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Before Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen studied at Victoria's Canadian College of Performing Arts

Hit songs aren’t difficult to generate, especially with help from a hot producer or hired-gun songwriter.

Hit songs aren’t difficult to generate, especially with help from a hot producer or hired-gun songwriter.

But a worldwide smash — the type that happens once in a career — is often at the mercy of countless mitigating factors, some of which are impossible to discern, let alone predict.

Just ask pop star Carly Rae Jepsen. The singer released Call Me Maybe last September, to a modicum of fanfare. The single and E.P. from which it came, Curiosity, were released to Canadian audiences only on Vancouver-based imprint 604 Records, until the inexplicable happened. Last December, Justin Bieber professed his love for the song to his 29 million Twitter followers.

And just like that, Call Me Maybe went worldwide.

Nearly a year later, the song is one of the bestselling digital singles of all time, with sales nearing 10 million copies. It spent nine consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts over the summer, the crowning achievement of a  Cinderella-like year for the native of Mission in the Fraser Valley.

The glare is getting more intense by the day for the 26-year-old singer. She is currently the opening act on Bieber’s world tour, and will support one of the world’s biggest pop stars until the end of January.

“It is a very, very intense pace,” Jepsen told the Times Colonist on Monday. “The good thing is, it happened at a time in my life when I’m really ready for it. I feel like I’ve done the groundwork of really being able to appreciate it.”

That groundwork includes a year spent living in Victoria while studying at the Canadian College of Performing Arts.She almost never made it to Vancouver Island in 2004. Jepsen, who has family in the Comox area, had applied to a number of music-related programs during high school, including ones at Capilano College and the University of B.C. She had thought of becoming a music teacher. “At the same time, I knew I didn’t really want that,” she said. “I wanted to be performing.”

Enter the Fame-style CCPA, which Jepsen learned about from Beverly Holmes, her drama teacher at Mission’s Heritage Park Secondary. “It was made for me, it felt like,” Jepsen said. “When I read the application and went to the audition process, and heard them talk [about] singing, acting and dancing … I went for it.”She was immersed in school six days a week, stopping only for cheesecake at Pagliacci’s and the occasional night trip to see the lights of the legislature. “I spent the year training non-stop. You couldn’t keep me away from it. I loved it.”

Jeanette Dagger, the former head of voice at CCPA, is full of praise for her former student. Jepsen was 17 at the time of her studies, but she was hardly a novice, Dagger recalled.

“She has integrated her creative songwriting with her comfortable vocal quality,” Dagger said Tuesday from her home in Toronto. “She did this very early in her life, so that when I worked with her, I did not change her voice but merely helped her to support it and achieve a more confident feeling about how she sang.”

After she moved from Victoria back to the mainland, her career began to take shape. She placed third on Canadian Idol in 2007, and in 2010, she nabbed two Juno Award nominations for her full-length debut, Tug of War. That growth helped her weather the storm that arrived in 2011, Jepsen said.

The key, in navigating the business side of her career, was being “old enough to stand up and speak for myself, and know what I want and I what I don’t. I wouldn’t have been ready for that any sooner than now. I’m very grateful the timing happened as it did.”

It took Jepsen several years to become an overnight sensation. But the moment she realized her life was about to go warp-speed was when a tribute video to Call Me Maybe, featuring Bieber, his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and former Disney star Ashley Tisdale, among others, went viral.

“It took me a second for it to register that it was even them,” Jepsen said of the YouTube video, which has been viewed more than 51 million times. “I remember thinking that there might some fan videos after that.”

There were, indeed — including ones by the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, James Franco and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. The song was even spliced together with clips of speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama, a presidential parody that has since been viewed 29 million times.

The cult of Call Me Maybe continues to grow, in part due to Jepsen’s official U.S. debut. Kiss, her second full-length, was released in September on School Boy Records, the label run by Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. Jepsen is credited as a co-writer on nine of the album’s 12 songs.

The release of Kiss is the icing on the cake. As of this writing, the Call Me Maybe clip is a few thousand shy of 300 million views — making it one of the most-viewed clips in YouTube history.

Despite the reams of Carly Rae craziness, Jepsen has found a way to stay sane. By splitting her time between Los Angeles (where her rumoured boyfriend, musician Matthew Koma, is based) and Mission and Maple Ridge, where her parents reside, she gets to live the best of both worlds.

“It felt like the journey has been a constant uphill one. I wouldn’t want to trade it in for a faster one. I’m glad I got to experience seeing it grow on the level I did, and see it really take off.”