Interview by Angie Piccirillo
A few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have recognized the name Julia Michaels, but you also may not have realized that she was behind some of your favorite smash hits by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez either. In 2015, Julia Michaels was known to industry insiders as one of the top songwriters in the business and a behind-the-scenes songwriting wizardess. By 2019, she’s now an artist in her own right, and her name is growing popular by the day.
Anyone would be intimidated by her current resume; her biography lists so many cool things you might wonder how someone who is only twenty-five-years-old has managed to accomplish so much — and stay humble along the way.
In 2017, Michaels released her debut EP, Nervous System which exploded into the streaming world with the leading single, “Issues,” and managed to win over the hearts of her fans due to its’ intense honesty and real take on all-things-relatable.
Soon after peeping out from behind the solo artist curtain, Julia received GRAMMY® Award nominations in top categories such as “Best New Artist” and “Song of the Year” for her debut single — and she managed to wrack up damn near every other major accolade an artist could ever dream of. “Issues” went triple-platinum, crossed 1 billion global streams, and emerged as the "Top-Selling Debut Single of 2017.” She scored a spot as the only solo female contribution on Variety’s “30 Most Consumed Songs of 2017” list and collaborated with Clean Bandit, Shawn Mendes, Lauv, Noah Kahan, Selena Gomez, and Trippie Redd, amongst others. And somehow, still managed to find the time to write on songs for Keith Urban, Janelle Monàe, Jesse Ware, P!nk, and Christina Aguilera.
In early 2019, she released a new EP, "Inner Monologue Part 1" of which she’s said “Inner Monologue is literally my innermost thoughts and feelings…[it’s] my take on love, heartbreak, anxiety, and depression.”
The thing that her fans have always loved about her is her ability to connect with them by showing who she really is, from anxiety to heartbreak, to her “Issues,” if you will. She’s become known for her signature tattoos, which include beautiful depictions of a detailed typewriter to intertwined “holding hands,” amongst many others. Perhaps the best representation of the things Julia sings and writes about can be encompassed into what she calls a “random tattoo” that she got while in Australia. “I have this tattoo of this sort of statuesque woman with a wonky face. It's just a weird squiggly happy face inside this pretty statuesque woman. I got that in Melbourne when I was in Australia, and there really was no significance to it when I started. Then, it sort of evolved into significance over time. I wanted a statue with a whimsical, weird, wonky, happy face,” she laughed.
The typewriter likely takes significance in her superpower as a recognized songwriter, “I try to sort of just keep everything really authentic, and relevant. So, I'm writing a song about something specific, then I sort of just start with one main memory, and build on that memory with sort of 15 different other ones that were the most tangible,” she said.
“When you're writing for other people you're putting a little bit of yourself in it, but ultimately it's what the artist wants. It's their thoughts, and it's their words when it all comes down to it. So, being an artist, I can talk about things that I probably wouldn't talk about unless the artist wanted to talk about it. You know, I can talk about anxiety, depression, and heartbreak, and how I deal with it in my own way, on my own terms. That's a different thing for me.”
Of the biggest changes she has experienced from being behind-the-scenes to jumping in the spotlight, Julia claims it’s a different experience when she sees how her music really impacts fans. “I never got to see that before. I was always in the background, and I would go to the shows of some of my friends, and you see all of these fans just fall in love with the music. You see that from afar and it's amazing, but there's no feeling like when it's your music, and your words, and they're singing it with you, and they're feeling everything with you. You're all connected in one space for a night, you know? It's truly special.”
And though she’s collaborated with practically every top dog in music, Julia still claims there’s a long list of artists she’s still waiting to work with. “I've written with Ed Sheeran, but I've never done a song with him. I think that would be really awesome because we write very similarly. We both write from the heart. I think Abel from The Weeknd always pushes things lyrically — I think that's really cool. There are a lot of really new people that I really love, like Alec Benjamin, Dominic Fike. There are so many people out there right now.”
On the docket next, Julia is not only planning some headlining dates with support from a past collaborator, Billy Raffoul, but will also be opening for P!nk, whom she claims to have always been a huge fan of. “I got to write with her for her last album and got to meet her and talk to her, sit down with her, write with her. It was amazing. She really is who you think she is. She's just a badass, unapologetic, beautiful, awesome person, and I've gotten to watch her perform a few times. I've just never seen anything like it. How she can control her voice while doing acrobatics the entire time,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting and pretty nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting.”
It seems that for Julia Michaels, the only way is up — but she doesn’t like to get too far ahead of herself in planning for the future: “To be honest, I can barely think about the present, without getting overwhelmed. I think maybe in 10 years, I will choose to be more established, be more connected with my fans, make music, write what I want to write about, sing what I wanna sing, and be happy. I hope that I don't lose connections with anybody. I feel like sometimes you're doing so many things at once that you can sort of become this autopilot of a human. And, that's something that I definitely want to try to avoid over time.”
So what’s left for the girl who has already accomplished so much? According to Julia, a lot. “Maybe selling out a tour, or doing my first headline tour, which I'm going to be doing soon. I'm really excited about that. I've been opening for people for the last two years, so doing that is going to be really awesome.”
However, the top priority on her list is to meet more Michaels fans. “I feel like I have so many fans on Twitter, and I talk to them all the time. But, I think I'd like to meet them in person. You know, actually, meet them and get to know people's personalities in-person,” she said, adding, “and definitely having a number one on Billboard’s. I think having a Billboard number one would be really cool."