The 25-year old Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Skylar Grey released ‘Like Blood Like Honey’ five years ago under the name Holly Brook, more recently Grey has written and featured on the hooks of some of the last year’s biggest hits with artists like Eminem, Rihanna, Dr.Dre and Diddy Dirty Money.
The Wisconsin native due to release her second studio album ‘Invinsible’ next year, spoke to Gigwise about her rise to the forefront of the music scene, her partner in crime UK producer Alex Da Kid and meeting Marilyn Manson…
Are you really surprised that the songs you wrote could have ever received so much attention?
Absolutely, I had no idea! No idea that all this was gonna happen….
After all of the singles success you’ve already experienced, I guess the main aim now to establish yourself as a solo artist in your own right?
Yeah, I have always been a solo artist and then I wrote some songs with Alex Da Kid that were given to artists like Eminem, and it was like a whole new adventure for me to write songs for other people. It opened a lot of doors, and gave me a lot more opportunities to continue to do my own solo stuff.
The new LP is produced entirely by Alex Da Kid, what’s that relationship like?
It’s funny, it’s a funny relationship. Musically, we connect on a level that I have never really experienced before with somebody. But he pisses me off a lot sometimes because he is so brutally honest; he will tell me if something sucks and it hurts me at first but then I am always glad when he makes me go back and rework something because I am usually happier with it afterwards.
Looking at Eminem and Rihanna’s ‘Love The Way You Lie’, Diddy Dirty Money’s ‘Coming Home’ and Dr. Dre’s ‘I Need A Doctor’ which one of those tracks means the most to you?
Lyrically…‘Love The Way You Lie’, and musically “I Need A Doctor.’
I love the chord changes in ‘I Need A Doctor’ because in a way it’s almost cinematic. I think the lyrics to ‘Love The Way You Lie’ are more universal.
What was it like working with people like that?
It was an amazing experience and it was very surreal. To get the songs that I wrote sung by Rihanna and to be able to work with Eminem – who is this amazing talent who I admire greatly then Diddy who is an icon and Dr.Dre who was so nice…It was an amazing year for me.
What can we expect from this new album ‘Invinsible’?
You know I don’t really like expectations about stuff, because I feel when it comes to my album, for a pop record it’s so spiritual and diverse. On the album there are a lot of different genres.
Speaking on genre, would it be fair to say that on your solo effort you will be distancing yourself away from the urban music genres that broke you into the industry?
Well, I didn’t even know anything about Hip Hop or the urban world until I worked in it. I grew up with 90’s rock music and so the album is a combination of all of my influences including my latest - Hip Hop.
How do you think you’ve changed since the days of Holly Brook?
As a person I have accepted my flaws, well not flaws - my oddities. I used to be overly worried about what people would think about me but now I’m a lot more confident with myself. I am more control of my own life now that is the major difference and that is reflected in the music that I make.
It’s quite common for songwriters to be protective over their music and the songs that they write – are you?
No - I used to be, but now I am not so precious about stuff. For me that’s a lot healthier way to look at things. If I get too precious about my songs then I get down, I am happy when my songs are able to live out in the world, regardless of how they get there.
I know Marilyn Manson is an influence of yours, what was it like meeting him in the flesh?
I was a little nervous at first but I when I actually met him and then got to work I was just very excited and I learnt a lot. He is such a creative genius – he is inspiring and intimidating at the same time.
Considering all of the stuff he has experienced, I assume he would be quite a wise man…
Yes, he is definitely a wise man….
Is there anyone you would like to write with?
I don’t really plan on writing for people, I don’t plan it for me it didn’t really happen that way the first time round so I guess that’s not really how that process works for me.
So what’s next for Skylar?
I just want to put my album out, and carry on touring – keep making great music and collaborating with more people…
What’s touring like? Do you enjoy it?
I do enjoy touring – I try to see a little bit of each city that I go to because I’m travelling the world and it’s easy to forget that because you’re going into all these different venues playing all these shows. I always try to take an hour to walk through the city or just do something in whatever city I am in.
Working with all the different kinds of artists you have worked with already, what’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
I don’t feel like there are any rules in this business but the best advice I have been given over the past year is from David Foster who gave this speech at an awards ceremony and it’s on YouTube. It’s ten pieces of advice he would give young people in the music industry – and I love that, I go back and look at that all the time.
What has it been like for you being right in the thick of things within the music industry?
It’s taxing (laughs) but it’s also fun and exciting. Like I said there are no rules and things seem to happen when you don’t expect them to, so you’re always on your toes – and so you can’t have any expectations…