JP Saxe Discusses How Living with Girlfriend Julia Michaels Influenced His 'Honest' Debut Album

The Canadian musician opens up to PEOPLE about using his songwriter girlfriend as a "sounding board" to help him finish his first album, Dangerous Levels of Introspection

JP Saxe
JP Saxe. Photo: Arista Records

JP Saxe could not be more "ecstatic" for the release of his debut album, a project he says he's been working on since the day he was born.

The Canadian singer-songwriter, 28, received massive acclaim for his 2019 hit "If the World Was Ending," even earning a Grammy nomination for song of the year. Now Saxe is putting out his first full collection of tracks, titled Dangerous Levels of Introspection.

He tells PEOPLE it couldn't have happened at a better time, saying, "I've always been really hesitant to wish any part of my life happened sooner because I love my life and I've loved my life for a really long time."

JP Saxe Dangerous Levels of Introspection cover
Arista Records

"I'm not just trying to build a career, I'm trying to build a life that I want, so I wouldn't have this come a day sooner because I really liked a lot of what happened leading up to this," he adds.

The 13 tracks show Saxe at his most "honest" and he explains that he is "really proud of how much of 'me' is in this music," which covers everything from the recent death of his mother to his relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Julia Michaels, 27.

"It's songs about Julia, there's a song hyping up a best friend who is going through heartbreak, there's a song talking about the loss of my mom at the beginning of last year," he confesses. "All of the people who have been a really prominent part of who I am over the last decade are in some way represented on this album."

Saxe and Michaels began dating after they wrote their duet "If the World Was Ending" in 2019, and their love blossomed as they quarantined amid the coronavirus pandemic together. For Saxe, it was helpful having a fellow pop star by his side as he was crafting this album.

julia michaels
Julia Michaels & JP Saxe. Julia Michaels/Instagram

"I think to varying degrees, every artist is using their partner as a sounding board," he admits. "When your partner is the greatest songwriter of all time, you may use them as a sounding board a little bit more. So I'm grateful for Julia's opinion and take the very seriously at every step of the process."

Michaels also released her debut album earlier this year, and Saxe says they couldn't have reached the finish line without each other.

"We both thought our albums were done, but one night we're talking and both tripping out about our first albums coming out," he recalls. "We both wondered if they could be a little bit better, so we decided to spend two days in the studio on her album and then two days on my album, and we ended up writing the first singles for both of them together."

Saxe says that "songwriting is such a personal experience" for them both that they can't just turn off that part of themselves. Living under the same roof in L.A., everything is ripe for material and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Julia Michaels
Jordan Strauss/AP/Shutterstock

"We'll be mid-conversation in the kitchen and she'll stop me and say, 'Hey, that's a song, you should definitely put that in the verse," he points out. "For the most part, that never becomes a problem because we both love music so much that if it makes its way into little personal moments, then it just adds to the beauty of them; it doesn't take away."

That doesn't mean the pair are all work and no play. In fact, Saxe says most of their time together isn't unlike any other couple's date nights in.

"We cuddle, we drink boba and we watch television shows," he says with a laugh. "If you had asked me last week, it would have been cuddling and Mare of Easttown. If you had asked me yesterday, cuddling, boba and Cruel Summer. And next week, we'll be cuddling, boba and maybe The Bachelorette."

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"

His girlfriend isn't the only special guest on Dangerous Levels of Introspection. Saxe also scored appearances from Maren Morris, his duet partner on the previously-released "Line By Line", and John Mayer, who plays guitar on "Here's Hopin'".

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Maren Morris</a> and JP Saxe
Maren Morris and JP Saxe. Eric Ryan Anderson

"Working with Maren was extremely exciting because I think she's brilliant. One of my favorite singers in on earth," he gushes. "To hear my voice next to hers is a total trip. And Mayer's Continuum had a big role in me falling in love with songwriting as a teenager, so to have him be a part of my first album 10 years later is pretty cool."

Saxe's goal as a musician is to create music that feels like a "best friend telling you about some really personal part of your life" in an effort to tap into the relatability of his own favorite songs.

"My favorite music has always been the music that makes me feel closer to myself, songs that let me access some sort of emotion inside of me that I don't know how to get to without that song," he explains. "In making my debut album, I wanted to make songs like that too."

It comes as no surprise that his biggest songwriting lesson came from his "favorite writer," Michaels: "We get to make the rules."

"I thought for a long time I needed to look at other people who were successful and then do what they did," he says. "But over the years, I realized I will be the most successful if I just do exactly what I love and exactly what I want to do and exactly the way I want to do it."

"Having a partner who's done precisely that and been so monumentally successful at it, and who has my back and believes in me is a real encouragement to just use nothing but my own voice and lean into it as unapologetically as possible," he adds.

Dangerous Levels of Introspection is now available.

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