The singer and songwriter released his sophomore album 'A Grey Area' on Friday
Saxe, the lyrical mastermind behind songs like “A Little Bit Yours” and the Grammy-nominated track “If the World Was Ending,” says connecting with his mom, who died of cancer in January 2020, inspired his move to Colombia, South America, where he wrote a lot of his latest record.
“She lived in Peru for 20 years, she went to elementary school in Cuba, so Spanish was one of her first languages,” Saxe explains. “Part of the reason I wrote the album in Colombia was after she passed, I took up 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 remembering his mom — strengthening his bond with her, even — despite the fact that she's no longer physically with him.
“I think that when you lose someone, you can still develop your relationship with them even without them, and for me, Spanish became this symbol of an entire world that she had that I didn't get to really be a part of with her,” he says.
Saxe calls his mom a “miraculous woman,” and notes that a lot of his current reality is still influenced by her.
“She had a really amazing life," he says. "A lot of the best parts of my life now are results of my attempts to do things I would've wanted to tell her about because I feel closer to her when I do things I would've wanted to tell her about.”
In fact, Saxe recorded a Spanish version of "If the World Was Ending” because it was something his mom had always wanted him to do.
“She was like, this [song] is the one. She even wrote a translation of ‘If the World Was Ending’ in Spanish,” he says.
And, though Saxe wrote nearly half of A Grey Area while he was in Colombia, the musical mastery was not entirely on purpose.
“I knew I was going to sit at the piano every day, but for me, that's cathartic and therapeutic regardless of the artistic output. So I took a Spanish lesson every morning and I went to the studio every day. I knew I wanted to write,” he says. “I knew there was a lot I wanted to explore, but I didn't necessarily know that that was going to become the body of work that it is now.”
Saxe wrote and sang his Grammy-nominated song “If the World Was Ending” with ex-girlfriend Julia Michaels in 2019, and though the pair are no longer together, Saxe explains how he’s able to separate people that inspire songs from actually singing the song itself years later.
“I sing a love song that's five years old, that love is still very real regardless of me being in it anymore," he says. "The feeling of that recognition, that distance, that now I'm here and this is different, that gives me a feeling and that allows me to connect emotionally to a song. 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 embarking on tour in October after opening dates for the guitarist earlier in the year.
“I get to play in 20-plus arenas with one of my favorite songwriters and people in the world, which is surreal,” he says. “I had heard from a couple mutual friends that [John] was saying nice things about my songs. It seemed unbelievable.”
Saxe ultimately confirmed his friends were not, in fact, lying, by DMing Mayer, 45, himself.
“Fast-forward a couple of 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 extraordinary human.”
Saxe is extraordinary in his own right, with his lyrics that seem to see through a façade and into a soul and a new music video inspired by that same pursuit.
“I asked fans on Instagram to submit letters written to a part of themselves that they felt that they had lost,” says Saxe of the video for “Anywhere."
“We put a piano in the middle of this set created out of these hundreds of letters to the lost parts of ourselves and then I performed the song in that set. It's really pretty,” he adds.
For all of his songs and words and accomplishments, Saxe’s ultimate wish when asked about his hopes for the future remains equal parts simple and profound:
“I hope that the joys of my life are bigger than my ability to come up with what they should be.”
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