piece – where I'm taking you back to the '80s – but I wanted to incorporate something '80s into what I naturally do.

What facets of your own life did you tap into to make this album a more personal experience?
Well, it depends on the song. I think there are lighter songs, where there's not much of me to read into. "I Really Like You" is one of those; it's just, like, a hook up and it's clearly just that. (Laughs) But I do think there are songs that speak to my more personal side. "Warm Blood" is that for me; it's a very intimate song. The verse came to me in the middle of the night actually, and it's about that longing for intimacy.

Justin Bieber tweeted "Call Me Maybe" out when the single was released in 2012, you've toured together, and then he recently made a cameo in the video for "I Really Like You." What's your relationship with Justin like?
I can't describe Justin any other way than by saying he has been a life-changer for me. He obviously was the first person to shed light on my project in Canada, and I don't know how you thank somebody for that. I don't know how you say, "Thank you for making all of my dreams come true."
It's been a really great professional relationship. He also invited me to be a part of his world tour, which was just such an experience for me and the band boys. Before Justin the biggest tour we had done was opening for Hanson in Canada; that was fun in a different way. But getting to play stadiums – there's nothing quite like that feeling. And yeah, forever I am indebted to him. It was very fun to have him be a part of "I Really Like You."
We did a song called "Beautiful" on "Kiss" (in 2012) – that was a very strange day for me too. I remember flying into LA and immediately after I arrived I went to the studio to see what he was working on and he showed me "Beautiful" and asked me if I would sing on it with him. So literally a half hour after meeting Justin I was in the studio recording his song. Again, it was one of those moments; I've had a few of them in my life where you're just wondering if you're dreaming or not. It's almost too weird to be true. I'm really happy with how the whole thing came out. It was a nice moment and memory for me.

Speaking of dreams come true: How much did getting to sing "Part of Your World" for "The Little Mermaid" Diamond Edition DVD change your life?!
I got a few phone calls – weird phone calls, again! – and that was one of those: "We're getting different musicians to play the part of the princess of the decade – right now it's gonna be Ariel – and we were wondering if you would sing 'Part of Your World' and there should be a video and you'll play Ariel." I was like, "Ummmm. You're giving me an excuse to dye my hair red, which I've wanted to do for a while!"

Has fame made you feel like a Disney princess?
I'm definitely not a Disney princess by any means! (Laughs) But it's fun to play the part of it every once in a while.

If you didn't have feet, would you trade your voice for them?
I think the singing aspect would be too important, so I'd keep my voice. For true love, though – that's a different thing. You trade anything for true love.

If you had a prince as hot as Eric…
Yeah, now you're talking!

You also played Cinderella last year during Rodger and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" on Broadway. What would you like your happily ever after to be?
I have always admired people who've been able to make music for life and who have an audience that just follows the ebbs and flows of their career, and also hopefully helps other people with the music they're making. I know he's not a pop artist, but James Taylor is someone I've always looked up to because he has such a strong core fanbase that will follow him everywhere. He can take two years off and come back with an album and be No. 1 with it. If I could be anything close to that career-wise, where you're able to spend your life making music and have people – whether it's a big group or a small mighty group – come and see my shows, that would be the dream.