“I’m not a confrontational person and I don’t speak up enough. That’s why I actually have ‘speak up’ tattooed on my throat. It’s a good reminder!”
It’s no surprise then that Julia Michaels is the quiet type. For the past seven years the 23-year-old has been steadfastly working behind the scenes, writing hits for the who’s who of the pop world – helping to prop up everyone from Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez. The leap from songwriter to fully-fledged pop star can be a precarious one, but so far Julia is traversing the murky waters with relative ease. And it was her debut single, “Issues”, that was the tipping point for the Iowa native. The song, about a personal and complicated relationship, was the first track that Julia just couldn’t bring herself to give away. We find out what’s next.
I never really had the urge to be an artist. I always wanted to be a songwriter so that I could help people get the words out that they couldn’t articulate into a song themselves. And it wasn’t until I wrote ‘Issues’ that I realised that maybe I’d been denying myself something that I wanted, because I’m not a very confident person. I’m highly sensitive, so having people judge you on your emotions can be overwhelming, but so far luckily people have been pretty nice!
I’ve always been really emotional. I was that kid who was an outsider. Writing was my way of feeling less alone, of getting the thoughts out of my head and doing something useful with them.
I’m wary of being considered a role model, but I hope that people look at me and realise that it’s okay to be flawed. Don’t see it as a weakness, see it as a strength. There’s so much power in saying, ‘I’m vulnerable’.
I don’t know yet but ultimately my music is about being relatable, and about being vulnerable, and I think that is what resonates with people now more than anything – a human connection. It sometimes feels like the only thing you hold close to you is your phone and I think that really weighs on people. That’s why emotional songs work so well – people are desperate for it.