Q (UK) - - Incoming - PETER ROBIN­SON

The ar­chi­tect of hit songs for Justin Bieber, Brit­ney Spears, Gwen Ste­fani and, er, Linkin Park, Ju­lia Michaels has per­fected the art of ex­tract­ing the best lyrics from al­most any muse. “I go into full ther­a­pist mode,” the 23- year-old, Iowa-born pop virtuoso says of her writ­ing ses­sions. The re­sults, she adds, can be sur­pris­ing. “One artist told me they’d never ac­tu­ally been in love.” Perched on a ban­quette in a cen­tral London mem­bers’ club, this self-de­clared “de­struc­tive, sad per­son” and now cen­tre-stage pop en­tity is just as open when asked what’s on her own mind. “To­day I’m OK,” she be­gins, as most artists might. Then: “Three days ago I stayed up for 24 hours and I cried for six hours. Last night I was up un­til 6am, cry­ing and send­ing emails.” It turns out the in­tense re­la­tion­ship she sings of in her break­out solo hit, the son­i­cally un­der­stated but melod­i­cally dra­matic pop jam, Is­sues, abruptly ended less than a week ago. Forty-eight hours later she was sing­ing that song, 2017’ s big­gest-seller by a new artist, to 80,000 peo­ple at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium; to­day she’s onto the chan­nelling-it-cre­atively stage. “My [ iPhone] VoiceNotes are pretty filled,” she sighs. “I’m now lit­er­ally writ­ing a song about the steps of a breakup.” Many of Michaels’s songs find ro­bust­ness by em­brac­ing fragility. She be­gan writ­ing in her teens and made a brief foray into re­leas­ing her own mu­sic, but in 2013 found a cre­ative foil in “song hus­band” Justin Tran­ter. “When I was younger ageism got in the way of peo­ple tak­ing me se­ri­ously,” she says to­day. “No­body wanted to take a chance on the new girl but Justin just said: ‘Do your thing, we can tweak it af­ter.’” Tweaks were largely un­nec­es­sary: Ju­lia and Justin be­came mod­ern pop’s most in-de­mand song­writ­ing part­ner­ship. Among Michaels’s suc­cesses is Justin Bieber’s mono­lithic Sorry, which was re­leased just three weeks af­ter she fin­ished it: “We were like, ‘Don’t you want to sim­mer on this for a bit?’ Then it was ev­ery­where. It was like an epi­demic.” More re­cently Se­lena Gomez’s stylish Bad Liar, writ­ten over a looped por­tion of Talk­ing Heads’ Psy­cho Killer, saw David Byrne re­ply­ing “I love it!” when asked for sam­ple clear­ance. “I’ve al­ways said I wanted to work with David Byrne,” Michaels grins, “and now I tech­ni­cally have.” The suc­cess of her solo ca­reer means she’s now put co-writes on the back burner. “My at­tempt to be Bruce Wayne and Bat­man at the same time is fail­ing,” she notes, but her grin says it all: with both Bad Liar and her new track Uh Huh (think Brit­ney re-imag­in­ing Blur’s Song 2) both climb­ing global charts, fail­ure is one is­sue Michaels doesn’t have to face.


Ju­lia Michaels: goes into “full ther­a­pist mode” when song­writ­ing.

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