Julia Michaels on Being Nominated for Song of the Year Grammy with Boyfriend JP Saxe: 'It's Special'

Julia Michaels and her boyfriend JP Saxe fell in love after writing "If the World Was Ending," their song of the year contender

Julia Michaels and JP Saxe's love story has led them to Music's Biggest Night.

Michaels and Saxe, both 27, earned a song of the year Grammy nod for their apocalypse-inspired hit single "If the World Was Ending." The pair wrote the song together in 2019 and began dating soon after.

This is the first nomination for Saxe and the third for Michaels, who in 2018 was up for best new artist and song of the year for her breakout single "Issues."

PEOPLE sat down remotely with Michaels ahead of the Grammys, airing Sunday, March 14 on CBS.

Julia Michaels, JP Saxe
Julia Michaels & JP Saxe. Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Did you know this song was special when you were working on it?

I knew the song was special, but I didn't know that it would do what it did. I'm so grateful that it has, because it's been a really special journey. I was a fan of JP. I DM-ed him like, "Hey, I would love to write with you," and this was the first song we ever wrote together. It was just him and I at the piano.

You've written for and worked with so many artists. What was your process like with JP?

We just sat at the piano. He was like, "I have this idea that I've been saving for you. I want to write a song where it's like, "If the world was ending, you'd come over, right?" Basically from there, it just sort of flowed out. We were talking about the earthquakes in L.A.; we were talking about, is getting in a petty fight with somebody, is that a reason not to talk to somebody in a time when things are going really bad. That was the whole premise of the song.

As you mentioned, "If the World Was Ending" is special because it was the first song you wrote together. How did your time writing and recording kind of open the door for a relationship?

Well, we wrote that song, and then I don't know — we basically just spent every day after that together. We didn't want to leave each other. So we've been together now for about a year and a half. He's a very special human being. I'm very grateful for him.

You already had quite a prolific songwriting career before you decided to go the artist track. How has your life changed since you released "Issues" back in 2017?

If there's anything that I've learned over the last three, four years of my life, it's just how adaptable human beings can be. Especially for me, when I was a songwriter turned artist, I didn't know what I was doing. I had learned how to sing in the booth. That's it. Then it was like, "Hey, you're going to sing live on the Billboard Awards." I was like, "I'm sorry. Can I think about this?" They're like, "Nope." I just remember the first two years of it all just being so anxious, and feeling just like, "Can I do this? Should I do this?"

I think what's changed most is I've sort of settled in, and I've gotten a little bit more comfortable in my artistry. I think at first I was just like, "This is a lot. I'm overwhelmed. I don't know what I'm [doing]..." Now, I'm like, "Okay, cool. I'm making my first album. This is so exciting. I know my fans are really excited about it, and I'm excited to show them." I think that's what's probably changed the most is just getting more comfortable with myself overall through all this.

Check out PEOPLE's full Grammys coverage to get the latest news on music's biggest night.

JP Saxe, Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels & JP Saxe. Sony Music

Your co-writer and friend Justin Tranter once told me that the first time you worked together, you hid in a closet. How has your songwriting dynamic changed over the years?

[Laughs] It hasn't. I still hide. I was just talking to Jessie Ware, and she was like, "Do you still not let people be in the studio when you cut vocals?" I was like, "Yeah, pretty much." I don't think much of my writing process has changed. It's probably why I still write the way that I do. I try to take everything in a very honest, very sincere approach.

Tell me about the not being seen or hiding away. Is it more of just like you want to focus, like you're really zoned in on what you're working on?

Yeah. Writing, for me, and just music in general, to me, has always been a very intimate thing. It's why you've never really seen my songwriting. It's why I've never had cameras in the room, you've never seen me in the studio, is because I don't like cameras in the studio. It's a very intimate thing for artists and songwriters. We talk about a lot of really deep things and personal things. That has always been a really safe space for me, being in the studio and singing, for me. Singing isn't my first... that wasn't what I did first. Songwriting was always the tangible thing for me. So I was always just really insecure about singing in front of people, because I just, even as a 27-year-old woman, I'm still trying to find days where I love my voice. So I like being in my own space without feeling like I'm being judged or listened to or anything like that.

JP Saxe and Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels & JP Saxe.

You and JP have lived through a pandemic together. Have you worked on any more songs together?

We have actually. I'm working on my first album now. We've written a couple, but we have one song on my album that I really, really love. I'm really looking forward to seeing people's reactions to it. It's probably one of my favorite songs I've ever written, so I'm excited for him to be a part of it.

And what does it mean to be nominated for song of the year this year?

I feel like song of the year, it's all-encompassing. It's about the words, and it's about just the song as a whole. Just being nominated for a song that I wrote with somebody that I love, and the Recording Academy taking in those words and thinking that they're good enough to be nominated, it's special to me, because I've been a songwriter my whole life, and to be nominated for song of the year with someone I love is ... I don't have words. It's amazing.

RELATED VIDEO: JP Saxe: "I Didn't Anticipate I'd Find the Love of My Life and My First Really Big Song" When Recording "If the World Was Ending"

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