JP Saxe Chats Overcoming Self-Doubt & Finding Joy at the Edge of Heartbreak [Q&A]
Much of the genius of an artist can be boiled down to their ability to take a universal feeling and express the sentiment clearly, while in a way entirely unique to them. Few beings on this earth are unfamiliar with the throes of heartbreak, hence why it feels as if half the songs we hear were stolen from our own private memoirs. Yet, what separates my diary scribbles from that of the likes of songwriters such as JP Saxe is a creative perspective, one that grows from genuine talent and is fostered by deep vulnerability.
If you follow our blog’s musings, you know that our admiration of JP Saxe began in 2017 with the premiere of his debut singe "Changed." Since then, Saxe's career has metamorphosed into something many young creatives merely dream of. Fast-forward to 2020, Saxe boasts a Platinum single with "If The World Was Ending," co-written and performed with now girlfriend and fellow prolific songwriter, Julia Michaels. With his stunning debut EP Hold It Together under his belt, and a flurry of predictions from the likes of PEOPLE Magazine and Billboard, he is absolutely a top emerging artist to watch.
On the coattails of a unique, quarantined VMA's performance of "If The World Was Ending" and the release of follow up single "A Little Bit Yours," Saxe premieres a larger-than-life visual companion for the heartbreaking single. Shedding a different light on the concept of moving on from a profound romance, Saxe sings of struggling to let go from the haven of a space station, sending encoded musical messages to earth (or some other terrestrial planet).
We again had the profound opportunity to interview the sagacious creative on everything from his personal experience in pushing past demons of self doubt to advice on moving on from love lost. Read on below…
OTW: Where did your story with music begin?
JP Saxe: Probably before I was born. My grandfather was a classical cellist and I think just in being born into a world with a grandfather like that music was going to be a part of my life in some way. I had no idea what way and I certainly didn't become a classical musician, but I'd like to think I've maintained some of the values and philosophies in my own music that he did in his of attention to detail, in nuance and prioritizing sincerity.
Was there ever a time during your musical career that you felt like giving up? If so, how did you persevere through that self doubt?
Good question. There was a period, about a year and half after I moved to LA, where the first batch of music I made I decided I didn't want to put out because I wasn't in love with it enough and I really wanted to be in love with anything I represented myself with. So, I was just in LA and didn't have much of a plan, but I found a community of poetry and songwriting that I was able to grow in and met a lot of really generous, compassionate people who fostered that growth and made the journey out of my self doubt more of an adventure than a struggle.
"If The World Was Ending" feels prophetic at this point. Has this pandemic brought on any tough decisions or emotions for you?
Yes, is the short answer. I don't know, it's been a weird year for all of us. It's been a weird year for some personal reasons and it's been a weird year for some very very communally shared reasons and as horrifying as it's all been, there's um, I don't know... I have no answers for this to be honest. I feel a little too lost in it to be reflective, but I'll get back to you.
Your VMA’s performance was absolutely breathtaking. Tell us about shooting this in the midst of quarantine?
Thank you, I appreciate that. We shot it on New York street on the CBS lot and everyone on set had to be tested before being allowed on set so it was a COVID free zone and we all wore masks and visors anyway. And I didn't really get within 6 feet of anyone except for Julia who I live with so, that was allowed.
Favorite memory with Julia during lock down?
I've gotten so good at Jeopardy, we watch SO much Jeopardy and she's SO good at it too. I think we are probably about evenly matched in our Jeopardy watching. We also play a lot of Banana grams, also pretty evenly matched, so yeah that. Boba, Jeopardy and Banana Grams with Julia.
You've shared with us your dedication to vulnerability and truthfulness in songwriting, even referencing buying houses with your heartbreak in "3 Minutes.“ How does balancing personal trauma and your career as a songwriter play out for you?
I am figuring that one out as I go. I try to tell the truth in my songs and if they feel a little bit too exposed, I won't put them out, but I have trouble editing while I create so I just put it all in the songs and then decide later what I'm going to share and what I'm not.
Have you ever found yourself in dark places because of this intermingling? If so, how do you cope with that?
Mmm, I would say any emotional confusion that comes with having my personal life and creative life intertwined is overwhelmed by the incredible catharsis that comes from that same phenomenon. I'm not sure how I would understand my emotions or myself without the music I make about it.
"A Little Bit Yours" hits home for many (me included). What is your philosophy behind the breaking of relationships and moving forward?
I'm deeply sorry to hear that. Well, I guess in short, I believe that love will always get better than a love that doesn't want you back. And as much as it is tempting to look for love in the last place you had it, I think like anything if you’ve lost something, you check in the last place you had it. I think that's fair, but once it's not there, you got to look some place else. And just trust that there are joys in your future that you just don't know anything about yet. Sometimes the world's ability to make us happy is a lot wider than our ability to imagine it making us happy. But first you have to let go of the things that aren't making you happy.
Do you feel that every person we give our hearts to keeps a piece with them forever?
I'm not sure hearts a limited thing like that, I don't think we just dole out and once we've given it away, that's it. I think hearts are renewable resource as they grow and change with different people, as we become different people ourselves.
What do you think the world need most to heal during this unprecedentedly difficult time?
Mmm (laughs) that's a complicated one. I might leave that to the politicians... Clean water, access to education, morally defined justice system. I've got a lot of answers to that one and none of them I am qualified to give.
We have lots of time now to sift through new artists in quarantine. Any personal Ones to Watch for you?
Yes, I think CHIKA is phenomenal. Amy Allen, Ingrid Andress. Those were the first few that came to mind, so I'm sticking to them. Oh Alexander Saint, he's super sick, out of Toronto. I think he's going to be big.