INTERVIEW: Julia Michaels

“I just want my legacy to be authenticity in my words” Julia Michaels admits as we talk about her prolific career as a songwriter and artist. At only 25 years old Michaels has written with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Britney Spears, P!nk, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Gwen Stefani and Shawn Mendes. On top of that, she has also launched a solo career which saw her debut single ‘Issues’ being nominated for ‘Song of The Year’ at the 2018 Grammy Awards as well as being nominated for ‘Best New Artist’. 

From there she has toured the world alongside Shawn Mendes, Niall Horan, Maroon 5, P!nk and Keith Urban and has won over a massive and growing fanbase that she affectionally calls her “gems”. Relating to her raw vulnerability and unapologetic honesty, they have reminded her in some of her darkest times of the impact that she’s making and the good that she’s doing. 

“I have truly never felt the type of love in my life that my fans give me. They are always so supportive. They always try to make sure I’m okay and that I’m staying hydrated” she laughs about their genuine care factor. 

Michaels and I are talking because she’s just dropped the second part of her debut album ‘Inner Monologue’ and is preparing to return to Australia in September for her first headlining tour. With the Brisbane show already sold out, Sydney and Melbourne are expected to soon follow suit thanks to the huge pop culture impact she’s making.

‘Inner Monologue’ Part 1 and Part 2 have a candid nature to them that hears her addressing the rollercoaster of emotions that her life embodies through falling in love and heartbreak to addressing anxiety, mental health and body positivity. Throughout different points of this collection, there are moments that are really raw and personal and she’s unapologetic about it. “If I hold back, then that defeats the purpose of writing as personal as I do and being an artist” she confesses. 

Check out my chat with Julia Michaels HERE;

TB: You’ve had some massive pop radio success as a songwriter for other artists such as Britney Spears, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber but with your music you’ve previously stated that you’re less worried about writing something that is commercially friendly and instead more directed at you’re storytelling. So what about songwriting really stood out to you for wanting to be your legacy in music?

JM: When it comes to my music I just want to be really authentically myself and whether that sounds more pop than usual or more stripped down than usual, I don’t care. I think that words have always been a very special thing to me and always have had a special place in my heart. I just want my legacy to be authenticity in my words, as that is the most important thing to me. 

TB: I love your storytelling because it’s so honest and unapologetically you. On ‘Inner Monologue Part 2’ you’re even more than usual raw when it comes to addressing your emotions and detailing your personal experiences. For example, ’Falling For Boys’ has become an anthem for anyone that has been in the position of falling continuously for the wrong type of person, which I’m also held accountable for *laughs*. And you detailed the sort of men you’ve dated including personality traits, facial features and hair colours. When you write so openly are you ever worried about how they will take it or how the media may position you as a writer?

JM: No, I think people sort of expect it. If I hold back then that defeats the purpose of writing as personal as I do and being an artist. It just happens that most of my life happens in the public now. I would still write about it if it wasn’t, you know *laughs*. I just think that’s the big difference now in how people perceive the context of my songwriting. 

TB: Reflecting on your discography I would say that every song has been very vulnerable in one way or another. But for you as a songwriter, what would you say has been your most vulnerable moment from Inner Monologue Pt 1 or Part 2? 

JM: I think my most vulnerable songs would either be ‘Anxiety’ off Part 1 or ‘Body’ off Part 2 because they are both about very intense topics that I deal with a lot. Anxiety and depression is a big part of my life as well as self image and self worth. I explored the way that you talk to yourself behind closed doors and how you would never talk to someone else like that, but you talk to yourself in that way. I have that inner struggle with myself all the time. So ‘Body’ was a really tough one for me to put out into the world. 

TB: ’Body’ really stood out to me on Part 2 because of its really personal approach to body image and self worth. So do you mind if we dive into the creative and melodical process behind this song for a moment because I feel like this song showed a different and a even more honest side of you?

JM: There are always worries with putting something out but that’s because it’s so raw and if people don’t like it then it’s like people saying that they don’t like a part of you and that can be really scary.

The song came about pretty organically. I didn’t really have anything written down and I didn’t really even have an idea going into the studio that day of what I was going to write about initially. But I had just thought about my morning and how I had changed my outfit five times until I had found something that kinda fit me right. But then I ended up putting a sweater on over it so I could hide my body from people. And that is something I do a lot and I wanted to write about it because if I thought if I do it then surely there are other people in the world who do it too. 

