Remember that scene in Top Gun where Maverick laments the death of Goose with a rack of brews and a sob? We don’t either, but somebody wrote that slice of magic. Similarly, Skylar Grey—the brainchild behind lyrics for RiRi, Dr. Dre, and Eminem—proved her prowess long ago. Now the singer-songwriter and master of a dozen instruments is releasing her debut album, Don’t Look Down (KidinerKorner Records and Interscope Records), which has our panties knotted in anticipation. And for good reason: Skylar’s voice is so pretty it’ll burn your face clean off, which is how she appears to approach her art—with beauty, pain, and destruction.
Phlo: How much of your work is a commentary of the past, and how much is autobiographical? Skylar Grey: My songs are all true emotional releases, or stories from my past, in which there is always an epiphany. I’ve never really felt like I could talk to anyone and be understood, so this process is crucial for my sanity. Instead of just talking to a shrink, I make songs because they are like souvenirs from the past that I take into the future to make sure I never forget what I’ve learned in life.
Do you think that it’s vital for musicians to constantly adapt their music to stop themselves having a limited shelf life? I honestly think it’s a horrible idea to adapt to fit in ‘current’ music. As an artist, you can’t have long-term success by making music you think people want to hear, or by living in fear of losing relevance. I truly believe if you allow yourself to be yourself and make music that makes you feel good, people will eventually catch on. You may fall off the pop radar and come back years later, but that’s ok. Let it happen naturally. I also think it’s important to let yourself evolve if you want to. If you’re bored with your music, other people probably are, too.
Some people find their ultimate spark of creativity in a certain special location, situation, event, or place. Do you have a space like this in your life? I find inspiration from inducing change. If I stay in one place or position in life too long, I get bored. Also, when I write, I need to be isolated. Sometimes all I need to find that isolation is a pair of headphones to tune out the world around me; sometimes I drive deep into the woods.
In the end, what equates happiness to you—wealth, success, or fame? What is success? If it’s living in the wilderness with people I love and having the freedom to create whenever I want to, then I choose that.
Beauty Notes: Face&Body foundation and strobe cream by M.A.C. COSMETICS and active moist and renewal lip complex by DERMALOGICA.
Photographer: Ian Morrison for OpusBeauty.com. Stylist: Douglas VanLaningham for OpusBeauty.com. Hair: Cori Bardo for themagnetagency.com. Makeup: Allan Avendaño for OpusBeauty.com.