Julia Michaels Opens Up About How Her 'Thriving' Relationship with JP Saxe Inspired New Music

Julia Michaels says boyfriend JP Saxe is the muse behind her effervescent new single "Lie Like This"

Julia Michaels
Photo: Clare Gillen

She's had her "Issues," but Julia Michaels has finally found love!

The pop star, 26, first met fellow singer-songwriter JP Saxe, 27, a year ago when they wrote their hit "If the World Was Ending." The pair released the track a year ago in October, PEOPLE confirmed they were dating in January, and now Michaels is opening up about how Saxe is her muse.

Last month, Michaels released "Lie Like This," an effervescent bop about her new love. The happy track is a departure from her brooding breakout hit "Issues" and other standouts about subjects like mental health ("Anxiety," her collab with pal Selena Gomez) and heartbreak (the Niall Horan duet "What a Time").

Here, the Grammy-nominated artist — who is preparing to release her debut album after three critically acclaimed EPs — talks new music, managing mental health during the pandemic and her relationship with Saxe.

Where did "Lie Like This" Come from?

It basically started because I was laying in bed with JP, and I went to Spider-Man kiss him. I was sitting in front of him, and he goes, "You're pretty upside down." And, then I turned around and he said, "You're pretty right side up, too." And, I was like, "That is such a great start to a song." So then I took it to the studio, and I started with that and then just went from there.

The lyric and vibe of the song is very Julia Michaels — but it's so nice to hear you sound happy on a song!

Thanks! Yeah, I say that all the time. This is the first time I've written about love where I'm not pessimistic about it and bitter about it. It feels really good to just write about love and write about healthy love, because I feel like it's just not something that really happens very often anymore. She's thriving.

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

You and JP are so cute together.

We're so gross. I hate it. [Laughs]

What is it about this relationship that works?

He's just a good human. He's a good human. He's supportive. He's caring. He's genuinely a beautiful person, and that goes a long, long way in a relationship. And he puts up with all my BS which is nice — always helps!

Your duet "If the World Was Ending" took on a new life in March, when the pandemic hit the U.S. What does that song mean to you?

Well, that song is very special to me because I wrote that the day that I met JP, so that already is special to me. When the pandemic happened, it was crazy. It was crazy to see how much it was resonating with people and how much it actually felt like the end of the world. And, seeing all these frontline workers make videos to it... We got to do this really beautiful charity video for Doctors Without Borders, and they put it in a really beautiful way to us. They were like, "We're the ones that are coming over when everything's going really bad, and we're the ones that are putting our lives on the line to help others." And, we were like, "Wow, that's so impactful and beautiful." So, for us, it took on an incredibly new, beautiful meaning.

How does "Lie Like This" fill in with the rest of the vibe of the album you're working on?

A good portion of it is pretty feel-good and that kind of stuff, but another good portion of it is still the Inner Monologue feel of some cool, interesting sonics and weird chords, because I feel like it wouldn't be me if I didn't do that. I think it's, overall, really just fun, and it just feels really damn good.

I'm talking about love and I'm talking about growth in love and I'm talking about how good it feels to be in something that doesn't feel toxic. I feel like we're so conditioned to like love that's chaotic and dramatic, and we're scared of things that feel too easy. And, I really wanted to write about that. So, that's basically what I've been doing, and it's just fun. And, I'm making it with all my friends, and that's even more fun.

Tell me about how the album's coming together. Have you been working on it during the pandemic?

I want to say 90% of it has been worked on during the pandemic. "Lie Like This" we started around June or July, and then from there is when we really started to pick up a little bit of a groove. It's like, "Oh, this is what I really want it to be, and I want it to sound like," and then took it from there.

It's different for me. I've been contemplating it a lot because sometimes I feel like my sadness may be more tangible than my happiness, and I'm afraid that people won't want to grow with me into my happiness. I'm just hoping that my fans will do that with me.

RELATED VIDEO: JP Saxe Says Self-Isolation with Girlfriend Julia Michaels Has Brought Out the Silly in Both of Them

What was the process like? Did you do songwriting sessions over Zoom?

I refused to do Zoom. I was like, "I'm not making an album over Zoom. I can't do it." So, I haven't, and I didn't. So, once me and my collaborators felt comfortable being in a room together... The way [producers The Monsters & Strangerz] have their studio set up is they have a room in their house that leads to an outdoor patio. So they were in their studio, and there was a sliding glass door; I was outside; then [co-writer] Michael Pollack was outside on the other couch. So, we could all be together but not actually be together. Once everyone was able to start getting the rapid tests, it started making everything a little bit easier — then we could take the rapid test in the morning and actually hug each other and be in the same room, so we're not in L.A. weather where it's 115º in the Valley, and we're all sweating and dying outside.

Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels. Amaury Nessaibia-min

You've been very open about your mental health. How have you been managing that in a pandemic?

Some days are better than others. I try to just focus on little things that make me happy instead of focusing on all the things that don't or focusing on major things where they feel a little bit unobtainable. I just focus on: "Oh, I'm going to eat this today because I love this. Oh, I'm going to drive to the beach and just roll my windows down because that makes me feel good. I'm going to make something because that makes me feel good." I've just been doing that a lot really to try to keep me calm because if I don't, I get really overwhelmed.

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