TB: That’s the power of music and it’s so empowering seeing people finding a strength within your words. So when you released that song, your fans took to social media to post photos of them with signs about body positivity and reminding you that you are beautiful. So how did you react to that after releasing this really vulnerable song? 

JM: It was amazing! I have truly never felt the type of love in my life that my fans give me. They are always so supportive. They always try to make sure I’m okay and that I’m staying hydrated *laughs* and that I’m feeling top notch. I love that. 

But I also love when they send me messages and send me body positivity photos of them smiling in the mirror or hanging out with their friends and they are happy wearing what they want to wear and what makes them feel good. That kind of stuff inspires me!

TB: I also love that on your merchandise that you’re totally transparent too. I have one of your shirts that says “holding hands with my depression” and the looks I get when I wear it are so funny but I’m like, “what about it, I’m happy and comfortable talking about who I am and the ‘issues’ that I have in my life and I think it’s important that we talk about it”.

JM: Oh my god, I love that! That’s the authenticity I strive for in my music. That’s the connection I want to have. I love that!

TB: ’Anxiety’ and ‘Happy’ are two very important songs from Inner Monologue Part 1 that heard you addressing mental health and your personal battle with anxiety. Since releasing these songs, hearing your fans stories and seeing how they’ve been embraced by people, has this encouraged you to be even more honest in the studio and to speak up more loudly about the issues that mean the most to you?

JM: Completely! I think if I didn’t get the reception that I got when I put out Part 1 with ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Happy’ and with the topics that I touch on with all of my mental health things that I deal with on a daily basis and it being so reciprocated in such a positive way then I wouldn’t have had the courage to put something out like ‘Body’. It definitely is amazing! My fans say that I save them but they save me all the time. You guys save me so thank you for that!

TB: With such a gruelling schedule that has an intense mixture of recording, writing and touring, how do you make sure you do look after your mental health in-between it all?

JM: Well right now I’m off tour and then I start up again in September with you guys in Australia! So the way I try to do it when I’m at home is that I try not to overwhelm myself too much. I love being in the studio and I love working but I’m trying to get better with taking time off. If I want to go to the movies, then I will go to the movies. If I wanna go to the beach, then I will go to the beach. If I wanna see my family, then I will make time for them and I also make time for my friends because I know that I won’t see them when I leave. So I think that’s a big thing for me, and that really helps my mental health. If I take time for myself and do things that I love and not put so much pressure on myself then I feel better.

When I’m on tour, my days off are very similar. I try to go out and see things and hang out with my band mates and spend quality time with them when we don’t have show days or running around like crazy people *laughs*. 

TB: Your songs are so relatable for so many different reasons and that kinda rolls into the next thing I wanted to talk to you about. Because there are so many lyrics that come to mind of yours that I love. But as a fellow creative ‘Work Too Much’ stands out to me with the pressures we put on ourselves which also throws back to the realisation on ‘Happy’ where you admit “Sometimes I think I kill relationships for art. I start up all this shit to watch them fall apart. I pay my bills with it” which relates to working so hard and creating drama in your life to kinda have something to work on. 

After having this realisation and then writing a song about working too much and missing out on elements of life, have you changed any of the ways you act or tried to live in the moment and not allow other factors to have an impact?

JM: Definitely. I think there was a huge realisation when I was writing ‘Work Too Much’ that I really do work too much. I cancel plans so I can work in the studio and I get consumed with tweaking things and making sure things are perfect when I put it out. And then I’m still stressing because I’m still writing and then all of a sudden I notice that a month has gone by and I’ve done nothing but write songs. Which is amazing but I’ve missed out on things like friends birthdays and friend hangouts and family times. I think as I’m getting older I’m realising that those things really help me feel super centred. So I am really trying to make things that really matter to me other than music, touring and my fans. 

TB: I think it’s super easy to work too much as a creative because your mind is constantly running and this industry in particular demands so much of you all the time in different aspects. 

JM: All the time! But you learn and you navigate in your own way and it’s all an experience to figure out a balance. It’s all about balance! 

TB: ’17’ is a straight up love song that hears you highlighting a hope for a relationship to never lose it’s spark that is reminiscent of that first time falling in love like you’re 17. So as a songwriter do you find it more vulnerable to write a hopeful love song or a heartbreak reflection track?

