This past year has been a breakthrough for singer/songwriter JP Saxe. Last October (2019), he released his unique hit ballad “If the World Was Ending” (feat. Julia Michaels), which has become an international hit and continues to rise on the charts. In addition, Saxe signed with Arista Records (part of Sony Music) and released his EP Hold It Together in February, and he’s just released his excellent new single, the uptempo “Hey Stupid, I Love You.”
“If the World Was Ending” is a song with such an original, compelling lyric concept, that it’s having a powerful impact beyond Saxe & Michaels’ recorded version. This song has now been covered by many other artists on YouTube, and it’s led to a new video that features an all-star group of artists singing this song. The new version “If the World Was Ending” (in Support of Doctor Without Borders) presents vocal contributions by Sam Smith, Keith Urban, Niall Horan, Alessia Cara, H.E.R., Florida Georgia Line, Kesha, Zara Larsson, Anne-Marie, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Derulo and Finneas. Notably, proceeds from this version will benefit the international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders.
Saxe’s EP Hold it Together is also an impressive work that displays Saxe’s personal, thoughtful lyric ideas, as well as his appealing melodies and inventive music arrangements. Upon first listening, the hit “If the World The Ending” appears to be the dominant track, but Saxe’s skillful songwriting emerges on all six of the songs. Other key cuts include “3 Minutes” (which has a great chorus), “25 in Barcelona,” the humorous “Sad Corny Fuck,” and the title song, “Hold it Together.”
Originally from Toronto, ON, Canada, Saxe was influenced early on by his grandfather Janos Starker, who was a Grammy-winning cellist. Saxe subsequently learned how to play guitar and piano, and a bit of cello. Starting in 2017, he began to independently release his songs “Changed,” “Anybody Else,” “The Few Things” and “Same Room.” Then in November 2018, he released his 2-song EP called Both Can Be True Part 1, which contained the songs “25 in Barcelona and “Blurry.” It was also during this period that Saxe’s music caught the attention of David Massey, who is President & CEO of Arista Records, and he later signed with the label.
Here’s the video of JP Saxe’s hit “If The World Was Ending”
(feat. Julia Michaels).
Saxe’s song “25 in Barcelona” was also heard by hit singer/songwriter, Julia Michaels. She liked the song and shared it on her Instagram Stories. This led to Saxe and Michaels meeting for a writing session, and they wrote “If the World Was Ending” during their first session. Interestingly, Saxe & Michaels are now a couple who’ve been together for a year.
Currently, Saxe has released his new single called ‘Hey Stupid, I Love You.’ He also hosts a weekly Instagram Series every Thursday, where he plays music and interviews friends in the industry.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with JP Saxe. He tells how he wrote his hit “If the World Was Ending” with Julia Michaels, and he discusses his EP Hold It Together and his new single, “Hey Stupid, I Love You.”
DK: I read that you’re from Toronto, and your grandfather was a Grammy-winning cellist. How did you get started as a musician & songwriter?
JP Saxe: I was influenced by my grandfather, Janos Starker; he was a soloist and toured all over the world, playing with orchestras everywhere. He spent time as first cellist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Chicago Symphony. As you know, the classical musical world is a different beast (laughs) than the pop songwriting world which I live now. Although I have no intention or ambition of getting to the caliber of artistry that my grandfather achieved with mastery of his instrument, I try and maintain that inspiration to pursue beauty in the way that he did. I have my own method with lyricism and songwriting, and try to get to the heart of the feelings with different songs in different ways.
DK: In 2018, you released your first EP, Both Can Be True Part 1. Can you talk about this early EP?
Saxe: EP is a generous term for Both Can Be True, which was just two songs. It had the song “25 in Barcelona,” that was about being halfway around the world from someone and still connected to nothing but them. It also had a song called “Blurry” which is about being as close to somebody as you possibly could be, and still being connected to nothing else but them. [Then later on] I released an actual EP, which was Hold It Together.
Here’s the video of JP Saxe’s new single, “Hey Stupid, I Love You.”
DK: You’re now signed with Arista Records. How did you connect with David Massey (President & CEO of Arista) and his team and sign with them?
Saxe: David (Massey) came to see me at the Mercury Lounge in New York. The way he tells it, it was a song of mine called “Same Room” that he first heard, that made him interested in working with me. Little did he know that a year later, we would be such integrated partners in trying to take over the world with honest music. He’s been at it for a long time, and I’m excited to be by his side to do it with my music.
DK: I like your hit “If The World Was Ending,” which has been moving up the charts for several months. How did you connect with Julia Michaels to write this song?
