Julia Michaels is a singer/songwriter who is responsible for some of the biggest hits of the last decade, penning songs for superstars across the musical spectrum. She has also been coming into her own as a singer in recent years. Ahead of her episode of Songland, where four aspiring songwriters perform for her and she chooses one of their songs to record and release, here’s what you need to know about her.
1. Michaels Was Born Julia Cavassos
Michaels was born on November 13, 1993, in Davenport, Iowa, to Juan Manuel Cavassos and Julie Scriven. They moved to the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita when Julia was 4 years old because her father wanted to pursue an acting career. That’s when they changed their last name to Michaels, she told the BBC in 2017.
“My dad is Puerto Rican and when he moved to LA to be an actor, he was advised to change his last name to something more American, so he could go up for roles that were Italian, for example – because a lot of times they see the names before they see the photos,” says Michaels. “So of course he picked the most American name he could find: My dad was born Juan Manuel Cavassos and he changed it to John Michaels.
“When I was a kid, my mom tried to get me to act, too, so we just took my dad’s stage name and I’ve had it ever since.”
2. She and Her Sister Both Began Writing Songs At a Young Age
Julia credits her sister’s talent with what got her interested in entertainment. When she showed a talent for it, her mother traded her diamond ring to get the family a piano.
“My sister was the singer,” Michaels told Music Connection in 2015. “My mom would take her everywhere and I would follow along to watch her dance classes and vocal lessons. I started writing poetry. When I was 11 my mom saw a baby grand piano for sale on the street. She didn’t have any money with her, so she handed her diamond ring to the guy who was selling it and said, ‘I’ll be back for this.’”
As a teenager, Julia met songwriter Joleen Belle because Belle hired Jaden to sing a demo for her. Julia and Joleen hit it off and began writing “library sync and promo stuff,” which means they were writing music that can be quickly licensed and placed in a TV show, movie or commercial.
“When I was 16, I would hear my songs on The Hills and promos for The View — it was awesome,” she said.
Julia’s big break came when she was 17 years old and collaborated with Joleen Belle on the theme song for the Disney Channel show Austin & Ally, called “Can’t Do It Without You.”
3. Jaden and Julia have Written Songs for The Biggest Names in Music
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Can not believe this was 5 years ago. Your album is out today and there are so many things I could say but I’m just gonna go with I love you @selenagomez so fucking proud of you and I’m so happy that everyone gets to hear your heart, soul, and pure honesty. ❤️ #loseyoutoloveme #lookathernow #fun congrats to all involved as well ❤️❤️
Between the two of them, Jaden and Julia Michaels have penned songs for or collaborated with Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, JoJo, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lea Michele, Candice Glover, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, Rita Ora, Jason Derulo, Gwen Stefani, Nick Jonas, John Legend, and Ed Sheeran and more.
In her interview with Music Connection, Julia advises aspiring songwriters to write from the heart and the songs will come, saying, “Don’t write for what you think other people might want. Once it turns into work, it’s not fun. Write what you want to write and the song will come into itself.”
The two also welcomed a new family member in October 2019 when Jaden gave birth to a baby girl named Maelynn with her boyfriend, Andrew Ritz.
“I feel I’ve been on an incredible life journey and have picked up a lot of growth and wisdoms thus far and can say I am ready to be a mom and start that part of life,” she told Sounds Like Nashville in August 2019. “I’m also so excited she gets to be a part of the music and go on that journey with me and also have an incredible father to love her.”
4. Michaels Performed at the Rio Olympics
Despite having penned songs for some of the hottest names in music, the biggest stage Michaels has performed on was when she sang “Carry Me” with Norwegian artist Kygo for the closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Brazil.
“My initial reaction was great and joy and great pride for my daughter,” her father told the Quad City Times in 2016. “This is introducing her to the whole world. It’s still shocking to me.”
Her mother added, “This is the biggest thing she’s ever, ever done. After the Olympics, her world is going to change. What better way to come out to the world than the Olympics. Who gets to do that? It’s a big feat for a little girl from Davenport, Iowa. It’s the Olympics. It’s mind-blowing.”
Indeed, that summer Michaels signed a record deal with Republic and in 2017, she released her first major-label EP, Nervous System, which featured her breakout solo hit, “Issues.”
5. Julia is Dating JP Saxe
In early 2020, singer/songwriter JP Saxe revealed on Instagram that he fell in love with Julia when they collaborated on the song “If the World Was Ending.” Michaels was by his side throughout his mother’s battle with cancer. She unfortunately lost her battle in January 2020, but she did get to see JP and Julia perform together on The Tonight Show before she died.
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I held my moms hand as she passed last night. I’m gonna miss her more than I know. her life was too short, but she lived the fuck out of it. I’m so proud she’s my mama. and I think the best way I have left to love her is by living that same way.. passionately and adamantly fully. I love her too much not to. (and if u still can, hug your moms a little tighter for me today pls)
In the past couple of months, Saxe and Michaels have been quarantining together. They appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden and have been busy writing songs to pass to the time.
They also recently collaborated with a bunch of other artists on their song “If the World Was Ending” to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. The artists involved included Keith Urban, Kesha, Sam Smith, H.E.R., Florida Georgia Line, Alessia Cara, Niall Horan, and more.
Songland airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC, following new episodes of The Voice.
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