JM: I think I’m more inspired to write break up songs because that is the time that I feel the most creative. I’m not really a confrontational person even with all the things that I wish I could say to an ex, I just put it in a song and hope that they hear it *laughs*. For the most part that is the easiest for me. But being hopeful is definitely harder to me just because I’m a little bitter when it comes to love *laughs*. 

TB: I mean, girl, I’ve seen your tweets recently and sometime’s I’m like “I’m worried” *laughs*.

JM: *Laughs* “I’m worried”, I love it! Yeah, I’m a little honest on social media, aren’t I? *laughs*.

TB: It’s definitely hard to write about being hopeful when you keep getting your heart broken. So you’ve previously stated that ‘Inner Monolgue’ is a Trilogy of EP’s that will make up your debut album. So where is Part 3 coming from lyrically? Like where are you right now in your life?

JM: I think it’s just going to be a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 in that sense. I don’t think I’m going to make it as big this time around and I might just put out a couple of songs that I love. But I haven’t really decided yet. But I think it’s going to be a continuation. It’s going to be closing a chapter so I can start a new one. A whole new chapter!

TB: You said on Twitter that you’re aiming to release a vinyl of the Inner Monologue collection once the final part comes out, so is this actually happening?

JM: YES! I want that so badly, so that’s the goal! I’m so excited! 

TB: You will be returning to Australia this September for your first headlining tour. So reflecting on your previous three visits down under, what is one of your favourite memories from your time here? 

JM: I’m so excited to come back to Australia! For me it’s always been about meeting people and having those connections. Like when I met you at the Brisbane show and chatted with you about music and life, it’s those memories that stand out to me. It’s those moments that warm my heart. 

I met a lot of amazing fans on the tour which was so amazing. There was a girl called Courtney at one of the shows in January who made me a poster that said “Julia, you make us fucking happy” and I remember pulling it up and holding it on stage and I still have the poster now. It was one of my favourite moments as ‘Inner Monologue Part 1’ had just come out!

I also had a lot of fun in Melbourne on our day off. We ended up being on a boat and having some drinks and hanging out which was nice to just relax with my band. 

TB: How have you gone about bringing these new songs to life in the live show and creating an energy that is vulnerable, honest and euphoric?

JM: I try to make the show the way that my mind is. I try to find the fun and make it vibrant and outgoing but I also really want there to be those really vulnerable, emotional and cathartic moments. Not everyone is always happy. And not everyone is always sad. So I want to have all of those roller coaster of emotions. And I want to just give them a place where they can dance, jump and scream and not have to stand somewhere with their arms crossed and be worried that someone will hear them singing too loud and complain. 

I want everyone that comes to the shows to have a great time. Whether their great time is crying to the songs or dancing and screaming with excitement, I want them to enjoy it. 

TB: With your upcoming Australian tour this will be the first time you’ve played the songs from Inner Monologue Part 2 live, is that right? 

JM: Yeah we haven’t performed Part 2 live at all yet except for a couple of acoustic performances. We haven’t even rehearsed the full live versions yet which is scary. We are rehearsing in two weeks for the shows in Australia and we are going to figure out the arrangements for them and do all new choreography for them. So we haven’t even gotten there yet but that’s the exciting part. I love building the arrangements!

TB: Is there a song that you’re the most nervous about trying to perform live? 

JM: No, I don’t think there is. But we probably won’t put all of the songs from Part 2 into the show. We will probably do our favourite few even though they are all my babies and I love them *laughs*. But we will play the ones that feel like they could really have an impact live. We will probably figure out who to finagle in there. So we will do that with Part 1 and Part 2 and ‘Nervous System’. 

TB: I feel like now you’re getting such a big discography that it would be kinda hard to choose what songs to put into a live show now?

JM: Yeah! And it’s SO cool because I’ve never had that problem before. So it’s been really fun to figure out the dynamic. It’s also been really cool to think about the transitions between the songs and making them feel seamless and see how it will all come together. I’m so excited! 

Julia Michaels Australian Tour

Wednesday 4 September – The Forum, Melbourne

Thursday 5 September – Enmore Theatre, Sydney 

Saturday 7 September – The Tivoli, Brisbane *SOLD OUT*