Interview: Carly Rae Jepsen On ‘Dedicated’ & New Album Of B-Sides
Carly Rae Jepsen treats pop with the reverence it deserves. The Canadian superstar spent three, long years chipping away at the followup to 2015’s universally-loved Emotion. Along the way, she went through a breakup, traveled the world and fell in love again — and captured those highs (and lows) with remarkable clarity on 200 songs. Of those, 15 made the final cut of Dedicated. And each and every one of them is an exquisitely-wrought pop gem that gets stuck in your head from the very first listen.
I recently had a little chat with Carly Rae about Dedicated and she opened up about its evolution from a ’70s-referencing, disco album to the collection of forward-thinking, electro-pop anthems that eventually saw the light of day. The “Now That I Found You” hitmaker also spoke about working with A-List collaborators like Patrik Berger, John Hill, Noonie Bao and Jack Antonoff, and revealed that she is releasing a second album of unreleased tracks a la Side B. Find out more about Carly Rae’s mood-lifting Dedicated in our Q&A below.
Congratulations on Dedicated. It’s such a fun album.
Aww, thank you. Oh, that’s welcoming. It’s so fun to have you hear it.
Could you talk about the evolution of Dedicated. I know at one point you mentioned a ’70s theme, but there have been a few twists and turns since then.
I mean, I think that’s going to happen naturally for any project that has a certain amount of time to grow. You kind of stop and analyze, and make changes as you go. My process is one where I write a lot, and part of that writing is just experimental — to sort of play in different lanes and see what sticks and feels good. But I did have a mission statement to start off, which was disco-influenced, and I think “Julien” fulfills it. But then I met Patrik Berger and he warned me against pigeonholing the project from the start. I just allowed myself to be creative.
You know, you might be shooting yourself in the foot and limiting where you can go. So I just sort of threw my mission statement out the window and started to play in different areas. I’m really glad that I did. I think we made something that feels unique to what I’ve done before and that was what I was really hoping for.
You definitely achieved that. It sounds very different to Emotion and Kiss. I read that you had 200 songs at one point. How do you narrow that down? Is it like choosing a favorite child?
It is like picking a favorite child! I definitely had my favorite songs and it felt like betrayal to kill some of my babies and my darlings, but it was necessary. I don’t have a team that is stickler for dates, saying things like, “We need an album this year.” I used to have a few people like that around me, but I’ve learned to build myself a team with creatives that know me. They are business savvy enough to tell me that 200 is enough and we have to start narrowing it down.
Even my A&R came to the house in the narrowing down process and he kind of got to a point where he was like, “All right! I’ve done it, I’ve picked my top 22.” I was like, “That’s still not helpful.” In the end, I realized that this is the beginning of an era and I can store some songs away for projects to come. I’m equally excited for what I hope will be a Side B or Part 2 of the album, because there are songs that were just important as these ones.
That’s exciting. I was going to ask if we’re getting a Side B-type album for Dedicated.
Yeah, I feel like I should stop pretending. I have every intention of doing that and releasing a part two. I think that’s the fun with having this much time to record an album. It gives you a little bit of perspective on what should come first and what should come second. It was easier to narrow down the first part because I knew was going to get to share a lot more songs.
It’s so interesting because there are fans that will argue until their heads explode that there are songs on Side B that are better than anything on Emotion.
And me especially! I mean, if I had my wicked way, I would have delivered a 3-album deluxe right away. But I think that’s probably too much for people to digest. It’s fun to start slow and it just felt like the right collection for the beginning. This has been 3 years of me working through a breakup, traveling and falling in love again. I wanted there to be a taste of all those ideas on this album.
Is it true that were originally a title track called “Dedicated”?
Yes. I wrote it when I met my new boyfriend. It’s funny because I had no intention of it ever being on an album. It was just for him. It’s about him going through a bit of a hard time, and me seeing that and wanting to reach out in some way. He always connects better to music. So, I found myself writing the song, but it’s not one to share yet. Maybe there’s a world one day where I would share it, but not yet. It’s still the heart of what this album is about in so many ways.
