Carly Rae Jepsen recently got locked in on her own tour bus. It wasn’t due to anything nefarious. Stepping off that bus for this interview while parked somewhere near Indianapolis, she blames a “jiggly handle” on the bus door. Jepsen recounts this story with the tone of a bemused road veteran.
In fact, it’s been seven years since Jepsen’s breakout hit “Call Me Maybe,” that irresistible cocktail of awkward self-deprecation, a pulsing beat, and club strings. Those who pegged Jepsen a one-hit wonder are now confused or chagrined, but it shouldn’t have been surprising that the Canadian singer, who comes to the House of Blues on Tuesday, would last this long. “Call Me Maybe,” like the best of her work, is expertly arranged, immaculately produced, and charmingly performed.
Now 33 years old and four albums in, Jepsen sounds just as charming but more self-assured. The very title of “Call Me Maybe” is coy and a little unsure, but there’s nothing coy about “Party For One,” the lead single of her new album, “Dedicated.” Though the album came out last May, the single, a forthright celebration of self-reliance, was released last November — a sort of statement of intent before the full statement.
Jepsen says the song came from a realization of independence in a Swedish hotel room soon after a particularly rough breakup. She started singing the song’s chorus (“Party for one, if you don’t care about me/I’ll just dance for myself/Back on my beat”) and enjoyed her newfound singlehood.
“I just remembered that moment and it was just a gut feeling, and I wanted to start there,” she says. “I wanted to have a self-love song out there. It was something I was learning to get more to myself and get to work on, and the happiness of not needing to count on someone to share your joy. I took a trip to Italy this past year by myself for three weeks, which was a huge learning curve for what it takes to treat yourself and to have time alone.”
Jepsen’s working title for “Dedicated” was “Disco Sweat,” and it’s easy to hear why: The beats are by turns languid and punchy, and even the downbeat songs conjure images of dance floors. She ended up writing more than 200 songs for the record, and she ultimately relied on family and friends to help her narrow it down to the 15 tracks that ended up on “Dedicated.”
“Originally I had a mission statement,” says Jepsen, “but that kind of got lost in the wind. I wanted to make this understated disco album. I think ‘Julien’ is the closest we got to that. Patrik Berger, a [song]writer I was dying to work with, pretty early on in the process was like, ‘If you start with too many mission statements, you kind of lose the magic, so let’s just play.’ And I was really glad to let go. . . . I just started to let the songs choose themselves.”
Album opener “Julien” is the kind of airy, breathy track Donna Summer specialized in, and it fits Jepsen’s description. The rest of the songs vary in style and emotion, but they all sound like Carly Rae Jepsen: simultaneously vulnerable and strong, hummable but melodically complex.
Her writing process, she says, typically starts with melodies and lyrics that she finds herself coming back to.
“It’s always a little bit different, which is what’s so special about it,” she says. “I think that’s what I love about getting to work with different people, and everybody comes to a song a different way, and you can learn off of that and challenge yourself in a different way.” But the most natural way for me usually comes from melody and lyrics being tossed around on my tongue for a while. I’ll kind of workshop a little in my own head and I’ll bring it to [longtime collaborator] Tavish Crowe, and we’ll just start workshopping it. Later on I’ll bring that idea to producers.”
Some dates on Jepsen’s tour include opener singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan, who says that working with Jepsen was a no-brainer.
“I couldn’t be more excited to tour with Carly,” says Ryan over e-mail. “She’s a lovely person and I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, both personally and professionally. Her new record is absolutely incredible. When she invited me on this tour, I was over the moon.”
The tours, naturally, get bigger and bigger, which Jepsen says surprises her at every show.
“I had a fast ride with [‘Call Me Maybe’] but I’ve been taking the steps ever since then, and I’ve loved every step. It feels like something I’ve really worked for, and this is the tour of my dreams. I’m never not shocked by it. Every single night I’m in awe of the whole thing. I’m really grateful.”
Carly Rae Jepsen
At the House of Blues, Tuesday. www.ticketmaster.com
David Brusie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org