Carly Rae Jepsen has been hit by “the love bug.” In November, the singer-songwriter went Instagram official with Grammy-winning producer Cole M.G.N., a relationship that wound up inspiring the release of her new album, The Loveliest Time, available on July 28 — even though the songs actually aren’t about her new beau.
The release is her latest “Side B” album, complementing her sixth record, 2022’s The Loneliest Time. Jepsen started the tradition of releasing companion records in 2016 with Emotion: Side B, filling them with some of the “hundreds” of unaired songs she typically writes for a studio album.
“I was actually trying to cancel it the night before it came out, because I was so nervous about this idea of oversharing,” she tells Bustle about Emotion: Side B. “But then I realized the joy of it. This is literally from me to the fans. It’s this beautiful passion project.”
The Loveliest Time has 13 tracks that didn’t make the cut for The Loneliest Time, a collection of wistful ballads and bittersweet pop bangers she wrote during 2020 lockdowns, grieving a late relative but unable to visit family in Canada because of international travel bans. While touring the 2022 album last year, she revisited songs she’d penned about idealized romances and realized she actually related to them, courtesy of Cole M.G.N.
“I’d had this dream of what it would feel like to be in the type of love where you were completely naked and still felt beautiful,” Jepsen, 37, says about re-hearing tracks like “Shy Boy” and “Psychedelic Switch” with fresh perspective. “Where you felt like someone knew everything about you — your flaws, the good, the bad, the ugly — and just embraced it all.” It was a moment of life imitating art, she says.
Hence The Loveliest Time, which Jepsen promises represents the range of feelings that come with new romance. “It’s not like everything’s fun like roses and bubblegum,” she says. “There’s still life and sh*t that happens.”
Below, she reflects on her last year, weirdest song, and the Oscar-nominated actor she’d ask to play her in a biopic.
On TikTok, Tumblr, & Releasing An Album The Same Day As Taylor Swift
“The Loneliest Time” had a viral moment on TikTok last year. How did you react to that?
I wasn’t embedded in the TikTok world and neither was [duet partner] Rufus Wainwright. He was texting me like, “We’re the two oldest ladies.” We loved it, but we also had no idea how it happened. “The Loneliest Time” was so indulgently long already, and I added a little moon monologue that came to me in the middle of it. I think the quirkiest parts of my personality were embraced and given a new avenue of life. If anything, it gave me confidence to be like, “All right, let your freak flag fly. You can get weird with this stuff.”
Do you keep TikTok in the back of your mind when you’re writing now?
I don’t bring it into the creative process because I’m still a true old-fashioned girl. I want to write a song to be a song.
At your New York show last year, you joked about Taylor Swift releasing her album on the same day as yours. What did you think of Midnights? Did you ever listen to it?
[Laughs.] I haven’t, but I have nothing but love for Taylor. It was just a joke because she’s such a huge artist, and we were like, “Small world.” The nice thing about the music business is that there’s room for all. It isn’t competitive in the way that the music business used to be pitched to us, and we’re doing such different things musically. I have to have some humor about things, because you can’t get by life without humor.
Ever since that Tumblr post about you deserving a sword went viral, some fans have been giving you swords at shows. What do you do with them?
It’s rare that I don’t get a sword now. Generally, at least three. It’s developed into such a joyful part of the set. I could have a Game of Thrones chair with the amount of swords I’ve been given, but unfortunately, I have a hard time traveling with them. My tour manager tried to get a really nice one through customs. He wrapped it [all up], but they were like, “You can’t travel with the sword.”
On Her Seminal Music Moments
Who’s an artist that’s considered cheesy but you love unironically?
Being a pop artist, other people’s ideas of cheesy versus mine are very different. Some people think ABBA’s cheesy, but I’m like, “ABBA’s not cheesy. They’re fabulous.”
What is the weirdest thing that you’ve written a song about?
“Store” is pretty weird, the idea of avoiding the breakup conversation and just going to the store instead. And “Beach House” is an oddity. It ends with a guy from Canada trying to harvest your organs. I write weird songs sometimes, and I’m down with that.
Is there a new genre you want to explore?
My boyfriend and I bought a guitar in New York for $500. We got it next door to the Chelsea Hotel at the last minute because we had a song idea that night. It travels with us everywhere, and we’ve been having so much fun with it. We’ve been trying folky songs again, and because we both really love jazz, it was a hint of a jazz-folk.
Is there a song you never want to play live again?
I could probably put “Your Heart Is a Muscle” to bed forever. When we’ve been on the road for a long time, we’ll run through the gamut of old songs. For some, I’m like, “Oh, I like this. We should bring this back.” And then for other ones, I’m like, “What was I thinking when I wrote this?”
Do you remember the first CD you bought?
The Spice Girls. I remember going to the CD store, and I was like, “Listen, I’m looking for this new group. I don’t know what they’re called, but this song goes, ‘I’ll tell what I want, what I really, really want.’” The guy was like, “Right this way.”
Who would play you in the musical of your life?
I really love Rachel McAdams, so I’d ask if she’s available. I’d be like, “Will you please play me? You’re much more charming than I could ever be.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.