Watch my complete interview with JP Saxe.
JP Saxe was kicked out of music class in high school. Now, the Grammy- nominated singer-songwriter has just released his debut album, Dangerous Levels of Introspection.
“The first place I really learned what it meant to have a relationship with myself that felt good[…] was sitting at an instrument and writing a song.”
Saxe, from Maple (Vaughan) Ontario, now living in California, began song writing as a way to feel OK with himself. “I was a nerd, but not in a good way,” he says. “I was a very dorky, insecure ginger kid. And did not know how to be OK with myself, at all. The first place I really learned what it meant to have a relationship with myself that felt good and not totally detrimental and not negative, was sitting at an instrument and writing a song. It was really my first way to like myself.” Saxe kept writing and, after a decade, he says, he “arrive[d] at writing songs that felt like me”. He still feels most himself in songwriting.
“I’m currently living the dreams that that kid had.”
The road that led Saxe to this point in his career – Grammy nominated for the song “If the World Was Ending” and writing songs for a living – included a lot of couch surfing, and uncertainty. “Everyday was just drenched with uncertainty,” Saxe says. “I was either sleeping in my car or going to open-mics to make friends so I could sleep on their couches. It was this vast uncertainty. And with that uncertainty came a lot of possibility.”
Saxe says he doesn’t want to romanticize it, though. “It is poetic in some ways. It’s also terrifying. And also, I’m currently living the dreams that that kid had. To get too nostalgic about that time and romanticize it too much is real disrespectful for the dreams that that kid was trying to live that I now get to be in,” he tells me, adding, “which is the level of ruining your life that the emotional analysis can lean into.”
Dangerous Levels of Introspection
The song “Dangerous Levels of Introspection” became the title of the album because he really loved the the song and he felt, as a title, it really summarized the whole thing. “There’s a level of emotional analysis that brings you closer to your own life and then there’s a level of emotional analysis that ruins everything. And I think this album lives right on the line,” he says, using his hand to emphasis the delicate balance.
Saxe says he’s lived on the level of introspection that ruins your life. “It’s a constant negotiation with the level of analysis that I’d like to give my emotions. Luckily, emotional analysis is part of my job, so I have an excuse,” he says with a smile.
It’s kind of a Magic Trick
In the song “Line by Line” Saxe writes “There are things that I sing that I’d never have the confidence to say”. Saxe explains, “Your most vulnerable moments can feel powerful if you are singing them in a song that people are singing along to. It’s kind of a magic trick. I can tell you the things I am most ashamed of and, if I can make it pretty enough, you’ll come to a show and sing along with me. I think there’s a metaphor in there. I don’t think it’s just songs. I think it’s about owning the things that make us feel vulnerable. And if we can own them, then they don’t come with shame- they actually come with a lot of power.”
“I think it’s about owning the things that make us feel vulnerable. And if we can own them, then they don’t come with shame- they actually come with a lot of power.”
Does he ever get sick of singing about his most vulnerable moments? “I think every profession comes with its hazards, “ Saxe says. “I get to make songs for a living, that’s just bonkers. And I’m so grateful for that. So if the professional hazard I have […] with getting to make songs for a living is that I have to have a little bit more of a tumultuous relationship with looking my more difficult emotions more directly in the eye, then I’m OK with that trade off.”
Living the Dream
Saxe is living his dream as a singer-songwriter, but he hasn’t had all his dreams come true yet. What’s something he’d love to have happen in his career? “I would like to be on a massive festival stage, somewhere, with Chris Martin and back to back upright pianos where we do a medley of [Coldplay’s] ‘Yellow’ and ‘If the World was Ending’. He plays ‘If the World Was Ending’ and I play ‘Yellow’.”
While we cross our fingers for that to happen, because it would be beautiful, we can see JP Saxe on stage in Canada this fall.
It will be his first time back in Canada since the pandemic began. “This is the longest in my entire life that I haven’t been in Canada. Since the day I was born, I’ve never spent this much time away from home and it sucks. First and foremost, I’m just excited to come home. And the fact that I get to play some shows on top of that, it’s just the icing on the cake.”
JP Saxe will be in Toronto November 2nd at the Danforth Music Hall and his debut album Dangerous Levels of Introspection is out now.