- Words Aimee Phillips
Ever wondered what pop stars talk about when they catch up? We hung out with Ella Henderson and Julia Michaels over Zoom to find out just that…
It’s almost impossible to hear a pop song on the radio nowadays without singer-songwriter sensation, Julia Michaels, having a hand in its creation. Case in point is “Take Care Of You,” the self-care anthem she co-wrote with Ella Henderson.
It’s no surprise that when the two pop powerhouses teamed up, a perfect bop was crafted. Despite being written several years ago, the song slots perfectly into today’s zeitgeist. It’s a testament to the skilled writing of the two artists and Ella’s powerful vocals.
We joined Ella and Julia for a catch up over Zoom ahead of the highly-anticipated release of “Take Care Of You.” Get ready for tons of candid chat about how the song came to be, details about Ella’s upcoming music, Julia’s ever-increasing number of tattoos, and much, much more.
Ella: What time is it there Julia?
Julia: It’s 11:30AM
Ella: Are you in L.A.?
Julia: Yeah, are you in London?
Ella: Yeah, I’m in the U.K. now. How have you been?
Julia: I’m good! How are you?
Ella: I’m good. Lockdown’s been weird and bizarre. It’s nice to finally put some music out though. It’s been a long time coming, this record!
J: Yeah it really has! I’m happy it’s seen the light of day finally.
E: I know, I know. I was trying to figure out when we wrote it. I think it was like four years ago?
J: That sounds about right. Maybe three? I don’t know.
E: I remember you introduced me to Kombucha. I’d never had it and then you told me it was fermented something and I was like ugh!
J: No that’s Justin’s hippy dippy shit, not mine [laughs]! How are things though?
E: I’m good. We were always releasing this year, but then obviously 2020 took a massive turn so it kind of made everything really weird. It’s been kind of good though. Had the chance to be with family. Spent loads of time with my mum and dad. So I spent lockdown with my parents in the countryside. It’s the most time I’ve spent with my family since I was a teenager, so it was actually really nice.
J: That’s so nice!
E: We shot the whole video to “Take Care Of You” in my hometown. My brother was filming, he was helping the director on Zoom. We had a drone; it was very funny.
J: I saw this green stuff… What was that? I don’t know if that was a river you were in?
E: Basically, so my Dad has a pond that he’s really proud of but it had loads of algae on it [laughs]. But in the treatment, the director was like, it would be really cool to get some shots of the pond. I was like, yeah it’s gonna look more like Fiona in the swamp in Shrek! It definitely didn’t come out how I wanted it to look!
E: Even if it wasn’t for lockdown, this kind of video was perfect for me anyway because it re-introduces where I’m at now. I’ve just simplified everything. I think it’s just quite refreshing, I guess. If you’ve hung out with me, then that’s how the video is.
J: Well when we wrote it, we were talking about family stuff right?
E: Yeah we were talking about my mum. I can remember opening up to you loads. That limbo feeling of going from album one to album two and you just feel loads of pressure.
E: Loads of insecurities. But after we wrote together was when I really had a dip. I can remember you telling me about anxiety, and I didn’t understand it. The last two years especially were bonkers. I was in a really toxic relationship and all sorts.
J: Oh, love those! That’s fun! [They both laugh].
E: I went through so much mentally and physically that now I understand everything you told me – even down to a panic attack. The last few years have been crazy but I’m in a much better place now.
J: And now you’re back with a vengeance! Let’s go!
E: Yes, I’m back!
J: So, are you working on that album now? Or is it done?
E: We were bringing out an album but we’re bringing an EP out now because of lockdown. So we’re kind of bringing them out as singles. I’m just bringing out my best songs – or what I think are my best songs [she laughs]. But I think that’s likely next year now as I can’t promote it or perform with anyone. It’s a bit weird with the new single, not even being able to sing it. Maybe I’ll do a virtual show.
J: There’s so many ways people are getting creative now. Livestreaming is huge. You can set it up anywhere. You can sing in the middle of a fucking pond!
E: I should do one from my Mum and Dad’s garden where it was all shot.
J: Absolutely. They’ll [the fans] love that.
E: You’ve got so many more tattoos since I last saw you.
J: Do I? I never remember where I’m at. Sometimes I wake up and think, I don’t remember getting that one at all!