Saxe: It was around this time last year, that Julia shared my song “25 in Barcelona” on her Instagram Stories. At the time, we hadn’t met yet. Once she did that, I was in the car with a group of friends, talking about how Julia was the most influential songwriter of our generation. And then to see her name pop up on my phone as I was having this conversation, saying Julia Michaels had mentioned me in a story, it was a cosmic situation by all accounts. So we got to talking after that, and we suggested we write, and I tried not to freak out about that possibility. Then not long after that, we got into the studio and we wrote “If The World Was Ending” on the day we met.
DK: This song has such a unique title and concept. How did you or Julia come up with that title?
Saxe: I had written (the phrase) “If the world was ending you’d come over, right?” as a attempt at a previous song of mine called “4:30 in Toronto.” I had this verse that I loved, and I was trying for weeks to write the chorus to go along with the verse, but I just couldn’t match the emotion. And “If the world was ending you’d come over, right” was one of the many failed attempts to the chorus for that song. But I liked it…I just didn’t like it when paired with the other verse. So I kept it and it lived in my journal for about a year, until the earthquake in Los Angeles last July reminded me of the lyric. Then I found it and started messing with it by myself, and I literally stopped myself mid-melody at the piano and said, “No, I’m saving this for Julia because this will be perfect for that session.” I wanted to make sure I had something I liked going into the session…you’ve got to come correct when you’re writing with Julia Michaels.
Here’s the video of JP Saxe, Julia Michaels & Friends, “If The
World Was Ending (in support of Doctors Without Borders).”
DK: Then you brought in Finneas to produce this song. How did you connect with him?
Saxe: We had done this piano/vocal demo that we loved. All of the original vocals and piano that are on the final version of the song were done the day we wrote it. We were in the session with Benjamin Rice, who was engineering when we did all our vocals.
So we had this piano/vocal that we were excited about, and we talked about who we wanted to produce it, and Finneas was at the top of our list. Then we sent him the demo and he loved it. His instincts were spot on—we went back and forth, we FaceTimed, we did three or four different passes, and then Josh Kipling did an exceptional mix on it, and that’s the record as you know it.
DK: I like the original video you and Julia did for “If The World Was Ending,” and then you filmed another video of the song called “In Support of Doctors Wtihout Borders,” that featured several famous artists. How did this new video happen?
Saxe: I think the first artist that sparked the conversation between me and Julia was Alessia Cara. I saw Alessia Cara cover the song, and she’s one of my favorite voices on the planet. And then Julia and I had seen a number of our friends cover it. So Julia and I were talking, and we asked, “How can we use these covers and put them together, and do something good with it?” This was near the beginning of quarantine.
We thought of Doctors Without Borders, which is an organization that’s been close to me for a long time. At the end of the video, my friend Crystal (van Leeuwen) speaks about their project. It’s been almost a decade that she’s worked with them. So the video was basically Julia and I saying, “Let’s take some of our friends and see if they can sing the song and put it all together, and use it to raise money.” And [we were thrilled] so many friends said yes. Everyone was really down…they came together very organically.
DK: You’ve just released a new single called “Hey Stupid, I Love You.” Can you talk about this song?
Saxe: As an artist, it’s important to me to challenge the parts of my life that I put into a song. Now coming off the success of “If The World Was Ending,” which I feel like is very much me, but it’s me at 3 am, you know, alone in my living room at my piano. And for the most part, I’m a silly dork. [Whereas] “Hey Stupid, I Love You” feels like me at 3 pm with my girlfriend, being loving and silly. And that’s a part of me I want in my artistry as well. That’s a part of me that I want to be onstage…not just the grueling, introspective, longing songwriter. There’s a spectrum (laughs) to being a creative artist, and I want to spend my career trying to live in all of that. So that’s why it felt like the right next song to put out.
Here’s the video of JP Saxe’s song, “25 in Barcelona.”
DK: During the past few months, we’ve all been in shutdown due to the Coronavirus. How’s that affected you? Have you been writing songs using Zoom?
Saxe: Zoom sessions are not my vibe, at least not for new sessions. For people that I have a rapport built up with, Zoom sessions are cool. I’ve done a couple with (hit songwriter) Scott Harris which have been fun. And I happen to be quarantined with the best songwriter in the world (Julia Michaels), so that helps. She and I have been writing quite a lot. I would say the first six weeks of quarantine, we were not in a creative way whatsoever. But over the last six weeks, we’ve felt more in a creative way and started writing a lot more.
DK: When things hopefully open up, are you looking forward to playing shows again and touring?
Saxe: Yeah, more than anything. There’s nothing quite like the joy of playing new songs in front of an audience. I’ve been doing these livestreams on my Instagram every Thursday, and it’s fun reaching fans all over the world…it has its benefits. But it’s just not the same singing to an audience trapped in your cell phone…even if they are singing along. So I’m looking forward to that being real again.