It’s been a big year for Julia Michaels, but if you ask her, she’ll use the word “bizarre.” Not only did she write, record, and produce her debut LP Not in Chronological Order (out Friday, April 30) and earn her second Grammy nomination in the prestigious and elusive Song of the Year category, she also fell deeper in love with her boyfriend and frequent co-writer, JP Saxe. Considering all of this happened in the middle of a pandemic, the word bizarre works, but so does “impressive.”
But her successes didn’t come without their roadblocks. When asked to share her lows and highs over the past year, she says “making an album in the middle of a pandemic” filled both categories. “I had to make a whole album socially distanced, with my friends being so close to me, but I couldn’t touch anybody.” She refuses to do Zoom sessions with her co-writers because she feeds off the energy in the room, so she and her producers had to get a little creative for the sake of safety: She started bringing her own mic into the studio so she would never have to share, and they ran cables between rooms separated by sliding glass doors. These fixes made the process more collaborative than had the album been written virtually, even if it still felt more distant than she’s typically used to.
While producing the record did take up a ton of her time, she went from her pre-COVID routine of two or three sessions to sometimes having whole days with no studio time at all. “I kept thinking, ‘What do I do with myself?’,” says Michaels. “I was just twiddling my thumbs, like, ‘Okay, how do I get this creative energy out?’ That’s been really weird — going from being creative all the time, every day, to only having instances of creativity.” So in between those bursts of creativity, she has found that “small little things that make me happy have become bigger than I anticipated.”
The pandemic has also forced her to take more time for herself, whether it’s indulging in a bath, reading a book, baking a new recipe for dessert, or taking time to cuddle up on the couch with Saxe, a movie, and some popcorn. “Those little things have kept me sane, through this whole situation,” she says wistfully.
And of course, part of that self-care time is all about fine-tuning her beauty ritual. Her current favorite product? The Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. “I use it every day without fail, I swear by it, I could probably write a Bible on it,” she raves. “I use that every single night. Every night. I don’t know if I’m supposed to, but I do every night. It truly changed my skin. I am obsessed with it.” She also never leaves the house without Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat Lip Liner in the brand’s best-selling Pillow Talk shade. (In fact, this is another holy grail product for her; she tells Allure she has six or seven of them, enough to make sure she never runs out.) She’s also a fan of Rare Beauty, a line from fellow musician Selena Gomez (fun fact: the two are actually friends, and Michaels has even co-written a few of Gomez’s hits). The brand’s Perfect Strokes Liquid Liner is currently in her rotation.