Like Dido with the mega hit “Stan,” the mainstream’s introduction to Skylar Grey was through Eminem (and Dr. Dre) with “I Need a Doctor.” But Grey, unlike Dido, performed with Eminem and Dr. Dre at the 2011 Grammy Awards, which is indicative to where this singer’s career is going – into homes everywhere.
Eminem (along with Alex da Kid) executive produced Grey’s debut album, which is being released mid-summer. The album Don’t Look Down features 11 songs with lyrics that reflect Grey’s life, including the singles “C’mon Let Me Ride” and “Final Warning.”
After shooting the music video for “Final Warning,” the album’s second single, Grey spoke with Campus Circle.
“We had a lot of great actors on set,” she said. “There’s a twist in the video from the song. It’s not going to be what people expect. The feel of the video is very dramatic.”
Dramatic could describe the singer’s transformation into the artist she is today. The Wisconsin native grew up in a traditional Midwestern family that lived in a town so small that it didn’t even have a stoplight. In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles to change the direction of her music career, which was imbued in folk music. The city’s concreteness surprised Grey.
“I’m extremely affected by my environment and the people around me. That’s why I live in the mountains,” she said. “I couldn’t stand living in L.A. and being surrounded by all these opinions that I wasn’t sure if I could trust.”
The singer eventually worked her way up California’s central coast until she arrived in Oregon. There, she lived in a cabin and wrote more music.
“I’m a nature person. That’s where I need to keep myself as much as possible. When I moved to L.A., it was a major culture shock. I drove up the coast to Oregon – it’s my favorite state,” she said.
The change and relocation recharged her career. It was during this time that the singer/songwriter abandoned her birth name and changed it to Skylar Grey. When her publisher introduced her to British producer Alex da Kid, she quickly started writing for and recording Don’t Look Down.
Skylar Grey, the name, represents the unknowns in life. However, what is not unknown is Grey’s passion for music.
“I like to connect with my audience and play with an instrument the whole time. I mix it up and interact with the audience,” she said. “I’m really excited to play the music. I was on tour last year with Bruno Mars in Europe. It was an awesome tour, but I wasn’t ready to go on the road. My album wasn’t done. Now I have the album.”
In person, Grey is equally as mysterious, which is what adds to her allure. She describes herself as a ‘90s music lover, who is adventurous and does random things. But mystery and adventure often go hand in hand. The combination is present in her music video for the album’s first single, “C’mon Let Me Ride.”
In the video, she plays a skull tricked-out bicycle-riding girl, living in a rural area, wearing Daisy Dukes and terrorizing the town beauties with axes, chainsaws and other forms of cruelty. The song features her mentor, Eminem.
“[Eminem] gives me a fresh perspective and feedback, and I respect him because I look up to him as an artist,” said Grey. “His opinion really matters to me. Usually, I think we’re on the same wavelength, so it’s nice to have that. What happens is that I take him songs that I’ve created, and I get feedback on them...and he’ll tell me to add something or change something.”
Grey wrote her second single, “Final Warning,” around the same time she co-wrote “Love The Way You Lie,” performed by Eminem and featuring Rihanna. Her writing contribution to the radio-loved song earned Grey her first Grammy nomination.
She received her second Grammy nomination this year for Best Dance/Electronica Album writing and singing, “Room for Happiness” on American producer Kaskade’s album, Fire & Ice. Other songs that she has been featured on include Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said,” Slaughterhouse’s “Our House” and will.i.am’s “Love Bullets.”
“Creating the art, writing songs, recording in the studio and playing in front of people, that’s why I do what I do because I’m an artist,” said Grey. “It’s not about making a lot of money. That’s a nice bonus, but at the end of the day, the reason I do this is because I love to perform, and I love making music.”
Additionally, songs that Grey has written and/or co-written include: “Castle Walls” performed by T.I. featuring Christina Aguilera, “Clarity” performed by Zedd and “Coming Home” performed by Diddy-Dirty Money.
Now that new album Don’t Look Down is done, she is more than ready to tour wherever her fans are the loudest.
Don’t Look Down releases on July 9, 2013. For more information on Skylar Grey, please visit www.skylargreymusic.com.