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Love Letter To A Record: Charley On Julia Michaels’ ‘Nervous System’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Charley – Julia Michaels, (2017)

To my dearest Julia Michaels (although I have not met her yet),

To start this love letter, I would not be who I am or be the artist I am without her music. I might not even be doing music if it wasn’t for her. The first time I heard a song of hers, I was living in my hometown on the Gold Coast, land of the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. It was January 2017, and she just released her new single ‘Issues’. I was just about to move to Sydney at that time, as I had a tiny glimpse of hope that I could do music for a living. My ex, who I was doing long distance with in Sydney, was a music artist who I looked up to a lot. We were head over heels for each other combined with a whole lot of young, toxic energy. Julia hadn’t released her absolute life-changing EP, Nervous System yet, and little did I know (no pun intended) that I would be going through my first of many, and biggest heartbreak I’d ever felt in my life, with this EP helping me get through it. 

My ex-boyfriend at the time told me to listen to ‘Issues’, and as soon as I heard it, I fell in love with Julia. That song was so simple, but somehow laid out every bad part of herself and her relationship. It spoke about bringing out the worst sides of each other and not knowing whether working on the relationship would be worth it. The production was unique to all of the dance hits that were going on at the time, as it was so organic and focused way more on using her voice as the instrument. I listened to it hundreds of times. 

I started to research her and found out she had written many hit songs like Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ and Selena Gomez’s ‘Bad Liar’, ‘Hands To Myself’, ‘Good For You’ and many more. I was astounded that she’d grown up as a writer and had finally come out as her own artist. Fast forward to later that year when she had released her EP Nervous System, I was living in Sydney, and had just finished The Voice (which was not the best thing for my mental health or confidence). I was trying to find my feet with work in Sydney whilst figuring out how the hell to get into the music industry. The main thing that was holding me back was: #1 My mental health was spiralling as it had been since forever, and #2: I thought I didn’t have anything to write about (or didn’t know how to start). 

In one heavy month, Julia released her EP, my ex moved to America, and then we broke up. This damn EP and the breakup made me cry so hard I couldn’t breathe, while on the other hand, gave me the energy to dance in my car while screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I felt so understood and heard. I didn’t feel so alone. It was like discovering Paramore & Maren Morris again. I finally found an artist that truly helped me pinpoint how to portray my emotions through music, lyrically and even sonically in some aspects. From then on I had the urge to write down everything I was feeling and would make songs just by singing them in my room without any other instruments. 

I started co-writing with some of my now closest friends and damn I used that whole EP as inspiration. I needed to let out as many emotions as I could and would write heartbreaking songs like ‘I Don’t Wanna Think’ and ‘Worst In Me’. Then I finally found the way I was comfortable singing about my sexuality with ‘Uh Huh’ & ‘Make It Up To You’, which a year later, was a reference for my debut single, ‘Hard For Me’. I also discovered two producers from the EP who I would die to work with now; Benny Blanco and Ian Kirkpatric (who I somehow took an uber with while being very drunk on my first night in LA, going to a Charli XCX party that I didn’t even get into because I was underage lol.)

Don’t even get me started on Inner Monologue 1 & 2… I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember and hearing those songs helped me feel even more heard and made me fall in love with Julia 10x more. Those EPs helped me write my new single ‘Arizona’, that’s all about my social anxiety and my mental health struggles. So thank you to JM for helping me discover myself as an artist, and for bringing a whole world of music into my life that I’m so grateful for. I pray I get to work with her one day. 

Luv Charley x

Listen to Charley’s debut single ‘Arizona’ out today.

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