Skylar Grey is an artist that I have wanted to interview since the first time I heard her sing. Both her background and the path her career has followed are unique to me, so it was extremely exciting for me to get the opportunity to speak with her after nearly five years of hoping that I would.
Some of the biggest hits in recent history would have never made it to radio if not for either Skylar Grey‘s songwriting, vocals or many times both. Those hits include “Love The Way You Lie” (Eminem f. Rihanna), “Coming Home” (P. Diddy), and “I Need a Doctor” (Dr. Dre f. Eminem), just to name a few. In 2013 we were also treated to her debut album (under the Skylar Grey moniker) Don’t Look Down, which was a favorite here at Lemonade and helped Skylar Grey make it to our yearly favorites in multiple categories.
When I spoke with Skylar Grey at the end of last year, she talked a little about getting away from L.A., her new best friend, as well as a second album in the works. See for yourself below.
B: Thank you so much for taking the time today to talk with us today. We’re extremely excited to have you be a part of Lemonade. So, thank you very much. You just wrapped up a tour with X Ambassadors. Let’s start off with that. What was that like and how was it touring with those guys?
S: It was great! It was so fun and we got to play “Cannonball” every night with X Ambassadors, so that was fun.
B: Nice. Now, that’s obviously the new single, which is awesome. You work with a lot of extremely talented artists out there like Eminem, P. Diddy and Rihanna. The list goes on. What makes X Ambassadors different and why were they so perfect to work with on this song?
S: Well, we’re label mates and we thought, “You know what? Let’s try to do something together.” I’m a big fan of Sam Harris’s writing and his voice and so we just decided to try collaborating. And it’s a different genre for me as far as what I’ve done publicly. I guess I haven’t really collaborated before them, with an alternative band, but a lot of that is actually a lot more true to who I am, because I come from a folk background.
S: So, you can hear that in the song. There’s like a folky element, and through the rest of my album there’s that thread of folk. So I’m kind of taking my whole album back to my roots.
B: Well, I was going to say your debut album is amazing! And I’m not trying to kiss ass here, but it was honestly one of my favorite albums that came out that year…
B: Yeah, in fact we talked about it quite a bit with the magazine and so I was going to ask you, I know there’s talk that you’re going to have an album coming out in 2016. You had some time to get that first album out, so what is it like now going into a quick transition into another album?
S: Um, it’s just really fitting for me because I feel like I’m finally creating exactly the music I want to now. One of the reasons I did a lot of collaborations with different genres and stuff was I was searching for myself.
S: Trying to figure out exactly who I wanted to be. I finally feel like I’ve really figured that out and have the support all around me to do that. And so I just feel like I’m in a lucky place right now to really freely create, and that’s what’s so exciting about this new album for me.
B: You said you think you’ve found yourself. What can your fans expect that’s different from your first album?
S: Well, you know I’m growing up so it’s a little bit more mature. It’s more where I am right now in my headspace, and a lot has changed for me over the past few years. I moved to Utah. I live in the mountains, and I wake up and see these beautiful gorgeous mountain views every day, so there’s that. And, I got a dog. I think I’m a happier person, so there’s like a lot of happier themes on the album. It’s not as much digging into my childhood. Some of the songs on my old album, you know, had more attitude I guess you can say. Like in early ‘11s kind of attitude days. And then, since I definitely feel like I grew up a lot in the past couple of years being in Utah and I’m way happier. My music is definitely reflecting that right now.
B: You could hear that on “Wear Me Out,” one of my favorite songs off the first album. It will be very exciting to hear a new sort of feeling on this next one. It’s funny you mentioned Utah. I was going to ask you, because you spent a lot of your life up here in the Pacific Northwest. You have a lot of themes on the first album that kind of dealt with the weather, the sunshine, the stormy weather, the clouds and whatnot.
B: Does that play a huge part into your writing as well?
S: Yes. Actually just nature in general, not just weather. However, weather is what kind of inspired my name.
B: Yeah, right?
S: Yeah, weather is definitely a part of nature and a part of what…I guess a use of a lot of nature metaphors, and, for example there’s a song called “Moving Mountains” on my album and now I wake up and see these mountains everyday, so that’s probably why.
S: I can tell you a little bit about that song, um, that song is about…I used to be this, like, really ambitious career-oriented girl, and I kind of neglected other things that I loved in life like my friends and family because I was so focused. And, actually Radiohead said it well, “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.” Those are lyrics in a song. And I never really understood what the lyric meant before. And then I figured it out.
