JP Saxe is the poetic songster who taps the emotion on our skin like a xylophone, using lyrics and melody as a mode of profound communication. Each tune is a declaration of honesty and last week, he proclaimed unequivocal love in the face of doubt with the playful ditty, ‘Hey Stupid, I Love You.’
‘Hey Stupid, I Love You’ is different from JP’s usual atmospheric, modest pop. It’s a song that candidly addresses the far too common insecurity that surfaces in relationships. With light-hearted, contemporary writing, the song bounces along like a bird on a mission, reminding the nervous lover that, simply put, it’s all good.
“I’ve always felt like the most meaningful realizations I made about myself were in relation to love.” JP shares the unexpected origins of the song in our interview below. “Figuring out yourself…moving out of it, moving into it.”
Last year around the big California quake, JP and fellow writer, Julia Michaels, accidentally foreshadowed the current global conundrum with the heart wringing song, “If The World Was Ending.” Currently climbing the Billboard chart, the song has been holding strong at Top 40 at radio, and spent over 200 days on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits. JP and Julia’s styles are so complimentary, it’s no surprise that this was the session that brought the two together as a couple. As the globe revels in this painfully nostalgic tune, we’re at once comforted by the reminder that if the world was ending, nothing but love would matter.
When JP and I spoke, he was cheerfully making eggs for him and his lady as the sun poured into their Los Angeles home. He’s optimistic about the future, uplifting listeners with his expert, pensive music. Read our full conversation below to find out what he’s mastered during quarantine, why his EP ‘Hold It Together’ is one of a kind, and what’s coming next for JP Saxe.
Do you guys write together? Is living together making you work more or work less?
Julia and I didn’t write together for the first half of quarantine then I think we both went a little crazy not having another option so we started writing with each other! But I mean, if you’re gonna get locked in with a writer I kinda lucked out.
Take us back to that writing session where you met.
We met when we wrote If The World Was Ending, that day. We originally connected because Julia shared a song of mine, 25 in Barcelona, on her Instagram story. When she did that, I was in the car on a drive…I was performing at this wedding in Northern California…and we were actually listening to Julia’s music, talking about how she’s the most influential songwriter of our generation. And then I get the notification on my phone, “Julia Michaels has mentioned you in her story.”
And we got talking. She suggested that we write together, which I tried very hard to play it cool about and failed. The session that we ended up having was around this time of year – right after that earthquake that happened around 4th of July 2019 – which is what inspired me to write “If the world was ending, you’d come over right?” in my journal and thought – that could be a cool duet, I’m gonna save that for my session with Julia.
How do you guys compliment each other as songwriters? How did you find that relationship?
I think we both very much prioritize sincerity. It makes a big difference when you’re working with songwriters who are aiming for the same thing. And we were gonna think it was good at the same time. One of the more frustrating things in sessions is when you think it’s good at different times. So I think that first session there was definitely some serendipity to the whole thing, the song happened really fast, in an oddly simple way! And Benjamin Rice, who engineered that first session, has become one of my closest friends!
And now my eggs are done.
Haha! So that song changed a lot for you. It started a relationship, it was prophetic in some ways, and it blew up…how have you changed as a songwriter and/or a person since that song came out?
As a songwriter…I’ve always just wanted to tell true stories with songs. Everything I was writing was a little bit more personal and sincere and diary-like than was sometimes even comfortable. But that’s the only way I’ve ever wanted to write. I think the success of this song for me as a songwriter has just kind of validated that approach and just inspired me; that I don’t need to change anything about that. That I can keep writing from as genuine a place as I want to.
I love hearing that. People are longing to connect, that’s why it works so well.
I’m curious, when you’re creating what sorts of challenges do you confront?
Hm. Writer’s block only exists for me when I’m not writing. If I sit down to journal and write down as many bad ideas as I can, usually on the other side of 30 bad ideas is a good one, but if i’m afraid of those 30 bad ideas I’ll never get to the 31st good one. That’s been my experience, that it’s more like my ego getting over doing something that I don’t think is great.
*snaps* It’s profound to reflect on something like that. On a more jovial note…what are one or two things you always have to have by you when you’re writing or in the studio?
Haha an instrument – which sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many sessions you go into where there isn’t a piano or a guitar. I’m useless in those sessions.
Also, someone I feel comfortable talking to. Whether it be myself on that day, or someone else, and something caffeinated.
Mm, drink of choice?
Yes. So you just released an album/EP ‘Hold It Together.’ How did it feel to release that collection of songs?
To be honest, it doesn’t feel like an album. It was only six so it still feels like a synopsis of what I would ultimately like to put together in a project. But it was definitely the largest piece of work I’ve put together to date.
It was a pretty emotionally integrated process to put that out. I did a lot of it in LA but I finished the EP in Toronto because I was home with my mom. I literally finished the last song on the EP sitting next to my mom in the hospital. She passed in January.
The EP was getting finished while all of that was happening so…I finished the production on ‘Hold It Together’ a night or two before she passed. In the hospital on my laptop. It was a really intense process, but it makes me happy that she heard every song on it, and in all their different forms. That being the last thing of my music that she will hear, her being such a part of that process, makes the EP…I’m not sure how a body of work I ever do will ever be as personal as that.
It’s timeless. I am so, so sorry for your loss.
Thanks Ari. It’s been a crazy year! I was unfazed by quarantine because it was just so far from the biggest change in my life this year. I think, for everyone, this year has just been full of adjustments to what it means to be in a different life and still be yourself.
Right. Talking about your next project, which I heard is on the way…I’m sure that holds a lot of significance as well. How is this one shaping up to be different from the last?
I think the excitement of an album is the possibility to represent as many parts of yourself as possible. I think ‘Hold It Together’ was a lot of different versions of a love song. And when I talk about love songs I don’t just mean “in-love” songs I also mean “post-love” songs. Figuring out yourself in it, out of it, moving out of it, moving into it. I’ve always felt like the most meaningful realizations I made about myself were in relation to love. And I think that’s a lot of what ‘Hold It Together’ is. The next album, I just want to keep expanding on what it means to be me in different situations. To be honest Ari, I don’t know what the album is fully going to be about because I’m just writing from journals and because of that, they end up being consistent. The theme ends up being just telling true stories.
Well I look forward to it. ‘Hey Stupid, I love you’ is such a good song, holding true to your romantic side! With all that it’s about, insecurities and doubts, is there any part that sort of talks to yourself?
The whole thing. Literally all of it. Haha, originally the song was written as her speaking to me not me speaking to her. On a songwriting level, it was hard to make that perspective work…because she was saying ‘Hey stupid, I love you,’ to me! So I ended up flipping it but to answer your question – yes. Literally all of it.
I kind of had a feeling…
You had a feeling that I was the needy, insecure lover in the relationship?
Haha yes! But it’s not so cryptic the way that you say it. It’s so relatable, everyone feels that way and I love how affirming the message is. Did she write that one with you or did you write it on your own?
I wrote it originally in a session with Scott Harris and a production duo called OG Vulta, but then Julia had a number of suggestions so she ended up being a co-writer on it; because I would be a dummy not to take her notes.
What about the video? I’m curious what your meaning behind that storyline is.
A lot of my songs have been me at 2am at my piano – nostalgic, grueling, and emotional. And this song is more me in the middle of the day being a dufus, but a very loving dufus, with my girlfriend. So I wanted the video to feel as dorky and silly and loving as I felt the song was. Obviously doing a socially distant music video is a unique challenge. But it just meant me getting super sunburnt outside with cameras six or more feet away. Everyone was wearing a mask, and I could’ve worn sunscreen, I was just being an idiot.
There’s one shot where I’m walking across the Hollywood reservoir bridge and they were shooting me from half a mile away in the forest somewhere. Safe to say no one got sick.
Speaking of quarantine, how are you feeling as a person? How is pre-quarantine JP different from July 2020 JP?
That’s a good question. I think…I’ve really realized how…no. I really am capable of watching more episodes of Jeopardy than I ever would’ve expected from myself. I’ve also gotten pretty damn good at it. I don’t think I can be an adult Jeopardy contestant but I do think I could crush some of those high school students. They wouldn’t stand a chance. I’m very subject dependent. If it’s like geography or weird word games – crush it. But if it’s mathematics or periodic tables I got nothin.
What is one place in the world that you would like to go to when this is all over?
Mmm, Italy. What’d you say? *responds to Julia* I’ve already been to Barcelona. Uhm, I’m going to Italy. Or Greece. Or Brazil. Argentina also. South Africa. Morocco. Iceland.
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photos / courtesy of the artist
story / Ariana Tibi