Even though Elle Fanning and Kate McKinnon also lend their voices to Leap!, Carly Rae Jepsen is probably the real reason you've heard about the animated musical in theaters Friday, about an orphan who dreams of becoming a ballerina in 19th-century France. Earlier this summer, the pop purveyor released "Cut To The Feeling," an anthemic song that lifts up the movie's big finale, but is also appropriate for whenever you feel like dancing on a roof (or anywhere, really, even if Jepsen doesn't mention it in the song).
Jepsen was initially tapped to play against type in Leap!, as the voice of a disillusioned maid who becomes a coach for Fanning's ballerina, before the producers asked if she had anything that would fit the soundtrack. What Jepsen ended up handing over is a product of the extensive work she did in preparation for her 2015 release Emotion. "It didn't quite make the cut for me," she said of "Cut To The Feeling," which was also left out of the 2016 Emotion B-sides release. "I loved the song, but it felt a little theatrical, that maybe it would be better to do it in some sort of musical down the line."
Emotion and everything Jepsen has released since have been revered by her devotees. Last week, the day after I spoke to Jepsen, who was strolling the hot streets of New York while we talked, it was announced she'll be one of the opening acts on Katy Perry's upcoming tour. It should only bring her more fans in what has become a resurgent few years for the 31-year-old pop artist.
You did Cinderella on Broadway, you did Grease Live! This is your first voiceover role and your first feature film role. Why was that something you wanted to test out?
Maybe it's the theatrical side of me that doesn't understand any human being who wouldn't want to play an animated character. It's been a dream of mine, forever, I think since I saw My Little Pony. I was like, "Oh my god, that would be so fun to be the voice behind that." It was a total trip. It was a really funny experience, being someone who has no experience in this line of work, to be guided by people and take on this specific, very unlike-me character.
I was sort of surprised when I saw it and that was the character you're voicing. A lot of your fans think of you as a bubbly personality, and Odette is very quiet. You're sort of the mysterious, older character, which is funny.
I liked it, though. It was fun shift for me. I can remember in the room [somebody saying], "Can you just be a little meaner?" She's so mean to this little girl. Then I really got into it, and they were like, "Can you be a little less mean to this girl?" We sorted it out. I think there's definitely a time and place for some tough love, and that was kind of my role in this thing.
There's another song of yours that's associated with the film, "Runaways." Was that also part of the Emotion sessions or was that something you wrote separately?
It was a song that was part of the Emotion sessions. It was a song I wrote for my best friend, who's been my best friend since we were 7. She actually just lived up the street and we had like trains going by. It was a very almost journal-entry type song, and maybe even for that reason very sentimental for me—just to get to see that it has some life, too, through this film.
Do you ever have regrets about not putting "Cut To The Feeling" or any of the stuff that wasn't on Emotion: Side B?
Thank god, so far no. I've been really happy with the order of how it went. Seeing this in hindsight happening the way it did feels like the right home for it, like the perfect fit. At the time when I didn't get to share "Cut To The Feeling," there was some sadness that you don't get to share all the work you do. Maybe one day—this is what I tell myself to make myself sleep better at night—I will be be able to share all the tunes. I'll just, like, put it out there somewhere. But I think there is a real joy and love that I have for an album, an album being a piece you can listen to from beginning to end, and all the songs being your favorites, the cream-of-the-crop of stuff that you've worked on. And even though I'm attached to [some] emotionally or sentimentally, I can kind of see that you don't need six songs that all have this flavor and this sentiment. You want one of those. It's a hard process for me, one that involves lots of listening parties with friends and lots of hemming and hawing, but at the end of it I do really enjoy holding the album in my hand and feeling like, Okay, we'll see what other people think now, but I really feel like I've done the best work I can.
Oh my god.
So you hadn't heard about that?
No, I had heard about that. Things like that blow my mind actually, and it's just the sweetest, most—I don't know, unexpected thing. I think it's really nice when you've worked really hard and kind of almost put a project above everything in your life the way that I have to see anybody connect to it any way. I can't say what that means to me yet.
How does it feel that people approaching your work from this intense, almost academic read of it?
I feel like... I don't know how to explain that feeling. I appreciate it, but I think with every album that I make there always has to be this feeling of just self-satisfaction with it, of just feeling like, I've made music that people really connect to, but you can't really control what the reaction's going to be. If you start to feed into how that good that feels or let your ego play into it a bit, I think it can change the way you continue to write. I've always felt like that stuff is nice to pay attention to but also nice to not really feed too much into your own head about, because if people were saying the opposite thing I'd still want to be able to love the album the same way that I do.
You've had these two different experiences. Obviously "Call Me Maybe" was something that was so inescapable, and Emotion was highly acclaimed but gets labeled—and I'm sure you hear this word a lot—"underrated." Does that change what you're thinking about going forward?
Yes and no. I think it would be a lie to say you don't come from your experiences with whatever you make next, but I think I'm always growing and reaching toward something new. One of my favorite passions is writing and discovering new sounds and playing with different eras and genres even. I have heard or read the "underrated" part, and I think that's relating to "fails," which I understand is a lot of people's ideas of success. And I do understand that it probably maybe should be mine, but it really isn't, I don't think. If anything, I was blown away and 10 times more gratified by the reaction we had to Emotion than any sort of reactions we've had to "Call Me Maybe." Not that it wasn't a gift of my life but if you ask me if I wish I had another one of those, I'd say, "I had fun, but I'm okay." I much prefer the community feeling of what we've landed in now, and it feels a little bit less intense. Actually, no, it feels just as intense, but in a way healthier way. It's much more about the music and about the artistry than it feels about the celebrity.
You mentioned earlier that you'd thought maybe you'd save "Cut To The Feeling" for a musical. Is that something that's in your mind at all? Would you ever write a musical?
You just nailed one of my secret dreams, but, yes, I have a big desire to one day like rent a cabin in the woods with some of my favorite creators and get into the music behind some sort of theatrical project. I think it would be a blast.
Would you want to do a movie musical or a stage musical?
You know, that part I don't know the answer to, but the gut reaction—I'd say stage would be fun, just because I kind of grew up in little theater productions and there's something about the exclusivity of being in that room and that moment that I think is just magical.
Katy Perry confesses to crying to her own songs: