If you can sing along to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Linkin Park’s “Heavy” or Demi Lovato’s “Fire Starter,” you’re a fan of Julia Michaels’.
The “Issues” singer, who performed at Madison Square Garden during Z100’s Jingle Ball Friday, was a voice in the industry far before her breakout hit was released. The 23-year-old has writing credits on dozens of today’s catchiest songs, sung by artists including Bieber, Lovato, Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran and Nick Jonas.
After three years as the faceless voice behind pop stars’ biggest tracks, the singer/songwriter from Davenport, Iowa, released her debut album “Nervous System” in January. Now, she’s up for the 2017 best new artist Grammy Award.
We caught up with Michaels via email -- who’s written 12 Billboard Hot 100 charting singles since 2014 -- to discuss her transition from writer to singer and more.
As a songwriter, how did you end up paired with some of the hottest artists in music today?
I started with writing songs for them backgrounds of television and commercials. I had been mentored by an incredibly talented songwriter named Lindy Robbins who introduced me to Mio Vukovic [of Disney Music Group] who gave me my first placements with Selena and Demi when I was 19, and from then on it was just sort of word-of-mouth.
Talk about the decision to start performing your songs yourself and what that transition was like for you.
I actually made the artist transition after writing “Issues.” I wrote it after such a personal experience that I just felt uncomfortable having someone sing something so personal to me. The transition in the beginning was chaotic. I had no idea what goes into being an artist, but the support from my peers and the love from my fans has been incredibly powerful and overwhelming in the best ways possible.
When the Grammy nominations were announced, you tweeted you were “filled with so many emotions.” What went through your mind when you found out?
Oh my goodness, so many things went through my mind. I was actually woken up by my manager at 1:30 in the morning because we were in Australia touring. She jumped on me and screamed and cried and it took me a minute to realize what was going on and then I screamed and cried with her. I’m honestly still in shock and just so truly grateful to know that my music is connecting and I’m being taken seriously as an artist. There’s no better feeling.
As a newcomer to the scene, how does it feel to now perform alongside bigger pop artists on the Jingle Ball tour?
It’s really cool to know that every day, more and more, I’m being accepted as an artist and not just as a songwriter. You can expect a very short set from me, ha, but you can expect a lot of fun and a lot of sing-a-long moments.
Favorite holiday song?
My favorite holiday song will forever and always be Judy Garland’s version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” No one sings that song like her.
Since 2017 was a breakout year for your performance career, what are you hoping 2018 will bring?
I’m hoping to just keep making music that connects. I’m going to be touring a lot next year with a few of my favorite people, so it’s always nice when that happens because then it’s just one big love fest. As of now, I try to not think too far ahead. It makes this crazy, neurotic girl anxious.