Julia Michaels, who brings her first-ever headlining tour to House of Blues
on Friday, May 10, is fairly insecure for a pop star. The 25-year-old Iowa native has been songwriting professionally for a decade, but it was only a couple years ago that she found the confidence to record her own music.
Michaels wasn’t ready for the scrutiny that came with stepping out from behind the scenes and into the limelight until something bigger than her pushed her out of the shadows.
“I had interest from people, but I was not in a space of wanting to put out my own music, for insecurity purposes, until I wrote a song that changed it all for me,” she says in a recent phone interview.
It was “Issues,” that did it for Michaels. The stripped-down acoustic track finds Michaels in a dysfunctional relationship, owning up to her deepest insecurities but proceeding to point out that her partner struggles in the same areas.
The alternative-pop smash-hit made Michaels a household name, but several stars were already acquainted with the songwriter.
Fifteen-year-old Michaels followed her sister into the studio where she was recording demos for songwriters. There, Michaels’s talent caught the eye of one of the writers, who offered her a collaboration. From there, 17-year-old Michaels was recruited to write the theme song for the Disney show Austin & Ally
This teenage triumph led to Michaels connecting with Disney stars such as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato and writing on tracks for them.
Gomez is still a good friend and is featured on Michaels' new six-track EP, Inner Monologue Part 1
, in the blaringly self-aware ballad “Anxiety.”
The pair of crooners have been very vocal about their respective struggles with depression and anxiety in recent years.
“I’ve always wanted to write a song about it,” says Michaels. “It took the right people, and the right day, and the right vibe that I was feeling to do so.”
The track finds Michaels and Gomez turning down offers to meet up with friends then regretting it, feeling plagued by the battles being waged in their heads.
“Depression is person-by-person. It’s not always one thing that triggers everyone’s depression or anxiety,” says Michaels. “Each person and each scenario is different. I’m just happy that there’s awareness about it and that people are actually talking about it, and not just pushing it to the wayside. It’s actually getting attention, and people that have it are feeling heard.”
Michaels has always viewed writing as a therapeutic process and a way to not only feel heard but to also help others feel heard as well.
“My love for music and words stems from me wanting to connect with people that feel misunderstood…or feel unwanted. That’s the reason I started writing in the first place; it was my outlet to be able to confront things that I wasn’t able to confront in everyday life,” she says.
“Into You,” a piano-based confessional on Inner Monologue Part 1
, also tells a story of Michaels avoiding social interaction at home, but it’s a different kind of discomfort that she’s dodging.
The EP also offers “What a Time,” an acoustic collaboration with Niall Horan, a love letter for the memories that a past relationship left behind.
With James Bay, Keith Urban and Lauv all working with Michaels on singles last year, she is quickly becoming a key player in the duet game.
“I’ve been collaborating with songwriters for the past ten years. I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for collaboration,” says Michaels. “You’re collaborating every day whether it’s other songwriters or other producers, whether it’s you wanting your vocals a certain way from the engineer. Collaboration is part of my daily life. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without it.”
As of now, Michaels doesn’t have a time frame set for Inner Monologue Part 2
In the age of short attention spans, Michaels wants to ensure that listeners take the time to digest her music.
“Sometimes, songs on albums get lost. I feel like if it comes in shorter, smaller doses, people are gonna listen a little more attentively,” Michaels says of choosing to release the EP in two parts. “I wanted to put it out in spirts and not give it away all at once.”
Michaels was inspired by a collection of moments, relationships and experiences in the writing of the EP, but the release came together as a cohesive unit because it all happened to her.
“You write [the songs] at different points in your life, but they’re all still relative to you, regardless of when they were written,” says Michaels, “I wanted to tell a story, and these were the songs I felt told it the best.”
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