If writing could save one’s soul, then Skylar Grey is well on her way to salvation, one beautifully haunting hook and one heart aching lyric at a time. Co-penning hits including the Eminem smash single ‘Love The Way You Lie’ and Dr. Dre’s ‘I Need A Doctor’, and with the highly anticipated album INVINSIBLE giving us a window into the broken path that led Grey to find her inner super hero, the only way is up.
HYDROGEN MAGAZINE: When they say nothing comes easy, you seem to be the embodiment of that. Let’s go back to Mazomanie, Wisconsin, a town so small it didn’t even have a stoplight. What were those years like?
SKYLAR GREY: True story. Mazomanie technically didn’t have a lot to offer, but I think that lack of distraction is what drove me to focus so hard on my passion. I was also forced to learn a lot of basic skills that I am really glad I know, such as running the water in the winter so your pipes don’t freeze.
HM: Who were some of your early musical influences?
SG: I’m really influenced by the 90’s. As a kid I would steal my older sister’s CDs, which included Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Fiona Apple, Radiohead, etc. But I grew up in an eclectic family of musicians, so folk, jazz, Celtic, and musical theater were also a big part of my childhood.
HM: You quit high school in your junior year to move to Los Angeles. Was that pure confidence in yourself or just throwing caution to the wind?
SG: I never had any desire to do anything other than music, and I knew music was my greatest skill. I come from a small village in the Midwest and knew that Los Angeles could open up doors that a small town was not capable of.
HM: Like Blood Like Honey was the first album you released as Holly Brook. Where were you in your evolution musically at that time?
SG: At that time, I was still very young and easily influenced by people around me, so my creative vision was not very defined. It was an enjoyable experience and was definitely a necessary step in becoming who I am today artistically, but it is very different from my upcoming album, INVINSIBLE.
HM: You had a serendipitous encounter with a Myspace fan that allowed you to build a studio and create new material which you ended up playing for your music publisher and led to a partnership with Alex Da Kid. Tell me about that period.
SG: I had been wanting to move away to the woods and build a studio, because I felt myself drowning in a sea of opinions, none of which were my own. Ironically, I was contacted though Myspace by a fan who wanted to help me. He wanted nothing in return, only to see me reach my potential. After setting up my own studio, I wrote, produced, and engineered a lot of new music on my own. I found that by living in isolation, I could finally hear my inner voice. When I was ready, I flew to New York where I played my new stuff to my publisher at Universal, Jennifer Blakeman. I told her I didn’t want to work alone anymore, because I wanted a set of ears around that I could trust, so I asked her to suggest a producer for me. She immediately introduced me to Alex Da Kid via email, and he sent me a beat to see if we connected on a musical level. Twelve minutes later, I sent him over “Love The Way You Lie.” The rest was history.
HM: You co-wrote on Eminem’s ‘Love The Way You Lie’ and Dr. Dre’s ‘I Need A Doctor,’ big breakthrough tracks for you. How did things change for you after that?
SG: After the success of “Love the Way You Lie,” incredible doors opened for me in a short period of time, and I was asked to write for many people. Songs that I wrote, like, “Coming Home” for Diddy, “Words I Never Said” for Lupe Fiasco, and “Castle Walls” for TI and Christina Aguilera, were like aftershocks. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to write for Dr. Dre’s “Detox.” Alex and I flew to Detroit with the track and hook for, “I Need A Doctor,” and they loved it. It was surreal to be in the studio with them. After such an incredible year of collaborations, I am extremely excited for my own project, which is now my primary focus.
HM: You performed ‘I Need A Doctor’ on stage at the Grammy’s. Did you ever think you would be performing on such a big stage?
SG: The decision to perform this song was very last minute so I didn’t have much time to anticipate it. But it was a thrill! I’ve been blessed to have many of my dreams come true, and performing on the Grammy stage was one of them. Nothing is impossible.
HM: Let’s talk about the album INVINSIBLE. It is on Alex Da Kid’s KIDinaKORNER imprint on Interscope Records. What can we expect to hear?
SG: Expect the unexpected. Between my eclectic background in music, and Alex’s experimental production style, I don’t really fit into a certain genre. Although I have recently been known for Hip Hop, I also have collaborations with Kaskade and Marilyn Manson. I think the album will be like nothing else out there and will be enjoyed by music lovers across the board.
HM: Tell me about your first single Invisible. Also, what’s the story behind the songs Weirdo and Building a Monster?
SG: The album tells a story of a transformation from feeling invisible to feeling invincible, hence the title INVINSIBLE. I have always been seen as a weirdo by the people around me, but instead of being self-conscious about it I am proud of my quirks. They are my strengths. Building a Monster is the metaphorical narration of my transition to Skylar Grey and feeling invincible.
HM: What do you want the audience to come away with after listening to INVINSIBLE?
SG: I think of myself as an album artist, not just singles. I would love for people to focus on the entire body of work, and let it take them on an emotional journey. I have always admired artists who have great albums and would hope people feel the same about mine.
HM: Who are you listening to right now?
SG: My favorite album of this year is Bon Iver. Although I don’t have time to listen to much music, I find myself resorting back to 90’s music, and Radiohead.
HM: With everything you went through to get where you are today, any regrets?
SG: I have absolutely no regrets. I feel like each experience I’ve had made me who I am today. Without both positive and negative experiences, I would not be inspired to write all of these songs that I am so proud of.
HM: Describe your style. What are the closet faithfuls you dig out everyday and what designers if any are your favorites either to perform in or walk the red carpet in?
SG: I love cutting edge fashion that compliments your personality. Personally, I think it’s sexiest to leave a lot to the imagination, and be comfortably and appropriately dressed for an event. I hate seeing girls in heels that they can’t even walk in, or dresses that are completely dehumanizing. G-Star has dressed me a lot for my performances. I also love Rick Owens, Thomas Wylde, and Ann Demeulemeester.
HM: If you close your eyes, where would you like to see yourself say 5 years down the road, both personally and professionally?
SG: Definitely living in the woods, making art through music. I have dreams of writing books, scoring films, acting, and other things that will satisfy my creativity. I definitely want to have a family one day but 5 years is a little too soon!