When Justin Bieber was in his native Stratford, Ontario for the holidays last December, one song on the radio caught his ear: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” a sugary dance-pop tune (think Taylor Swift meets Robyn) about hoping for a call back from a crush. After hearing the song multiple times, Bieber tweeted, “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol.” A Twitter endorsement by any notable music star can go a long way, but in the in the case of the world’s most swooned-over 18-year-old, it piqued the interest of 18 million-plus followers – and Bieber’s own manager, Scooter Braun.
“He’s never jumped out and promoted an artist like this before,” Braun says. “He sends me different YouTube videos of unsigned artists that he’d like to work with, but never someone who already had a song out and is on the radio.”
Braun combed through YouTube clips and discovered that the 26-year-old British Columbian had finished third on Canadian Idol. She was also releasing an EP in February through 604 Records, but hadn’t been signed by a U.S. label. So Braun decided to bring what he describes as her brand of “sexy hippie pop” to a U.S. audience by signing her to his label, Schoolboy Records.
“I think we overlook Canada way too much,” says Braun. “I have no idea why no one signed her; I have no idea why people overlooked Justin. I can’t concern myself with other people’s passes because someone else’s ‘no’ has been my ‘yes’ many times.” Jepsen is now at work on her full-length album made up of songs left off the EP and some new material, while “Call Me Maybe” has reached Number One in Canada and cracked the Top 40 in the States.
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Much like Usher-mentored Bieber, the teen idol plans to help guide Jepsen’s next career moves and keep promoting her – he’s even appeared in a no-frills alternate video for “Call Me Maybe” with his girlfriend, Selena Gomez. “He’s a proud Canadian,” says Braun. “But regardless of where artists are from, if he finds something fantastic he’ll promote the crap out of it.”
As if the Bieber hype weren’t enough, Braun says Jepsen has received praise from Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine. “He compared her to when he first met Gwen Stefani; he said, ‘The thing I like about her is she’s got a lot of edge, but she’s not afraid to be a good girl. That’s what I saw in Gwen.'”
For Jepsen, breaking through in the States hadn’t seemed realistic before. “The U.S. was sort of like the big ocean that felt so impossibly large to me,” she says. “Canada was enough of a tough shell to crack. I’m still scared to be too excited because it all does seem too good to be true, but the more I get to know Justin and the more I talk to Scooter, I see how real they are and how serious they are.”
Since finalizing her new label deal, Jepsen has flown out to Los Angeles to meet Braun and hit the studio to record tracks with Bieber. Neither the singer nor Braun would reveal where the songs will end up, but she says that she’s happy with the results.
“The day I met Justin he played me a couple of his songs, and by the fourth song he asked me to sing with him,” Jepsen explains. “It was the most surreal weekend of my life. The only way I can describe it was that it was like Entourage, but swankier.”