Jepsen was born in Mission, British Columbia, the daughter of Alexandra and Larry Jepsen; her stepfather is Ron Lanzarotta. She attended Heritage Park Secondary School in Mission, where she pursued her early passion for musical theatre by appearing in student productions of Annie, Grease, and The Wiz. She studied musical theatre at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, British Columbia and took barista, bartender and other minimum wage work after graduation. Jepsen honed her songwriting skills with a guitar her parents gave her and, in 2007, decided to pursue her burgeoning interest in music by auditioning for the fifth season of the reality television competition Canadian Idol. She placed third in the show and was part of the Canadian Idol Top 3 concert tour. After the conclusion of the tour, Jepsen returned to British Columbia to focus on writing, recording and completing her band. Her demo recording attracted the attention of music manager Jonathan Simkin, who signed Jepsen to a management deal. Jepsen struck an independent record deal with MapleMusic Recordings and distribution via Fontana North. To further her music career, she subsequently relocated to Vancouver.