What happens when two musical forces come together to create? Pure magic, usually. But while we all get to enjoy the end result on repeat, we rarely hear about the steps the artists took to get there. In E! News' new series Heart of A Beat, the stars pull back the curtain on the collaborative process behind their hit songs.
Who knew a song about the world ending could help find love?
That's what happened for singer-songwriters JP Saxe and Julia Michaels when they worked on the hit song "If the World Was Ending." Written the day they met, the song's studio session sparked a connection that would quickly grow romantic.
Inspired by an earthquake that had struck Los Angeles weeks prior, JP revealed in a statement that, when they were in the studio, they "were talking about the reasons people have to not talk to the people they really want to talk to…but know they shouldn't talk to, and how many of those reasons would hold up in the apocalypse."
In a statement of her own, Julia added that their song "is about that special person in your life that for whatever reason you just can't seem to make it work with. If the world is ending, and there was nothing left to hold you back, would you make your way back to them for one last night?"
After writing together for a surprisingly short amount of time, a hit was born. But did they know what the other was thinking in the moment? The couple, who will perform together live during the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 30, dished on that and so much more in the first installment of E! News' Heart of A Beat series. Check it out below!
E! News: You wrote the song the day you met. Do you remember how long it took?
JP Saxe: It took about an hour and a half.
Julia Michaels: I remember we hung around talking for a good five [to] six hours, but all in all, it probably took around an hour and a half to two to really figure it out
E!: What was going through your mind writing it?
JS: Holy s--t. This is my favorite person in the whole world. It seems crazy to say after just meeting her, but it just seems like it's going to be true.
JM: The L.A. earthquakes were the first things on my mind, honestly. Second was how cute JP was.
E!: What's your favorite lyric from the song?
JS: "All our fears would be irrelevant."
JM: "Would you love me for the hell of it, all our fears would be irrelevant"
E!: If you could bring in a guest artist for a remix of the song, who would you want?
JS: Well, we brought in Evaluna Montaner for a remix of the song in Spanglish or Spanish and English. Who else… Paul McCartney.
JM: Chance the Rapper
E!: What is your favorite song of each other's?
JS: "Happy" is my favorite song of hers.
JM: My favorite song of JP's is "25 in Barcelona" 'cause that was the song that I discovered of his first that made me want to reach out to write. That song basically made that session happen and the song ultimately happen.
E!: What is one new thing you learned about the other person during this process?
JS: Oh, I learned many, many, many, many things.
JM: I've learned that JP is made up of mostly love and silliness.
E!: If you could write another song together again, what do you want it to be about?
JS: We've written so many songs together and they're mostly about love.
JM: We actually have written a few songs together. One of which is for my record and I love so much. It's about love with the person I love, which is pretty cool. Probably one of my favorites I've ever written.
E!: Why did you want to work together?
JS: Because she's the most influential songwriter of the 21st century.
JM: I initially wanted to work with JP 'cause I thought his songwriting was just off the charts. I have a strong appreciation for people that wrote their songs by themselves and that articulately. I was like, "I have to write with him!"
E!: Was there a time where one of you had an idea that the other disagreed with? How did you compromise?
JS: I wanted to play a bunch of a jazz chords and she was like, "Stop it."
JM: That happens in every session ever. Luckily, neither of us have egos. We want what's best for the song. Sometimes his melody or lyric is right on the mark for what our song needs and vice versa.
E!: How did the song come to be? What input did you each bring?
JS: That's a hard question to answer because the collaborative experience is such an integrated one. That, you know, I'll say a thing, she'll say a thing, she'll say a thing, I'll say a thing. And it kind of just—you put an idea in a blender and, by the time it comes out, it's not really about who says the final thought. It's about all of those conversations that allowed you to arrive at that final thought.
JM: It was a very collaborative effort. We write different songs different ways. Sometimes I'll start each line of a verse and he'll finish it. Or I'll sing an entire verse idea and he'll sing the entire pre-chorus idea. When we did our song he already had "if the world was ending you'd come over right" and we just built off of that pretty much.
E!: Walk us through a day together in the studio.
JS: It's different everyday. But that day, the front door was locked so she had to come in through a side door. I let her in. We hugged, back when hugging was allowed. We talked about our lives, our families, our feelings. We sat down at an instrument—first the guitar, but then decided the piano was the move. We sat by each other, sang melodies, talked to ourselves, talked to each other, arrived at a song.
JM: Basically JP plays way too many chords, and I have to tell him to play a two chord progress rather than one that has seven. And then I sit in my thoughts until I come up for air and then we write.
E!: What will you take from this experience to your next collaboration?
JS: I have the feeling, I'm actually quite confident that this collaboration will be unlike any that I will ever have again.
JM: Well, nothing, 'cause I don't plan on being in love with my next collaboration.