One of the great things about the music industry today is the ever-growing population of strong female voices and multi-talented female artists, such as Skylar Grey, who are taking on musical style and artistry by storm.
The Wisconsin-born singer, entered the domain of sound at the age of 17, after signing on with Universal Music Publishing Group, and has ever since been rising up the ladder of fame through her incredible compositions and vocal features/collaborations for famous artists such as Eminem, Rihanna, CeeLo Green, Kaskade, Dr. Dre, and more, and for films like Step Up Revolution, Fifty Shades of Grey, Southpaw, and Fast and Furious, and other features on media platforms (just to name a few of the many activities and engagements she has pursued).
I had the amazing opportunity to orchestrate an email interview with the 29-year old star herself, while she is currently on her tour with the American band, X Ambassadors, with whom she released a new single with recently, “Cannonball.”
Here is the interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh, Me (NM):
It is an absolute pleasure to speak with you— of course virtually, haha. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I know that I, and Verge Campus Media, truly appreciate it! I also hope that your tour is going well! That must be so exciting!
Ok, so let’s start here:
What inspires you to do what you do now?
Skylar Grey (SG): Well, with this new album, my goal was to create an album that I would personally buy as a fan. (For the most part). My favorite kinds of albums are ones that I love to listen to on solo road trips through the redwoods. Albums that make me reflect and cry. For example, Bon Iver’s self titled, and Radiohead’s Kid A. I’m not genre specific, I just love whatever stirs up emotions.
NM: How do you come up with some of the songs you have composed such as hits like “Love the Way You Lie,” and what has it been like singing with hip hop artists such as Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Nicki Minaj?
SG: When I wrote“Love the way you lie,” I wasn’t trying to write a hit. I was just trying to create something that I loved, and that I thought Em would dig. I had no expectations for it at all. It was inspired by a relationship that I had been in. Working with all those people has been some of the most exciting moments in my life. Overall, I really love working in hip hop. Naturally, my voice and melodies are very soft, and hip hop is harder, so combining them creates a nice balance. Although most of the hip hop songs I’ve worked on so far have been very pop, and in the future I’d really like to branch out and do stuff that’s more oddball.
NM: What got you started in the music world? Did your family have any sort of influence on the singer that you became?
SG: My intro to music was very eclectic, involving barbershop, Celtic, folk, musical theater, and classical piano training. My whole family is musical, but my mom made the biggest impact on me starting a career in music. We started a folk duo together when I was 6. I’ve never known any other life than writing, performing, and recording.
NM: Now, you just released a new hit single with the band X Ambassadors, what is it like collaborating with them and what made you want to work with them?
SK: XA and I are label mates, signed to Kid In A Korner. It was Alex Da Kid’s idea to have us do a song together. A family affair. After the collab, my whole team chose it to be my first single off my new album.
NM: What kind of vibe do you get from the song “Cannonball?” What was the idea behind the music video?
SK: Cannonball is a fighter song. Probably good for working out to haha.
NM: You mentioned that the purpose of the video “was to use epic imagery to represent the essence of the song, but not necessarily be literal, leaving plenty of room for a viewer’s individual interpretation.” I love that you are bad-ass and follow a message that when “there’s a will, there’s a way.” Really love it. The video is so dynamic from epic battles, to cops, breakdances, to boxing, and lots and lots of blood. Why did you guys decide to do that for the video?
SK: These were just images that came to mind when brainstorming with the director. While symbolically portraying the song, I also wanted to choose images that were very personal to me outside of the song. Naturally I went with the boxing thing because I got obsessed with boxing earlier this year and was stoked to show off my skillz. Also the wolf and the Native American represent a lot for me, outside of the song. I used to call myself Lady Wolf when I lived alone in the woods on my sort of self induced vision quest. I relate to and admire old Native American ways and beliefs.
NM: What made you want to return to your indie/folk/alternative roots of the musical domain after so much time in the hip-hop field? Do you think you’ll ever go back to hip hop and R&B? Which genre would you define more as you?
SK: It’s not that black and white… I’m not leaving hip hop, and I’m not simply returning to folk. I’m trying to create a sound that includes elements of both without sounding disjointed, because that’s who I am. Folk music isn’t usually heard with 808’s, but I’m doing it.
NM: Who do you hope to collaborate with in the future?
SK: My dream collab is Kendrick right now. I love his feel and his tone. His voice is easy on the ears, and the beats he chooses are very musical and raw in comparison to a lot hip hop. I think we would have good chemistry.
NM: What have been some of your favorite endeavors in your career whether it be a song you wrote, an album you released, a song you featured on, a tour you went on, an award ceremony you were at, etc.?
SK: I have quite a collection of adventures… My favorite time though is right now. I feel like I’m finally making an album of music that is ME and I’m just excited to be playing it on tour, and prepping for its release. My level of enjoyment is directly related to the amount of passion I have for a project… And it’s at an all time high.
NM: You’ve done countless songs for films and other television productions, what has that been like, how has that influenced your music, and has any of the experiences you’ve had in the industry changed your form of identity as a musician?
SK: I love writing for TV and Film, as it’s easy to get inspired through a story being told. However, the 2 songs I did this year for big movies (50 shades and Fast 7) were songs I wrote based on what I thought the movie studios wanted me to do. My favorite song I wrote for a movie this year was for “Southpaw” and the song is called “Closer,” but it didn’t end up getting used in the film. I’m putting it on my album instead. I am VERY excited to announce that I recruited Brian Joseph to mix the song. I became a fan of his engineering and mixing from his work with Bon Iver.
NM: I know you must be extremely busy, but have you started planning what you might want to do next or have you started working on any new projects?
SK: I’m mainly focusing on finishing and promoting my album right now, but on the side, whenever I have time, I like to add to the screenplay I’ve been writing for a while, and add to plans for my Woodrat clothing line. Also, I’m always exploring different opportunities to collaborate and work on other projects. I don’t like to talk about them though, because 90% of those don’t come to fruition, but it’s always worth the effort because it only takes one great thing to change your life.
NM: What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring musicians?
SK: You better reeeeeeeallly love music if you choose this career path… It’s like the hardest, most disfunctional marriage ever, but worth it in the end if you’re able to endure.
NM: You said you love gore— does that mean you’re a horror-movie fanatic? If so, what’s your favorite horror movie!
SK: Actually no. I just love what gore represents. Seeing blood shows us how fragile we are. And to me, death is one of the most beautiful, mysterious part of life, as humans are powerless against… We can postpone it maybe, but we all die eventually. And loss of loved ones makes us hurt the most inside, and feeling that intense of an emotion is a pinnacle of life.
NM: If you had to describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?
Creative. Introspective. Adventurous
Well, there you have it. Grey is not only an amazing artist in the music, songwriting, screenwriting, and production worlds, but she is also an eloquent speaker and one with profound ideas and thoughts. I find her to be exceptionally inspiring and intriguing and I feel so honored to have had the chance to have this interaction with her!
Music Video “Cannonball”: