JP Saxe pays tribute to his late mother with the release of his second album Gray zoneit comes out on friday.
Saxe, the songwriter behind songs like “A Little Bit Yours” and the Grammy-nominated “If the World Was Ending,” says connecting with his mother, who died of cancer in January 2020, inspired his trip to Colombia , South America, where he wrote a large part of his latest record.
“She lived in Peru for 20 years, went to elementary school in Cuba, so Spanish was one of her first languages,” explains Saxe. “Part of the reason I wrote the album in Colombia was because after she died, I started learning Spanish as a way to build a relationship with a part of my mom that I didn’t have when she was alive.”
Saxe, 30, remains committed to his mother’s memory – even strengthening his bond with her – despite the fact that she is no longer physically with him.
“I think when you lose someone, you can still develop your relationship with them even without them, and for me, Spanish became a symbol of the whole world that she had, and I didn’t get to be a part of it,” he says.
Saxe calls his mom a “wonder woman” and notes that much of his current reality is still influenced by her.
“She had a really amazing life,” he says. “Many of the best parts of my life now are the result of me trying to do things I’d like to tell her about because I feel closer to her when I do things I’d like to tell her about.”
In fact, Saxe recorded the Spanish version of “If the World Was Ending” because it was something his mom always wanted him to do.
“She was like this [song] is the one. She even wrote a translation of ‘If the world were to end’ into Spanish,” she says.
And, although Saxe wrote almost half of it Gray zone while at Columbia, musical mastery was not entirely intentional.
“I knew I’d be sitting at the piano every day, but for me it’s cathartic and therapeutic regardless of the artistic effect. So every morning I went to Spanish class and every day I went to the studio. I knew I wanted to write,” he says. “I knew there was a lot I wanted to explore, but I didn’t necessarily know it would become the part of the business that it is now.”
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Saxe wrote and sang his Grammy-nominated song “If the World Was Ending” with ex-girlfriend Julia Michaels in 2019, and even though the pair are no longer together, Saxe explains how he can separate the people who inspire songs from actually singing the song himself years later.
“I’m singing a five-year-old love song, that love is still very real despite me being in it more,” he says. “The feeling of that recognition, that distance, that I’m here now and this is different, that gives me a feeling and that allows me to connect emotionally with the song. The songs definitely feel like little time capsules.”
One song on the new album, “I Don’t Miss You,” was co-written with John Mayer, with whom Saxe is touring in October after opening dates for the guitarist earlier in the year.
“I’m playing in over 20 arenas with one of my favorite songwriters and people in the world, which is surreal,” he says. “I heard it from a couple of mutual friends [John] said nice things about my songs. It seemed incredible.”
In the end, Saxe confirmed that his friends were not actually lying, and this was confirmed by DMing Mayer (45) himself.
“Fast forward a few months,” says Saxe, “I invited him to the studio in 2020. He’s just become a real mentor and friend, and he’s a really great man.”
Saxe is extraordinary in his own right, with his lyrics that seem to penetrate the facade into the soul and a new music video inspired by the same aspiration.
“I asked fans on Instagram to send letters written to a part of themselves that they felt they had lost,” Saxe says of the “Anywhere” video.
“We put a piano in the middle of this set created from these hundreds of letters to lost parts of ourselves and then I performed a song in that set. It’s really nice,” he adds.
For all his songs, words and achievements, Saxe’s ultimate wish when asked about his hopes for the future is as simple as it is profound:
“I hope the joys of my life are greater than my ability to think of what they should be.”