It isn’t a stretch to say Skylar Grey is a music-industry veteran. Since signing publishing deals and recording contracts at 17, she’s worked alongside the likes of Dr. Dre, Eminem, Macklemore, and Nicki Minaj. Stuck at home in quarantine, Skylar actually isn’t miserable—she’s self-producing, staying sane, and reveling in solitude. Today, she released a breezy new single “Sunscreen,” aptly named for its homage to the summer—and it’s good. In honor of her new release, we talked to Skylar about everything from her recent cover of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” to the power that comes with being a diva. (Even if people talk shit about you.)
Lithium Magazine: Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Skylar Grey: My influences are constantly changing with the more artists I discover. From my childhood, Fiona Apple was a big one for me. Then I got super into Radiohead. Recently I’ve been super inspired by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas, and the fact that they’ve done so well working from home and by themselves. Honestly, I never truly enjoyed co-writing sessions, but for some reason I was made to believe I had to. Billie and Finneas have given me the confidence to work from home almost exclusively, and to produce my own shit. Then obviously, Travis Scott is a big influence right now—I’m inspired by his anti-formulaic approach to songwriting, as well as the dark, sorta cryptic vibes he’s putting out.
Lithium: What’s the process behind writing your lyrics?
Skylar: I don’t know! It just kinda happens, haha. Usually the concept comes out of nowhere when I’m singing a melody, or it’s an idea I’ve had saved in my phone and finally decide to put it to music. Then filling in the rest of the lyrics is like a crossword puzzle. Some are harder than others.
Lithium: Who would be your dream artist to tour with, and why?
Skylar: I don’t love touring to be honest. I love being home and making art, which is why this whole quarantine thing has actually been awesome for me—but I could be persuaded out of [hibernation] if Drake or Travis Scott or Kendrick Lamar offered me an opening slot.
Lithium: You recently shared your cover of “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott in your own style—it’s super sick! What inspired you to choose that track?
Skylar: I wasn’t setting out to do a cover—it just happened organically. One day after hearing the song, I felt compelled to figure it out on the piano, and it sounded so dope that I just kept going. The vocal on this track is literally the first vocal I laid down that day.
Lithium: How are you adapting to the changes in the music industry due to COVID-19? Have you been participating in any live-streams or virtual festivals?
Skylar: As I mentioned before, quarantine has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Living in this digital reality makes it easy to do what I love most—stay home and make art. I did do one livestream, not a huge fan of that. Until we figure out a way to do high-quality, high production value, super-engaging live digital performances, I’ll probably keep this to a minimum. I’ve seen way too many live-stream performances in quarantine that just felt, well, boring.
Lithium: How do you think COVID-19 will impact the industry?
Skylar: I feel like every few years something drastic changes in the music industry, and the only survivors are the people who adapt. Supposedly streaming is down, and shows are nonexistent, so artists are being forced to be more self-sufficient and do more on their social platforms. For example, my music video for “Dark Thoughts” was shot in the comfort of my bedroom by my man, and these Travis Scott pictures from home as well. And luckily I was already self-producing my own music at home. I think people are learning a lot about themselves right now and what they’re capable of on their own. And I think that’ll carry on past the COVID crisis. But when live shows do happen again, I bet people are gonna rage harder than Woodstock!
Lithium: Finally, what advice do you have for young women wanting to break into the music industry?
Skylar: Be a diva. A nice diva. I used to think being a diva was bad, and it meant someone was difficult to work with. But now I understand a diva is just a strong lady who knows what she wants and sticks up for herself. That kind of personality can cause people to talk shit, but it’s also what creates the monsters in the game. You get nowhere pleasing everyone. Let people talk shit. If you want to be an artist, remember it’s your art, nobody else’s. Don’t let someone else paint on your canvas unless you really want them to.
Intro by Olivia Ferrucci
Questions by Sami Harris
Photo by Elliot Smith