Breaking through the mess of rhythmic tunes on the airwaves this year, an established singer-songwriter with the voice of a siren and a mysterious name has been offering a different spin on the usual pop-fare. Her name? Skylar Grey. Skylar has been gaining respect in the industry the same as a crop of talented young artists like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Ester Dean, all of whom started their careers writing songs for others before becoming stars themselves.
Even though you may be unfamiliar with her name, chances are your music library is already filled with her music. Diddy-Dirty Money’s anthemic tune “Coming Home” and the controversial “Love The Way You Lie,” by Eminem and Rihanna were penned by Grey, along with a string of other hits. Alex Da Kid produced and co-wrote both of those hits with Grey, the first signee of his KIDinaKORNER label. If you rewind to 2006, many will remember the haunting “Where’d You Go” from Linkin Park bandmate Mike Shinoda’s side project Fort Minor, which featured Grey, back when she performed under her birth name Holly Brook (Hafermann).
The video for “Invisible” finds Skylar Grey in your standard hoodie, lofted on a perch of a city skyscraper, high above the people below scurrying along. The muted blue/gray color of the video allows the viewer to focus on the meaning of the song, empathizing with Grey as she questions her self-worth and later lights herself on fire to the lyric: “Even when I’m walking on a wire/even when I set myself on fire/why do I always feel invisible, invisible?” Bloginity.com caught up with the Mazomanie, Wisconsin native prior to the premiere of her music video for “Invisible,” her first solo single off her upcoming debut “Invinsible,” due out early next year, to learn more about her creative process, the effects of her pop music on the world and how she got one-on-one time with Marilyn Manson.
Michael: Your promotional single “Dance Without You” was released in early summer and the accompanying video is rather dark; I think it may remind viewers/listeners of videos from Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy with hints of indie and experimental sounds like those of Liz Phair, Dido or Kerli. I also read you are influenced by artists that range from Marilyn Manson to Sarah McLachlan. Do you think it’s important for an artist to embrace the hard and the soft, the bizarre and the pure?
Skylar: I couldn’t say it better. I think everything we do as artists is kind of a combination of things, it’s not just one influence. The things that happen in your life, the music you listen to or the movies that you see, every experience we have makes us who we are and that’s what makes a song come out. That’s why I decided to do that music video and it’s all part of an expression of what we call art. The music video metaphorically explains the transformation from Holly Brook to Skylar Grey. There was this being inside of Holly Book but she didn’t know how to let her out. Skylar just left her to die. It’s the killing off of a certain part of yourself that you don’t like anymore. It’s mostly insecurities that I have embraced and just not been ashamed of. When I went to the woods in Oregon,
I just lived up there by myself in isolation and I realized that I lived so much of my life trying to please everyone else. It was about growing up and finding myself in the world and that’s sort of how I created Skylar Grey.
Michael: You co-wrote your debut single “Invisible” with Rob Thomas, which is an empowerment anthem for self-esteem and individuality. It’s a delicate yet beautiful song. Is it at all autobiographical? I did a review earlier this year of Pink’s “Fuckin’ Perfect” and I notice “Invisible” being a hot theme right now in pop music, but of course you have put your own spin on it.
Skylar: I never write about something that I don’t have experience with. You keep noticing your efforts with something or you’re giving your all and there are no results. It’s about feeling invisible, unrecognized. Kids at school who don’t have friends or they have eating disorders because they don’t feel beautiful compared to the magazines.
Michael: How does it make you feel that songs you are creating will continue to have meaning in years to come?
Skylar: I feel like the messages that you can get across can relate to all different generations. Over time, it’s human emotions that really aren’t that different. Sonically maybe, but not as much since sonic trends are always changing. If it’s a good song it comes across well. It’s really exciting.
I’m blessed to have this as my work – making songs and touching people and moving people around the world. I feel like I’m helping the world be a better place just by being an artist.
Michael: What do you hope you will be associated with years from now?
Skylar: As somebody who says things that at the time aren’t really being talked about in pop music. Pushing the envelope lyrically in pop music. I’m not talking about sex and alcohol and shallow subject matter, I’m talking about real life, and I feel like these things are lacking on pop radio right now.
Michael: Your name “Skylar Grey” is associated with the “unknown.” To me it sounds like a larger-than-life comic book heroine. Can you share more about your name?
Skylar: Skylar Grey is my superhero name and my superhero power is that I am able to be fearless when it comes to the unknown. I just dive right in because a lot of opportunities exist in the grey areas of life. I think a lot of people are afraid to be put in situations where they don’t know what’s going to happen but I see it as an opportunity. Explore our world and our abilities. Yeah it can be scary, but if you can get past the fear of the unknown it’s always worth it.
Michael: Many music fans haven’t connected the dots yet, but you were the vocalist on Fort Minor’s hit “Where’d You Go.” How did this project come about?
Skylar: I signed a deal with Linkin Park. It was 2006 when that song came out. In 2004/2005, they needed a female singer on that song. I wasn’t expecting it to be what it was. A lot of things fell apart so I don’t really work with them anymore. He had a lot of different collaborators on that album.
Michael: Can you talk to us about your song with Marilyn Manson and how the two of you teamed up?
Skylar: I came to him because I wanted to get a feature on my album that wouldn’t be very expected. People expected I’d have something with a rapper on it. I just didn’t want to do what’s expected and I always want to push the envelope. I have always been a fan of Marilyn Manson and we set up a meeting and we hit it off and took a few weeks to figure out what we would do together. “Can’t Haunt Me” is the song and after getting to know him better, I just learned a lot and even had him figure out my album title, “Invinsible.”
Michael: I reviewed “Love The Way You Lie” for Billboard and knew immediately upon hearing it that it was a smash. You wrote it with Eminem and Alex [Da Kid] and it was a standout track of 2010. What was it like for you once it hit big?
Skylar: That was the first song I wrote with Alex Da Kid. He put down a beat and I sent him back the hook for the song. It all happened really quickly.
Everyone came to us. I actually had never met Alex, Eminem or Rihanna [once the song was released]. I met Rihanna at the Grammys.
Michael: How was it performing at the 20th Anniversary of Lollapalooza recently? You seem to already be making an impact on other artists – I read you performed alongside YouTube phenomenon Karmin, who covered your tune “I Need A Doctor.” This must have been fun right?
Skylar: I had a 45-minute set. It was fun being able to do my own thing and sing with Eminem. Hell yeah. 4,000 people came over to my stage.
After years of songwriting and achieving massive hits for other artists, it’s time for the clouds to part and for a bright new Grey to emerge into the spotlight.