Julia Michaels on her return to the stage, co-writing with the stars and finding love with JP Saxe


Amid the hustle and bustle of Miami Art Week, on Saturday night Julia Michaels, the star singer-songwriter and co-writer, staged her first live set. It was her first live performance not only since 2019, but since the release of her debut album. Not in chronological order. While the party scene during the week is notoriously boisterous, Michaels’ set provided much-needed respite. After all, she was performing at the Mark Levinson Vinyl Lounge in front of guests like Adriana Lima and The single personby Tyler Cameron at a party celebrating the imminent release of the brand’s first premium audio Bluetooth headphones, perfect for intimate listening.

The release of her debut album, also known to fans as NICO, and a forced disruption of touring weren’t the only major developments in Michaels’ life in recent years. She also found love with fellow musician JP Saxe (their duo “If The World Was Ending”, written on the first day they met, was a fixture last year), and continued to co-write songs with hitmakers like Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Demi Lovato. Here Michaels talks to W about writing material that mentions her boyfriend’s exes, going back on stage and watching TikToks get down to their songs.

It was your first real set in a few years and since you released the album. How did he play some of these songs live for the first time?

I haven’t played for someone like this in a while, so doing it in such an intimate setting is already very scary. I find that playing for a small group of people is a lot scarier than it is for a larger group. Normally when you do your own shows you have your fans and familiar faces, and I didn’t really know anyone in the crowd, so it was even more scary, but it was awesome. People were so nice to me and my anxiety.

You certainly had some great fans in the crowd.

This is good news.

Courtesy of Mark Levinson

Was this your first experience at Miami Basel?

Yes, it was my first. I came here for Mark Levinson. They asked me to play, which is really great, because I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m relevant! I admit I felt a bit out of place because all around was really catchy music. And then I’m like, “Okay, I’m here to shoot everyone down. “

“If the World Ends” was a big hit during the lockdown. Was it interesting to you that this song took off when it seemed like the world was kind of at an end?

Absoutely. In fact, we wrote it before anything happened. It was when we had earthquakes in LA. Then it kind of took on a new meaning and it was kind of a beautiful thing to watch. So many people resonated with her for so many different reasons. We were sitting on our couch watching all these people doing TikToks there and logging in and all that while we were holding hands, like, “What’s going on in the world.” world at the moment? “

Everyone’s relationship to music has changed a lot during the pandemic. It became an even more intimate experience than before, just because people really didn’t have anything else to do. Has it affected the way you approach music or the way you feel a connection with your fans?

I used to see my fans almost every day, because I toured for seven straight months in 2019, so it was really weird having to know them through the internet again. But to be honest, I felt like I was really creative throughout it. When I’m bored, I have lots of ideas. I ended up doing my whole album in socially remote quarantine with friends of mine. NICO was literally the product of social distancing music. I tried to focus only on the silver linings. If I dwelled on all the things that were going on, I was really overwhelmed and really, really terrified.

One of your hallmarks is your lyrical authenticity, which is so important to young audiences now more than it was 10 or 15 years ago, when it seemed like people were choosing lyrics based on which could sound best with the rhythm. Making the lyrics as authentic as possible Has it always been your impetus when writing music?

To be honest, I just write how I feel. Music has always been where I find my power and my voice. In past relationships, I made myself really small; I was not good at confrontation and I was not very good at communicating. I would just channel everything I wanted to say at that point into a song. Music for me is where I can say whatever I want – my thoughts, feelings and opinions – and they can feel mine with all my heart. If people log into this, amazing. If they don’t, that’s fine too.

You collaborate and co-write a lot with artists. For some of them, you know the internet is going to look at every word of that song and extrapolate something into their personal lives. Does that sometimes come into the room when you write with them? Is there that moment of hesitation when you ask, “Do I really say this publicly or are people going to read too much?” “

Rarely. Again, it’s up to people who want to tell their story and in the most authentic way possible. I’m just here to help guide.

Courtesy of Mark Levinson

Your boyfriend JP Saxe joined you on stage on Saturday. You also performed the song about wishing all his exes were dead, which you actually co-wrote with him. How was it ?

It was fun. I think it takes a unique man to love someone as mean as me. We were having a conversation and I really don’t remember how it started, but he said to me, “You know, one day we can talk about the people from our past who have helped shape our present. . And I was like, “Absolutely not!” He was like, “You can’t just live in a world where you think all my exes are dead.” I was like, “Look at me!” I started singing the chorus in the car and I was like, “Alright, well, I guess I know what we’re writing tomorrow.”

I guess if he wants to find out about your past, he can just listen to the music.

It’s true. And vice versa, honestly.

What’s your favorite way to listen to music at home?

Honestly, I still have a soft spot for headphones, even though I’m home and have my speaker system and stuff. Not that my speaker system is great at home. I wish I had something better, but I have a thing for headphones. Always. I feel like I hear things much more clearly.


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