Three months ago, Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen was virtually unknown in the U.S. Then Justin Bieber signed her to his label, hyped her on Twitter and lip-synched her single on YouTube. Now “Call Me Maybe” is the No. 4 track in the U.S. — and rising fast. Here, its 26-year-old singer talks overnight fame with TIME.
Justin Bieber launched your U.S. career in February. Now you’re outselling him on iTunes. How does that feel?
It’s surreal. I can’t say that this wasn’t all a dream of mine, because it was. But I never really thought I’d get to experience it. It’s pretty cool.
You’ve been compared to tween pop stars like Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. But you’ve been at this a lot longer than they have.
I’m 26, yeah. And I grew up in my parents’ house, which was very folk-inspired: Van Halen, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen. So my first record [2008’s Tug of War, released after a stint on Canadian Idol] really reflected my parents’ taste — and mine. That got my career going in Canada. And Justin gave me an instant leg up with the rest of the world.
“Call Me Maybe” has become kind of a musical meme — everyone from Katy Perry to Harvard baseball players is lip-synching it on YouTube. Have you seen the videos?
Yes! I saw the Harvard one and the Katy one. I was actually in London when I saw the Katy one, and to watch one of the biggest stars in the world lip-sync to my song — I had to sit down. It was pretty insane.
(WATCH: Harvard baseball team vs. SMU women’s rowers in the “Call Me Maybe” Challenge)
Why do you think the song has resonated so well?
Well, Justin’s video definitely helped. And the message, I hope, is relatable — having a spark with someone, leaving something unsaid, wishing you could have turned around and gone back and been braver. Hopefully it’ll inspire people to play a little Cupid.
O.K., be honest: How many fans — or even random people — have given you their numbers and asked you to call them maybe?
I’ve definitely had a few radio promoters who’ve thought they were, like, the first people to do it. So they give me their number, and I’m like, “Oh, I’ve never heard that before.”
Whoops. That was my next question.
[Laughs.] No, it’s really cute! I always find it really amusing.
In the “Call Me Maybe” video, the boy next door you’re chasing ultimately gives his number to another guy. Why’d you make that choice?
I’d love to take credit, but it was totally my director’s idea. We both knew we wanted the ending to be fun and unpredictable, and when I read that idea, I loved it. It just seemed so perfect.
It also won over a lot of fans at a time when gay rights are a white-hot issue in the U.S. Do you support same-sex marriage?
You know, acceptance has never even been a question to me. I’ve grown up knowing it’s just the way things should be. When we shot the “Call Me Maybe” video, we weren’t even thinking the ending was not normal. I have so many gay friends that I love. It’s a regular thing. And if my video is encouraging that mind frame with other children and other people — well, it’s about time, I guess!
What other artists do you listen to?
I like Kimbra a lot and Robyn and La Roux — and John Mayer. I’ve yet to get his new stuff, but I’m stoked and digging his new brown hat.
His new brown hat! He looks a little Johnny Depp–ish.
So I take it he’s your dream collaboration?
Oh my gosh, I would literally do anything I could to write with him. He’s one of the greatest writers of our time, and he’s got a way of putting words together that are really relatable. He’s definitely really dreamy, as well.
That always helps.
(LIST: All-TIME 100 Songs)
Obviously, you don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. How’s the rest of the album going?
I know my music is going well when I don’t have insomnia. And I’ve been sleeping like a baby! I think “Call Me Maybe” is a really good representation of what we’re gonna do next, maybe even a step further.
For now, though, you’re in heavy-promo mode. What’s the best part of overnight fame?
The traveling. I’ve seen more places in the last two months than I imagined I’d see in my whole life. Canada was my whole world and my whole reality, and now I meet people who’ve never been there, and it’s like, “You’ve never been to my whole world?”
Confession: I’ve never been to Canada.
You’ve never been to my whole world, either? [Laughs.] It’s O.K. — your world’s pretty cool too.