Seit Jahren ist sie eine der gefragtesten Songwriter*innen der Popwelt, 2021 ist nun endlich ihr eigenes Debütalbum „Not In Chronological Order“ erschienen. Im Wortwechsel hat sich Julia Michaels mit Anna über Empowerment, unverschämte Interviews, Anxiety und die Definition eines Hits unterhalten.
Julia, we have to start with my favorite song from your album, „All your exes“, because it’s not only major bop, but I also think it’s so important to reframe the reputation of things like jealousy and trust, especially for women. Because we are always told being jealous is bad and wrong, hysterical. And I love how you navigate through this certain feeling and showing off another side of it and showing that it’s totally fine.
Julia Michaels: I’ve never really been one to go with societal norms. I’ve never been the pretty, „act like a lady“-kind of person. I’m a very emotional person, it is very innate in who I am. And if I’m going to make music, I’m going to bear it all. I am a jealous person, I am really fucking needy. I do wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s it’s very apparent – I do not hide or shy away from who I am.
That’s so important, because society always tells us to do this thing and don’t do this. And for men, it’s okay…but for a woman, it’s not. And I’m just over all of it. I just want to be myself and seeing other people doing the same and sharing it.
Julia: It’s really nice to when I hear other women say that too. Because I feel like it’s a bit of a domino effect: One person gives you sort of the confidence to be like: „Oh, I can grow my armpit hair out, I can have a gap in my teeth, I can have ears too big for my face. I can not fit the body mold and that’s fine“. Then more people follow suit and all of a sudden, we have a world of very beautiful, unique individuals.
Which is awesome! And it doesn’t have to mean that we have to fight against each other ore blame it on other women because we are jealous of something. Just because this is what we’re told, like 15 years ago, and we were brought up like this – I’m so happy this is over.
Julia: I feel like a lot of women pitting women against other women is very manmade. Because every time I’m in the studio with another woman, it’s so cordial, it’s so kind, so respectful. But then you see, tabloids have like, this person’s fighting with this person. Are they though? It’s ridiculous.
Do we really still care about „who wore it better?“ I guess not?! I mean, who cares if someone wears the same dress?
Julia: Or women’s identity being based on who they’re dating or how much weight they gain or, or what they’re wearing is just like so fucking ridiculous to me. Why don’t you focus on the fact that you’ve made an album, you’ve had a successful career doing this, focus on the accolades. You don’t see men do interviews being asked „Who are you dating? What did you eat today?“ – Fuck off with that.
And I really don’t understand why this is still so exciting for some people to still write about these things – hey, all of us moved on, we can talk about other things now.
Julia: The amount of times I get asked questions about very intimate details about my personal life…just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean that I’m public domain, doesn’t mean you can know my nickname for my boyfriend. That’s personal shit.
Because people think „oh, she puts herself out there, now we can ask her everything!“ But if you would ask these questions back, people would be super annoyed, right?
Julia: I get asked about people that I work with, their private lives. Like, yeah sure, let me tell you on camera, everything that they’re going through. How would your best friend feel? If you talked about their relationship? Are you out of your mind?
I also how you turn all these feelings into confidence. I believe being jealous is always painted as a weakness. But finding confidence in being vulnerable and honest is so crucial to stay sane.
Julia: It’s self awareness when you’re able to point out your flaws and your insecurities. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s weakness. You’ve sat with yourself enough to know that these are the things that you either need to work on or that are in your body, and that they’re not going anywhere. There’s a lot of strength in being able to pinpoint the stuff that is going on in in your body and in your mind.
Listening to music shows me how much I love to see women my age figuring out these things and sharing it. Because I’d rather see someone being relatable than ideal. I think for so long, artists were just painting this ideal picture. I always struggled to find myself in that because for myself, I was so far away from this ideal picture. And it’s such so beautiful, how things are changing. And thank you doing a really good job and playing a big part of that.
Julia: Thank you very much. I think there will always be both. There will always be the ideal, the myth of a woman that comes out and has their moment and they’re talented and they’re successful, and they’re beautiful. But then every once in a while someone will come and break that myth and I’m happy to be on that side. On that side. You know, both are both are equally important.
Speaking about being relatable, you spoke so much about anxiety, which I can pretty much relate to. And I wondered how you and your anxiety worked it out during the process of making this record?
Julia: I worked most of it out while I was on tour, I used to have a really bad social performance anxiety. When I first started being an artist, I would have it all the time, and I was so scared, I would hide, I would run away. I learned how to sing in the studio by myself, when no one could watch me. I could sing it a million times and mess it up if I did it wrong. But then I had to stand in front of a bunch of people sing very vulnerable songs. And I had to hope that they like it – because if they don’t like it, then they’re saying they don’t like me. And that really fucking sucks.
You start to acquire like minded individuals that understand and feel the same way that you do. And when I wrote „Anxiety“, I found a lot of those people.
I started opening for other artists and seeing people know these songs, I thought: „if you know these songs well enough to have sat there in your room, listened to it over and over, bought a ticket to come see stand in line to come see me as an opener and sing the songs with me, you must be going through something that I’m going through“.
It was in writing „Anxiety“ and meeting all of these people that have a lot of these same feelings where it felt less like a burden and almost more like a superpower.
I can imagine there was a lot of pressure on you doing a whole album and a lot of „when do you release an album?“ which would freak me out because I get so stressed by others having expectations of me and waiting for me to do something.
Julia: My fans have been extremely patient with me, and I’m grateful for that. They that I have anxiety, they know that I am highly insecure. So they’ve waited and they’ve been just so wonderful to me and just their reception of the album has been incredible. IT took me four years to make my first album. I didn’t really feel a lot of pressure, which was nice. I got to make it in a room with my friends socially distance, which was really important to me, I am not the kind of person that makes an album with 20 different producers and 15 different writers. I like to build a family, and nurture that family and be able to be with people that know what I’m going through.
If, you put enough feelings in, there’s nothing in the world that defines a fucking hit.
That also gives you I the security and not this stress from outside because people are getting in and out all the time.
Julia: Right. I do write very, very vulnerably. So I want to have people around that will nurture that. Sometimes when you go into a room with people that you don’t really know, they have expectations to write something else, like a „hit song“. And then they feel like discouraged when you want to write about anxiety.
It’s like people don’t understand that anything could be a big song. If, you put enough feelings in, there’s nothing in the world that defines a fucking hit. There’s no algorithm, there’s no melodic fucking structure, nothing. It’s just based on feelings. And if it’s a song that resonates with people, then that’s what makes it really big. So when people have this preconceived idea that something will fail because you want to write about something … that’s so fucked to me.
Your album is so beautiful and awesome. honest and raw and fun. I can cry and dance to it. And that’s all I’m asking for music.
Julia: I appreciate that very much, I definitely did try to make an album that felt situational. So if you wanted to be introspective, or you were super in love, or you want it to be playful or feel sexy, or where you’re feeling revengeful – there’s a song for each and every one of those feelings.
It sounds like you got to know yourself a bit better over the course of this album.
Julia: For me, this album is predominantly about love. It’s about being in love with this person. And being in love with yourself for the first time. The biggest takeaway was, that I used to think that I could only write love songs that were derived from toxicity. I can write love songs purely based around love. Love, when it’s easy and compassionate, is, just not advertised because „boring“. That’s so ridiculous. Love can be beautiful and simple and still passionate without it being damaging. And I really wanted to portray that with this album.
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