It’s 9:30am in Los Angeles, as Canadian singer-songwriter JP Saxe warns me about his morning moods, “I’ve just woken up. Usually when I do interviews before I’ve had breakfast, I just end up saying much sillier things so hopefully we can just keep it all together.”
He could’ve fooled me, because nothing about the energy in his voice says, “Need. Coffee. Now!” Quite the contrary.
A brilliant singer and songwriter in his own right, I ask about when he gained confidence enough in his talents to pursue music as a career. He’s a sharer, and a genuine one at that spilling, “I think that’s kind of like a morning by morning thing. Some days I wake up and I think I’m good and I can do it. Other days I wake up and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
While he’s been performing professionally for the better part of a decade, JP Saxe’s discography doesn’t exist prior to 2017 and I’m curious about his relatively limited catalogue. “Well, since I was 19 years old, I tried to be an artist but I didn’t end up making any music that I loved,” he explains, “It’s important as an artist, if you’re gonna dedicate your life to trying to get signed and get billions of people to hear what you have to say, you have to 1000 percent know what it is that you have to say.”
Last year, this time, he was touring North America, an opening artist playing to audiences of 500 – 1000, but it wasn’t until October 2019 that he really stepped onto the world stage with his breakout mega hit “If the World Was Ending”, earning him the attention of upwards of 350 million listeners. He’s hit by a fresh wave of disbelief as he says, “And now I have a song that people all the way in South Africa are listening to. It’s surreal that people even want to talk to me about my music. It’s still a very not normal idea for me.”
In a crazy coincidence, where stars and planets aligned and fate intervened, the song he’d co-written with Grammy-nominated songwriter Julia Michaels about spending the end of the world with the one you love, became the song that brought the pair together as lovers who’ve spent the duration of lockdown together — an apocalyptic fairy tale to say the least.
I joke with him and suggest that he and Julia both basically jinxed the entire world with their song, and he laughs as he defends himself, “It’s not my fault, I didn’t do nothing, I was just trying to be honest about my feelings and then it ended up having this strange connection [with COVID19] but I didn’t mean to.”
The song, as well as their careers, shot to an all-time high as the pandemic peaked earlier this year and I ask if he feels a sense of ironic guilt celebrating success both career-wise and romantically over an uncanny coincidence. “100 percent,” he assures,” It took me a while to come to terms with it being something I was allowed to be happy about. It just seemed like a very bitter-sweet silver lining.”
Saxe elaborates explaining, “At the end of the day, this song is about putting love before anything else in a time of uncertainty, and if there was ever a time to put love before everything else, I think it’s now. So if that’s the reason that the song is doing so well then I can take some joy in that.”
I take one more playful jab at him and joke that it sounds like a guilty conscience soothed after much rationalization.
“Does it sound like me and my therapist prepared that answer?” he laughs, playing along.
What strikes me most about his writing is that it’s very literal, almost conversational. “I’m not trying to confuse anybody, and I’m not trying to impress anybody,” he starts, “I’m not looking for people to listen to these songs and to think something about me. I want the songs to feel personal because I want people to think about themselves.”
I get the impression that music and song writing has allowed him a deep understanding of self, and he confirms my suspicion stating, “Absolutely, I’m not sure how I would understand any of my feelings or emotions without song writing. It’s how I’ve figured myself out since I was 14 years old.”
Saxe recently released “Hey Stupid, I Love You”, the first single from his upcoming debut album, and I ask him to drop hints about the upcoming release. “I mean I think part of being an artist is recognising that you can’t just be one side of yourself on things. I feel like each song is me at a different time of day. “If the World Was Ending” is me at 3am, alone with my piano, feeling nostalgic and longing and brewing and it’s real. “Hey Stupid, I Love You” is more me at 3pm, kicking it with my girlfriend being a silly dork,” he confides.
His self-awareness is adorably evident as he concludes, “I’m an over-feeler but I’m also a dork who gets overly competitive about Scrabble. I want each song to feel like a different version, no, part of who I am.”