In Conversation: Julia Michaels
Ahead of her sold-out show at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Julia Michaels feels less like a triple-platinum selling artist, and more like an old friend as she starts off the conversation asking about the best city to visit in India, where she hopes to go holiday very soon.
Taking on board my expert travel tips as an Indian and settling into what feels more like a conversation than it does an interview, she goes on to talk about her latest release, the eight-track collection ‘Inner Monologue Part 2’.
Describing it as a “diary of sorts”, she explains the message behind the album: “It’s about things I think about on a daily basis. Love, heartbreak, anxiety, depression, and body image. While Part 1 was about my mental health, Part 2 focuses more on self-image. It’s a very personal account of everything that’s good and bad in my life.”
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It’s this personal, honest quality of her music that has formed the basis of her rapid rise as an artist; and it’s a quality she cannot do without. Explaining the personal importance of her music, she says: “Music to me is cathartic. And so far it’s always been about my own experiences.”
Asked if she’d ever write from the perspective of someone else, Julia answers, “I’ve always loved words, and conversations with other people. So far I haven’t written from someone else’s perspective, but the thing about music is that its everchanging and I’m ever changing, so you never know.”
Even as ever evolving as she is, the special place she holds in her heart for writing stays constant. It is her writing that excites more than anything else. She explains: “Writing is important to me and my music is just putting beats to my thoughts. I think my lyrics are the base and the music is only an added texture. This is the weirdest analogy but for me music is salt, and pepper and the words are the chicken. My words define my sound.”
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While Julia is someone who highly values what she personally takes away from her music, she gives her listeners the freedom to choose the message that comforts them the most. “I want people to feel whatever they feel, take my words and put their perspective to it. I want my music to be a route for them to find their own catharsis.”
Since her debut as a solo artist, Julia has achieved many well-deserved accolades. From a cumulative worldwide stream tally of 20 billion for songs she has co-written to touring with with an enviable roster of artists from her childhood idol P!NK as well as with Maroon 5, Shawn Mendes, Niall Horan and Keith Urban.
Now on her first-ever headlining tour – The Inner Monologue Tour- having covered Australia and currently making her way across Europe, she continues her climb to the top. But this journey of success is not without stresses.
Explaining her moments of frustrations, she says, “When I want to write something, but I can’t figure out how to do it. If the production or words aren’t coming together the way I want, it can be frustrating. I also get super manic just before an album release because I am always chasing perfection.”
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But her love for music grounds her. Talking about how she deals with pressures and anxieties, she says: “When I feel confined I take the day off and do something - I go to the beach, I bake – I do whatever helps make me feel back to centre.”
Taking this step back to centre herself and following a crucial piece of advice – “Not to take yourself so seriously. You’ll miss a word or step, some days you won’t write amazingly. Just laugh at yourself when you mess up and move on!” – helps Julia keep in pursuit of her dreams.
But her dreams aren’t far-reaching or glamorous. Aside from wanting to travel for pleasure in search of delicious food and fun, all she wants is to be present in the moment, to sing and enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by those that love her music and love her. She says: “Anywhere and anytime I can scream my words, and even five people screaming it back to me is amazing.”
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It’s for this reason of solidarity in a crowd that she claims ‘Falling For Boys’ to be her personal favourite in her latest release. She explains: “The song is fun for me. I wrote that on the ukulele and it’s a slight jab at some of my exes which is always fun to sing in a crowd.”
Her love for a good crowd makes the atmosphere she’ll be in for the next three months - as she continues her in-demand tour – all the better. But beyond that Julia seems to be looking forward to a holiday filled with food, movies and friends, happy to take life as it comes her way.
There’s a lot that can be said about Julia Michaels. A long list of adjectives, and flowery language to describe her as an artist, and as a person. But the best way – the way she herself puts it – is that she’s like everyone else.
Explaining which song lyric describes her perfectly, she exclaims that it’s every lyric of her smash-hit single ‘Issues’; “It defines me. I’m an all or nothing person. I have flaws. I’m a person.”
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Words: Malvika Padin
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