Julia Michaels was penning hit songs long before she dropped “Issues” in 2017. But equally as important as her own songs have been the songs she’s helped write for others — including several of Selena Gomez‘s biggest hits, from 2013’s “Slow Down” to her recent single “Lose You To Love Me.” Now that they’ve known each other for years, the 26-year-old songwriter opened up to Variety about the co-writing process and how bonding over their ex-boyfriends helped them create a hit song.
“When [Gomez and I] first started working together [in 2013], it started as me writing the songs,” Michaels said. And when she returned to the studio one day to alter some lyrics, the two realized just how much they had in common — particularly when it came to past relationships. “[Gomez] was like, ‘We must be going through the exact same thing because you’re writing everything that I feel.'” Michaels recalled. “And I was like, ‘Oh, cool, you had a shitty ex-boyfriend too? Let’s go!'”
For Michaels, spending time getting to know the artist she’s working with is an essential part of the songwriting process. “The thing that inspires me the most is conversations, conversations I have with other people and ones I have with myself. That helps me figure out what I want to say lyrically,” she told the mag. But ultimately, she finds the most success when she writes as if she’s confronting someone directly. “If you could say it to somebody, why couldn’t you say it exactly how you would in a song?” she said.
That tactic is the one that’s worked well for both Michaels and Gomez. And now, the two immediately divulge their innermost thoughts and emotions as soon as they step into the studio together. “She walks into the room and we instantly start pouring out our feelings,” Michaels said of their process. “There’s a blending of perspectives, and then we write.” And while it’s true that the bond they’ve developed is responsible for several of Gomez’s best work, Michaels has had fulfilling experiences writing with other artists as well.
At this point, Michaels has written songs with and for music industry heavyweights including Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, John Legend, and countless others. And now that she’s been in the game for a minute, she feels, above all else, extremely fortunate for the opportunities she’s been given. She told Variety, “I’m really grateful to have people believe in me enough to have me in the room and talk about how their lives are going and trust me enough to help me put them on the paper and into the world.” And honestly, we’re grateful for that, too.