It’s like, yeah, it’s cool to be driven and whatever, but if you’re neglecting the present and all the people around you that you love and stuff like that for your career, that’s not very attractive and it’s also not very conducive to happiness. I feel like happiness is all about living in the moment, like right now. Waking up to these mountains and being with my dog and that kind of thing, so I wrote this song “Moving Mountains.” The lyrics in the chorus is: “For once in your life push your ambitions aside and instead of moving mountains, let the mountains move you.”
B: That’s amazing.
S: And so that lyric, that kind of describes the place I’m coming from on this album, like the theme overall. That’s where I’m at in life right now.
B: I love that lyric, because I’m sure you’re familiar with Mt. Baker up here in Washington. I wake up and see that mountain practically every day, depending on the weather of course. So that lyric, that kind of hits a note. That’s beautiful. I can’t wait to hear the whole song.
S: And it’s so common when you move to L.A. especially, it’s not a very beautiful place to be. You know, stuck in traffic and everybody there is so ambitious and thinks that everything that they’re doing is so important. It’s easy to get caught up in that, and I was for so many years. And moving to Utah and kind of having this revelation about happiness, it totally changed my perspective on life and yeah, I’m excited about it. Sorry I keep talking about it. (laughs)
B: No, that’s incredible. So you mentioned you got a dog as well. Being a dog lover, I have to ask about it.
S: Oh, yeah. So I have a German Shorthair Pointer.
B: Aww, nice.
S: And she’s just a bundle of energy and always excited to see me. I wish people were more like dogs because they’re just always so in the moment, like, they don’t think about the future or the past. They’re just here right now, and excited to be here. I love that.
B: Yep, they’re always happy to see you, that’s what’s awesome about dogs.
S: Yeah, and I never had a dog. She’s my first dog ever. My parents didn’t get one when I was younger, and I never really understood the human/dog relationship until now.
B: Scout? Awesome! Congratulations!
S: She was in a commercial recently because I let her go on tour with me, and we did this commercial with “Cannonball” for Dodge Ram and she got her little 15 seconds.
B: So Scout is now a celebrity.
S: Yes, she is.
B: Nice. Well, going back to “Cannonball” a little bit, you just mentioned the music video. Tell us a little bit about how the music video was and what the inspiration was for that.
S: In the video I wanted to kind of show like a series of these surreal battles, like a battle between a cop and a knight, a dance battle between a break dancer and Native American. It’s just battles that you would never actually see in real life, but I just wanted to create an art piece that was badass and beautiful. I also got really into boxing this past year.
B: Oh, cool.
S: Until I broke my finger. So I wanted to have some of the boxing in there. I was fighting my instructor, actually, he’s an Olympian.
B: Oh wow!
S: Yeah, and then you know I just have a soft spot for a little bit of blood, so…
B: I remember one of your first videos, “Dance Without You,” I remember when that came out. You always have a knack for making a really awesome music video, so this one of course was no different.
S: Oh, thanks.
B: Yeah, it’s always good to see a new video from you.
S: I’m glad that you liked “Dance Without You” because I loved that video.
B: I love that song, I’m not even going to lie. I think when it first came out, it wasn’t sent to me. I just found it streaming somewhere and I found a way to record it so that it was on my iPod (laughs) when I was working out.
S: Oh really? That’s awesome.
B: So we’ve mentioned that you have the album coming out in 2016. I know there’s not a date yet. But, what else do you have planned then for 2016? Are we going to see another tour hopefully, or what else do you have going?
S: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we’re really ramping up to put out the album and then tour, so that’s really the plan for the whole year.
B: And hopefully Seattle is one of those stops?
S: I would love to. I have a really good friend that lives there now because she moved from Utah to Seattle, so I want to go visit her soon anyway.
S: You know I have a soft spot for the Pacific Northwest, and I actually wrote this album kind of with that in mind. My favorite drive is the 101 up the coast in California through to Redwood and Oregon. And I was thinking about what music I listen to when I’m on that drive, like my favorite albums that just make me cry and think about my life and that kind of thing. So, I wanted to make an album that would fit inside of that playlist that I would listen to while driving up the coast.
B: That’s so cool. I remember that being a huge thing when I drove down I-5 last time I went. You set it up so that you have this sort of soundtrack for your life.
S: Yeah. Oh, and P.S. you might want to know this. You’re with Lemonade Magazine, right?
S: There’s a song on the album called, “Lemonade.”
B: Oh wow! That just made my year.
B: So, we’re just going to go with, that was written because of the magazine.
S: (laughs) Correct.
B: Thank you for everything, and it’s an absolute honor to have you be a part of Lemonade. Thank you so much, Skylar, and have a great rest of 2015 for that matter.
S: Oh, thank you so much. You too!
Make sure that you keep up with Skylar Grey on her website for more information on her upcoming album!
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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