Skylar Grey is an especially compelling and exceptional artist - and while we can thank over twenty years of a highly diverse musical background for this eclectic sensation, we’d be downright fools not to recognize Grey for the supreme talent that she so innately is. If anything, this chick was born to create music.
There’s something outstanding about Grey’s rich, full-bodied voice and music that pulsates with an enticing edge throughout. Each song of hers rides inside this vortex of penetrating melody and ingrained passion that transcends merely being catchy.
Even though she’s best known for accomplishments like co-writing Eminem and Rihanna’s hit single 'Love The Way You Lie' in 2010 or her song 'I Know You', which is featured on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, she was no stranger to the music industry long before her big break. In fact, Skylar Grey has been performing since the age of six and had already made three folk albums with her mother by the age of fourteen. By seventeen, she was signed with Universal Music Publishing Group under the name of Holly Brook.
Following a year-long stint where she lived at a cabin in the woods in Oregon, she reinvented herself as Skylar Grey: a brave transformative journey that speaks volumes of her intuitive character. Upon speaking with Skylar Grey, I realize that she has a truly inspiring story to tell which comes from such a personal and honest place that it’s hard not to relate.
“I was pretty much living on nothing in a little cabin in the woods and just trying to get back in touch with who I was. Walking around by myself in the woods, there was nobody there to tell me what to do, nobody there to criticize me, nobody there to do anything except me. So it forced me to listen to my own gut instincts and my own opinions and through that process it was kind of like my [own] vision quest.” Grey explains.
We discuss how she ended up co-writing 'Love The Way You Lie', which earned five Grammy Award nominations. Ironically, Grey wrote the song after having quit the music industry during her isolated time at that cabin in Oregon. Grey says “‘The Way You Lie’ was one of the first songs I wrote coming out of that. It was not meant to be a hit song. I was literally like ‘Okay, I think I’m gonna start making music again but I’m gonna do it my way. This time it’s gonna be free and uninhibited.’ I just wanted to write what I feel and have fun doing it, you know? So I didn’t expect it to be a hit or anything like that - I had no idea,” she continues, “I got a beat sent to me from Alex da Kid over email (I had never met him before) and he said ‘try writing a hook to this’. I sat down and just sang a melody and a lyric over it, recorded it, and sent it right back to him about fifteen minutes later. A month later it was like the biggest hit in the world. It’s pretty wild - it was a crazy experience.”
I ask Grey what we can expect from her upcoming album. Having collaborated with a variety of artists from Deadmau5 to Eminem to Nicki Minaj, Grey admits that it’s been fun to have had a lot of diversity in her career and to have worked in so many different genres. “But at this point,” she tells me, “I’m kind of pulling back on all that stuff and just focusing on my album and really trying to hone in on a sound for myself. This new album is hopefully going to accomplish that.” Then I ask her what it’s been to like to work with Eminem, seeing as he produced two of the songs in her upcoming album. She says “I love working with Marshall. He’s super talented and super supportive.”
When we talk about 'Moving Mountains', which happens to be her personal favorite song that she’s written so far, I ask her what inspired this song - and video, for that matter. Grey describes the message behind this song with sheer, eager passion. “Moving Mountains is a song about putting your ambitions aside. I used to think that my music career was the most important thing in the world but that caused me to sacrifice a lot of other things in my life. I was so focused on my music career that I missed people's’ birthdays and weddings - you know, the people that I love - and I never really stopped to smell the roses in my life. I couldn’t be present and it lead to a lot of depression for me.”
Grey explains to me that the 'Moving Mountains' music video is supposed to display the simple, strong message of the song with its beauty of the Utah mountains - which is where she currently resides. “It’s how awe-inspiring it can be just to look at that, be out there in nature, experience that and be present. The song’s about being present, being in that beautiful place and enjoying the moment.” Grey says.
I ask her what the difference is between her upcoming album versus some of her older work. “It’s an evolution. I’ve definitely grown up a lot in the past few years since the first album,” she says, “the music’s more mature, lyrically, and a little bit darker, sonically, I would say.”
When I ask her what her fans would be surprised to find out about her, she nonchalantly says “I’m gonna ask my husband who’s standing right here. What would they be surprised to find out about me?” Pause. “Or maybe that I have a husband.” she says to me, giggling. Her response is so candid, and she’s such a naturally endearing person, that the conversation is nothing short of refreshing. “I don’t really promote that,” she insists, “I don’t really promote my personal life so I think a lot of fans sometimes stop me because they see a ring and they’re like ‘you’re married?’ [My husband and I] had a relationship before he became my manager.”
Grey describes how she’s evolved as an artist over the span of her career. “I guess I’ve just been coming more into my own. The more I learn about myself the more I can apply that to my music and it becomes more unique to me.”
Story by Danielle Peccaro
Photography by Tyler Shields