SkylarGrey: Right Hooks | AllHipHop ::
Think Skylar Grey, and think an uber-soulful, White girl that today’s top Hip-Hop rappers and producers want to collaborate with. What you might not know is that Skylar, at a low point in her life not too long ago, actually lived in the woods and was on the brink of destruction.
Those solitary, dark moments may have been exactly what she needed to feed the creative beast within her. AllHipHop.com caught up with Skylar Grey recently to find out how she re-emerged, why Eminem made her break into tears, and what drives her as a “heavy hook hitter”:
AllHipHop.com: Wow, OK, well I know you were signed at a young age. I kind of liken artists like you to being old souls just waiting to be discovered. These days, how have you managed to transition through those tough times and get back to making good music?
Skylar Grey: The good thing about having all of these bad experiences is that it’s really good inspiration for music. Everybody in the world has bad experiences, and so I think that the songs are based on experiences that people can relate to.
And then, you know, writing “Love the Way You Lie” for Rihanna and Eminem, I was still living in the woods when that happened, so I was a lot stronger as a person at that point. I was taking care of myself, and I had Pro Tools and figured out how to record my music, so I was really self sufficient at that point. I was still in Oregon, so “Love the Way You Lie” came out and basically my life did a 180.
AllHipHop.com: Specifically for [AllHipHop.com’s] audience, which is sort of a young to mid-aged Hip-Hop audience, they know you for these super, heavy-hitter collaborations that you’ve had with some Hip-Hop giants. What do you think it is about you that has drawn them to want your amazing hooks on their songs?
Skylar Grey: I think it’s just partially the fact that it’s different. Not a lot of people with my background probably attempted to work in the Hip-Hop industry, and so the fact that it’s a different combination of things…everybody’s looking to have a new, fresh sound and a unique thing to do. The hooks that I was doing at the time didn’t sound like anything that anybody was doing. So, I think that’s part of it.
It’s also kind of completely unexplainable, because when I did “Where’d You Go?” that was also a Hip-Hop track, technically. That was not connected to any of this new Hip-Hop stuff. Like I said, I changed my name, and I came back into music, and they didn’t know that I was that same girl. So it was separate and the fact that I got embraced twice like that from the Hip-Hop community is weird to me, and I can’t explain it…especially because I don’t have a Hip-Hop background in my youth. But I think it’s that diverse contrast of my style with Hip-Hop.
The culture of Hip-Hop is a lot of sampling sounds, so they would sample a lot that’s not from Hip-Hop, you know? I think, to me, that’s what makes Hip-Hop really cool. It’s outside of the box. It always has been. So it’s like finding a cool, new sample that makes it fresh-sounding. That’s what Hip-Hop’s always been about…and expression through lyrics. I’m jealous of rap sometimes, because I can’t fit all of those words into my melodies. With melodies, I have to fit a certain amount of syllables, and with rap, it’s like you can really say a lot. They have a lot to say, so it’s cool to be able to collaborate like that.
Eminem was actually the only Hip-Hop album I bought – the Marshall Mathers LP when I was younger. I hid it from my parents because I didn’t want them to know I had it! [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: That’s funny! OK, well, I want to run through a few of your collaborations and get your take on how they went down. First, people think that you wrote B.o.B.’s “Airplanes,” which was a huge single.
Skylar Grey: No, I actually didn’t write “Airplanes.”
AllHipHop.com: Do you realize there are lots of people who think that’s you?
Skylar Grey: People confuse it because Alex the Kid did that, and right after “Airplanes,” “Love the Way You Lie” came out, so they probably think the singer is the same person. Alex produced “Airplanes,” but it was a pre-existing song that he found or something, that some other Hip-Hop group did or something. He basically reworked the hook into a new track and gave it to B.o.B. So, I don’t know, it wasn’t originally from Alex the Kid. Then he met me and realized that I write hooks that were more in that vein, we just kept going on that tip.
AllHipHop.com: You were nominated for a Grammy! So, do you write songs with the hope of being applauded by the critics, or is it strictly for the love of the fans and good music?
Skylar Grey: I don’t even think about it. I don’t think of any of that stuff. What I do is, when I’m writing, I just do whatever feels good, and it’s all based on my instincts. If it feels good to me, it will probably feel good to somebody else. Whether that’s a critic or a fan or another artist, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about moving people. That’s what music is all about. So I don’t need Grammys. It’s obviously flattering to be nominated for a Grammy, but I don’t need that in order to feel successful. I feel more successful when I make somebody cry from writing a song.”