People keep asking Carly Rae Jepsen how she’s doing. After all, between the pandemic and the three-year gap since her last proper album, we haven’t heard much from the pop star lately. “It’s a loaded question,” she says, “and my answer has been complicated.” Jepsen admits she struggled to adjust to life at home during quarantine after years of nonstop touring and recording, and she suffered a family loss during the pandemic that led her to therapy to deal with her grief. “It caused a lot of contemplation,” she says. “Like, ‘Where am I? What decisions have I made to get here? Am I happy?’ Many of those hard questions you have to face one way or another.”
From that time of self-reflection, she birthed her fifth album, The Loneliest Time (due out Oct. 21). But now, on Zoom, sitting in front of a painting made by her aunt and uncle, the answer to the dreaded “How are you doing?” question is clear by the smile on her face. “I’m happy,” she says, later adding with a laugh, “I’m glad I went through those last couple of years — and I don’t want to do it again.”
The Loneliest Time balances real emotions with a sense of light, upbeat energy. How did you find that balance?
Loneliness is a big theme of this album, and the extremes that come with it. It sounds like it has a negative connotation, but when you analyze your loneliness, it can be beautiful. Extreme events can take place because of loneliness, at least in my own life. Running over to your ex’s house in the middle of the night in the pouring rain and screaming, “Let’s start this again” — something happened before those decisions! Even though it’s a sad title, I feel like it’s also uplifting.
What song are you most excited for people to hear?
“Beach House.” It’s the silliest song by far, but it came from such a natural place. Everyone on dating apps has had a horror story or six. You feel vulnerable and often come up disenchanted by the whole thing. I know some people genuinely join apps to find love, but I’m after the people that are in there to play a game with you. They need to be called out.
Are you looking forward to touring again this fall?
I’m going to tell you the nonpolished, honest answer: The reality about touring right now is that it’s not for the faint of heart. Flights are delayed, gear is not arriving on time. I’m borrowing someone’s in-ear [monitors] from the set before because our stuff is still in Minneapolis. It’s a bit of trains, planes, and automobiles to get anywhere. You have to love what you do if you want to tour this year — and luckily, I do. The euphoria of being onstage and being in those moments, sharing the feeling with the crowd … it’s so worth it.
You have a strong LGBTQ+ fan base, and you’re donating $1 from each ticket on this tour to the Ally Coalition. What does that connection with your fans mean to you?
I feel so lucky. When I’m onstage, it feels less about me and more like I’m just a conductor of all this good energy. It changed how I performed; it changed how I thought about everything. I’m trying to create a playful and safe space for anyone to be whoever they want to be. I feel so happy in those moments that I almost feel like I might combust.
What do you like to do in your off time, when you’re not working?
I’ve been on a huge jazz kick, so I can spend an evening just playing my favorite records back and forth. But having those after-sunset conversations with a friend, or more than a friend, where you talk in all directions about everything — that’s just heaven to me. I’ve also made a new goal for myself where I learn to play a new song once a month. That’s been a fun little project.
Is there a song you’re trying to learn right now?
I’m currently learning “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” because I know it’s going to be hard, and I want to have it ready by the holidays so I can play it when everyone is around. I’m also learning Billie Holiday’s “You Go to My Head.”
How about social media? Do you enjoy that at all?
I’m the grandma of TikTok [laughs]. I say this in a small personal-growth way: I’m having more fun with it. I only want it to be a place where I have fun. I don’t want it to be a place of stress, where I feel like I have to post certain things at specific times. I don’t look at it as an outlet of my soul [or] creativity. I’ve heard artists say they can no longer write songs because they use all their creativity to write a good caption. That sounds terrible. I’m still figuring it out.
Most people fell in love with your music during the “Call Me Maybe” era, in 2012. A decade later, do you still feel connected to that song?
I do, which is strange because I’ve sung that song more than most people have sung most songs. There was a definite time when I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this song is scary because it’s so big” — but I’ve shed that pressure. Now, it’s a really fun moment of nostalgia. The crowd takes over. You can’t be in a room with people singing your song and not feel elated. It doesn’t feel like it’s what people are there for anymore, though, and that’s a mini victory for me.