Well, I hope we eventually get to hear it. Another thing about Dedicated is that it’s noticeably sexier than your previous albums. Would you agree?
I mean, yes. This is going to be a weird answer, but I love my new stylist because she actually understands the music enough to kind of push my boundaries in a way. We did the photo shoot for the album and she brought out all these really risqué outfits. I was like “Oh, man. I guess we’re gonna go there.” Sometimes I would fight back and she was like, “Have you listened to your album?” There are sides of me that I feel like people maybe wouldn’t expect, but I do have those sides. It’s fun and really liberating to express that.
It comes across in a very natural way.
Well I always ask myself, “Is it authentic? Is it really me?” The answers to those questions came when I was alone and being really honest with myself.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Too Much.” What was it like working with John Hill and Noonie Bao? It’s such a fun track.
It’s very rare that I like working with other top-liners because it’s usually the role that I take on. But Noonie Bao and I had a connection from the first time I met her in Sweden and John Hill was kind of the hero that arrived quite late in the project. Working with the two of them was really dreamlike. Noonie and I were finishing each other’s sentences. I think the fear of feeling too much is so universal, particularly for women. There’s a degree of insecurity in the song but there’s also a celebration of getting to the point where you accept that that’s just how you are. That’s powerful. People can take it or leave it, because someone will be able to take it and love you for it. That was definitely one of the most therapeutic days in terms of writing for me.
Another song that really stands out for me is “Happy Not Knowing.” It has such a unique perspective for a love song.
I have to give a big shout out to Tavish Crowe, my long-term friend and collaborator. I’m at my most honest with him. We experiment and half of the time we know it’s not going to make the album. It’s just something we have to get out of our system cause it truly is a passion. I had been single for a while and was a little fed up with dating. I kind of saw it all a little too clearly. I was like “Oh, of course I’m going to fall in love with you and then something will go wrong.”
At the same time I had this friend, we had been friends for a while, and I couldn’t stop catching his eye at certain moments. Our friendship was starting to brew into something more and I wasn’t ready for it, but I kind of knew it was coming. This was a perfect explanation of like, “We’ll see, but not right now, just keep your distance buddy because I’m still working on myself.” Does that makes any sense?
It absolutely does. It’s very relatable. On a very different end of the spectrum is “Want You In My Room.” You seem to have a special connection with Jack Antonoff.
Working with Jack is different. I think because he has this beautiful, childlike quality. And it’s catching when we get together. I find myself not overthinking things. I get to embrace that really playful side and just shout things in the room while you’re dancing. I think that maybe the big uniting factor for is that we’re so excited to be making music. We have the best job in the world, we get to create songs. I think that excitement is contagious. We’ve also been friends now for a while so there’s a comfort there where you’re not like self-conscious at all.
I really love “For Sure,” which is a bonus track. Something really magical happens when you work with Swedish producers and writers. Where does that come from?
I think it comes down to connections with people. I really made a creative breakthrough in Stockholm. By the end of my trip, I was in love with all of my collaborators. I threw this house party at my Airbnb, which I’m not sure you’re allowed to do. I made at least twenty new friends. It was amazing. I think that Swedish writers come at music in the same way that I do in a lot of ways. Our thoughts about music are very similar. I don’t know what that’s about. They call me the Canadian Swede.
“For Sure” is on one of those journal-entry type songs because I was thinking, “Is this relationship right or not?” It felt potent to repeat that thought over and over because when you’re confused like that, you are stuck in a loop or a cycle that doesn’t go beyond “yes or no.” I wrote it with Noonie and Patrik. Again, Patrik was at the top of my list of people that I knew I wanted to meet. I think we made that song on the first day in the studio together.
One last question. Are you aware of the cult around “Run Away With Me”? So many people idolize that song.
I didn’t know there was like a cult! But I’m so glad that song has been embraced in a way. I do remember when it was released after “I Really Like You” and I wanted it to find an audience. It was the child I would pick, so to speak. I was gunning for it to get some light. Just knowing that people are coming back to it and listening to it warms my soul.
Thanks so much for your time. Good luck with the record.
Thank you so much. It was lovely to talk with you.