By Geoffrey Rowlands
Anyone who watched the closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics will probably remember Julia Michaels. Wearing a bright green catsuit, the Davenport, Iowa-born singer/songwriter joined with Norwegian DJ/producer Kygo to perform their track, Carry Me.
“That was a great experience,” smiled 23-year-old Julia, real name Julia Carin Cavazos. “Kygo and I had co-written Carry Me with Justin Tranter. Justin is the frontman for rock band Semi Precious Weapons and my main songwriting partner.
“It was raining during our performance in Rio but we hardly noticed the weather. Performing for all the people in the stadium, the athletes and the millions of television viewers was something I’ll never forget.”
Although Julia has released two EPs, her self-titled 2010 debut and 2012’s Futuristic, she is primarily known as a songwriter. Her co-writing credits cover a string of big hit singles including Justin Bieber’s massively successful Sorry.
Julia also co-wrote most of the songs on Selina Gomez’s LP, Revival, and virtually every track on Gwen Stefani’s This is What the Truth Feels Like” Both albums topped the Billboard 200.
“I always wanted to be a songwriter rather than a singer,” Julia admitted. “My sister was the singer in our family. We had moved from Davenport to Santa Clarita, California, which is near Los Angeles. My sister wanted to be a performer so our mom took her to vocal lessons and dance classes. I went along to watch.
“I started writing poetry when I was 12 and turned my words into songs by putting music to them on our family piano. I knew I wanted to write songs but thought I’d have to become an artiste in order to be a songwriter. I didn’t realise you could just be a songwriter.”
Fate took a hand when songwriter Joleen Belle hired Julia’s sister to sing a demo.
“My mom and I also went along and, for some reason, mom made me sing for Joleen. She was impressed by me and asked if I wrote songs. I told her that was what I wanted to do and we started writing together.
“It wasn’t long before my work with Joleen was being used on television. It was awesome. Then Joleen and I wrote a song with Mike McGarity called Can’t Do It Without You. I was in high school when I got word that our song had been chosen as the theme for a new Disney Channel TV show called Austin & Ally. I was so happy.”
Julia’s next collaboration was with hit songwriter Lindy Robbins.
“Lindy is a friend of Joleen. I originally did a vocal demo for one of her songs. We got on well, she asked Joleen what I was like to work with and I found myself writing songs with Lindy. The second song we wrote was Fire Starter which Demi Lovato used on her Demi album and we then wrote Miss Movin’ On which was a hit single for Fifth Harmony.”
Julia much prefers to collaborate with other songwriters.
“I don’t know how people write good songs alone. I love working as part of a team. I’ve worked with lots of different people although Justin (Tranter) is my most frequent collaborator. But we’ll also have producers and artists work with us. It’s much more fun.
“Sometimes the others will come up with lyrics or melodies which I wouldn’t have thought of and we can bounce these ideas off each other. When you gel with people really well, creating the songs together is an amazing and beautiful experience.”
Despite making occasional guest vocalist appearances, such as her Olympic performance with Kygo, Julia considered herself content to be a songwriter rather than a performer. But this was before she co-wrote the song which has become her smash hit debut single.
“I’ve never been the sort of person who writes a song and wants to keep it for themselves. I’ve always had so much pleasure from hearing other people sing my songs. But Issues was different. It just struck a chord with me.
“This was the first time I’d written a song which sounded so much like myself that I couldn’t imagine anyone else singing it. Numerous artists wanted it but I couldn’t let this one go. Issues had to be my own song.”
The track has become hugely popular throughout the world and prompted Julia to record some more songs for an EP, Nervous System, which will be released next month. Does this mean she now intends to become a performer rather than a songwriter?
“I honestly don’t know. I’d like to perform as well as write rather than do one or the other. I’ll just have to see how things go. I guess I’m in a transitional stage of my music career so I’ll try to take everything one step at a time.”
Ed Sheeran and Drake have been in the news for breaking all kinds of chart records in recent times. But English singer/songwriter Adele is no stranger to record breaking. She has now set a new mark in America on the Billboard 200.
Her 21 album debuted atop the listings on March 12, 2011. This was the first of 24 non-consecutive weeks that 21 spent at number one. But the album has also achieved consistent sales over the last six years. So much so that it has set a new record for a female artist of 319 weeks on the Billboard 200.
Adele has surpassed the mark previously held by US singer/songwriter Carole King. Her 1971 album, Tapestry, was on the chart for 318 weeks.
But Adele has a very long way to go before approaching the record for any artist or group. This is held by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd. Their 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, spent an incredible 927 weeks on the Billboard 200.
Having conquered the music world, it looks like Canadian superstar Drake is about to return to his acting roots.
As Aubrey Graham, Drake appeared in 100 episodes of the Canadian television teen drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation. He left the show in 2007 following the release of his debut mixtape, Room for Improvement.
Apart from a few small roles and voicing the mammoth Ethan in 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift, acting has been kept on the back burner.
But Drake has now bought the rights to the British television show, Top Boy. A gritty crime drama following the lives of people involved in drug dealing and street gangs, the show was dropped by Channel 4 but picked up by Netflix. Producers are said to be creating a significant role for Drake in the next series which is tentatively scheduled to stream on Netflix during 2018.
American blues singer/songwriter ZZ Ward, full name Zsuzanna Ward, has yet to settle on a title for her forthcoming sophomore album. A release date is also undecided but it should be issued sometime in the summer.
Available now though is lead single, The Deep. Built around a sample from As Long As I’ve Got You by The Charmels, the accompanying video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWH1gy86XSw
This is a second version of the song. The original recording featured a rap by Chicago MC Joey Purp. An audio posting of this version is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs4okB0ZI_o
Another track from the new album, Help Me Mama, has also been issued. There is no video but an audio posting is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7MZXbCrbRk
Her 2012 debut album, Til The Casket Drops, is available to hear in full online. It can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmEdyFIi-n4&list=PLBH8_isPf3IVjqWSMSOdqt1DtrfLIuJTK
SEE is another American singer/songwriter making her mark on the music scene.
Now 21, she began songwriting six years ago while playing with an alternative rock band in her home town of Centerport, New York. She went solo at 18, secured a deal with Blue Elan Records and released her debut EP, Ties, last June. The video for lead single, Potions, can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5V1wmcdyrM
SEE is back now with Green Line Killer, another single from her EP. The first song written for Ties, it dates from 2014. The video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rO85HyMzf4
Many more audio postings and live performances can be accessed at www.youtube.com/user/eyespysee/videos
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