The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

‘If the world was ending,’ I’d try to talk to JP Saxe again

The Hustler attended a press conference with JP Saxe to discuss songwriting and Saxe’s sophomore album, “A Grey Area.”
Sara West
JP Saxe speaks on campus, as photographed on Oct. 11, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

I first discovered JP Saxe when he released “If The World Was Ending” featuring Julia Michaels. Aptly released just five months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this song resonated with me and many others as it constantly played on the radio during lockdown. 

Hence, I readily attended Saxe’s press conference with Sony Music Entertainment on Oct. 11 ahead of him opening for John Mayer at Bridgestone Arena that night. Audience members had already started asking Saxe questions before the Q&A moderator — junior Kylie Sullivan, a Sony campus marketing representative — arrived at the front of the room.

JP Saxe responds to a question from the audience, as photographed on Oct. 11, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West) (Sara West)

Saxe first discussed the nuances of writing a song for himself versus for others. When writing with others, he said focuses on having a conversation with them and making them feel comfortable enough to talk to him. When writing for himself, he tries to simulate that conversation via journal entries. 

“I think it’s really clear when art is made to impress you versus when art is made to move you,” Saxe said. “If someone went to my concert and they walked away thinking ‘Wow, he was a really good singer,’ that was a bad concert. You want someone to walk away thinking ‘I felt this way about a part of my life because that song brought me close to this part of my emotional experience.’”

Saxe went on to discuss how he believes that there isn’t any vulnerability in songwriting because the final track is extremely edited. He defines vulnerability as showing up as yourself unplanned. He thinks songs are written with too much intentionality to be considered vulnerable. 

“Being vulnerable in my own life means being myself before I’ve decided what that’s going to mean, whereas, in the songs, I have decided very specifically what it’s going to mean,” Saxe said.

JP Saxe throws up the anchor down hand signal, as photographed on Oct. 11, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West) (Sara West)

Saxe also discussed co-writing with many of his friends — including Sabrina Carpenter, Lewis Capaldi, John Mayer and Lizzy McAlpine, the latter of whom is featured on “A Grey Area” in the song “Everything Ends.” Saxe and McAlpine shared an Uber ride home from a concert in Los Angeles and spontaneously decided to record the song together the very next day. 

“All my favorite people to write with are usually people that just become my friends,” Saxe said. “[McAlpine is] obviously brilliant and talented…Working with her was particularly fulfilling because I’m just not going to tell the same stories as a 23-year-old girl.”

“A Grey Area” aims to describe the reality of love — relationships can be beautiful but also end. Through this album, Saxe hopes to address how emotions aren’t isolated and multiple seemingly contradictory emotions can exist at the same time. This album tries to show what it truly means to be alive. 

Saxe is known for creating an intimate atmosphere when performing — whether he is playing for 90,000 people at Central Park or 100 people at a benefit concert.

“You can only really see like max 150 people [on stage]…It’s purely conceptual that there are more people than that,” Saxe said. “I don’t actually feel any different onstage in front of 15,000 people as I do in front of 70.”

Saxe certainly created an comforting environment during the press conference. Even though there were 20 people in the room, I felt like Saxe was speaking directly to me. Despite not being a songwriter myself and having never been to an artist press conference before, I felt like Saxe’s advice could be generalized to other passions and hobbies. Other students in attendance, like junior Kareena Gor, felt the same. 

“I liked how he discussed the creative process as building relationships with other artists through storytelling and honesty and then that is what empowers them to create great music,” Gor said. “I also enjoyed hearing his thoughts about journaling as if he’s writing to a friend and how that turns into songwriting for him.” 

Saxe will return to Nashville for his “A Grey Area Tour” at the Brooklyn Bowl on March 14, 2024. Sullivan and Sony Music Entertainment hope to plan more events with Saxe in the future. 

“I’m grateful we had this opportunity to learn more about what that journey was like for a real, Grammy-nominated artist who is in a similar phase of life to us college students,” Sullivan said. “If I learned anything from JP’s visit, it’s that we’re trying to figure things the best we can with the people we love, so I’m glad we were able to establish this community of creative, curious, thoughtful people, even if it was just for an hour.”

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About the Contributors
Rhea Patney
Rhea Patney, Managing Editor
Rhea Patney (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society and communication of science and technology on the pre-med track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from St. Louis and previously served as Deputy Data Director. When not writing for The Hustler, Rhea loves reading, starting new TV shows and struggling to finish them, playing sports and watching sunsets with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Sara West
Sara West, Deputy Photography Editor
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
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