E: I think the last time I saw you we were doing a radio show somewhere and you were backstage. It was nice to see you do your own set because I’d never seen you live until then. It was really, really good.
J: Thanks! I think that was in Liverpool because I was with Clean Bandit. I miss shows! I miss touring!
E: It’s all bizarre.
Notion: So how did you two actually meet?
Ella: On my first album, I worked with Lindy Robbins [multi-platinum selling songwriter whose hits include Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” and Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me”]. She was like, “Ella, you need to meet Julia!”
Julia: Oh my God, I love that woman so much!
E: She’s just so funny!
J: She mentored me for two or three years, when I was just starting. She’s the best. I fucking adore that woman!
E: Lindy told me and my A&R at the time, next time you’re in L.A. you need to meet with Julia. She’s young, she’s up-and-coming, she’s incredible. It was 2016 back then, so the next writing trip I had in L.A. it was set up for me, you and Justin [Tranter] to write together. You’ve always been the way you are, but I remember how much more of an introvert you were back then.
J: [Laughing] Still am!
E: You and Justin could finish each other’s sentences you knew each other that well.
J: When you’ve worked with something for five years, it gets to that point when you’re so comfortable with someone that you even start singing the same melodies at the same time.
E: It was really cool, though. I feel like we just drank coffee and went for lunch.
J: I don’t remember it either. But I remember you being really open. For songwriters that’s so nice. A conversation will unfold and you never know where it’s gonna go. The more open it is, the more stuff you can take from it. I remember you were really upfront about your life and it just made it really easy for us to write this song.
E: I just remember opening up to you about stuff to do with my family; I was in a weird headspace. You were jotting stuff down being like, “that’s a lyric, that’s a lyric.” We wrote them all out and that was the verse and then the chorus. Noel then started playing the four chords and that was it. You started singing the melodies and it all just came together. I feel like we wrote this song in like half an hour.
J: We talked for four [hours] and then wrote for like thirty [minutes] [she laughs].
E: It was amazing. We wrote another song as well. I don’t know if it was the same day or another day but I remember thinking “Take Care Of You” was special. It’s one of those songs that even though we wrote it so long ago, no matter who I play it to now, it’s like we wrote it a month ago.
J: The good thing about that song is that it’s not following any sort of trend. It can live on its own – and it’s done that.
E: I’ve done an acoustic version that’s coming out as well of just me playing it live on the piano.
E: It’s exciting that you can do so many different versions of it and it just sounds so anthemic. When everything goes back to normal we’ll have to get together and perform it somewhere.
J: I’m down!
E: With “Take Care Of You,” for me, now more than ever, it’s a note to take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. The transition of going from being a teen to a young woman is the weirdest fucking phase of your life.
E: All of that and everything you’re going through, whether it’s heartbreak, whether it’s family shit or even being in this industry – it’s a bizarre industry to be in – growing up within all of that and coming back with a record like this for me feels really refreshing. If there’s ever a song where I can just completely be myself, this record is it. It’s just lyrically really, really conversational.
J: I’m glad we captured that feeling for you.
E: I can remember re-signing with Atlantic and playing them this song. They were like, “when did you write that?” And I was like, “four, five years ago?” And everyone was like, “this song’s special.” I was like, well thank God because I’ve been thinking that for a long time. I do trust the timing of your own life though because I don’t think I was meant to release this song any other time than now. And it’s mad that a song with these lyrics has come out during the pandemic. I’m super proud of it though.
J: Congrats on the debut!
E: Last year I did the Glorious EP which was received really well but I wasn’t in the right headspace. But with this song, releasing it and seeing the reaction overnight, I’m mega chuffed. If it starts charting I don’t know what I’ll do – I’ll probably wee myself!
J: My boyfriend [JP Saxe] and I have a song that’s out right now [“If The World Was Ending”] and we’ve been setting up my house in all different areas for different [TV] shows. It’s been really fun. We’ve learnt it on the ukulele, we got a Whirly. We did it on piano, we did it on guitar to try and make it different and interesting.
E: You seem so happy and in a good place.
J: I’m so happy not to date an asshole anymore! It’s so refreshing! Shit is good you guys! We’ve been together almost a year now, which is the longest non-toxic relationship I’ve been in [laughs].
E: I’m super happy for you. You’re so talented and you’re such a beautiful soul.
J: You too my dude.
Watch the music video for “Take Care Of You” below: