Catching Up with Sky Ferreira: On Recording with Primal Scream, Splitting From Troy Carter & Regaining Control of Her Career

Sky Ferreira
Grant Singer

Sky Ferreira

“I feel like I’ve been sitting at the DMV for 10 years. I did all my paperwork, I passed my test, but they still haven’t called my number."

On Thursday night at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, Sky Ferreira kicked off a run of five West Coast performances that will effectively put an end to the Night Time, My Time era for the 22-year-old singer-songwriter. The ever-fluctuating campaign for Ferreira’s captivating debut album included a tour supporting Miley Cyrus, a change in management, heaps of critical acclaim but little radio support.

The “Everything Is Embarrassing” singer tells Billboard that she has learned from the missteps of her first full-length and its promotional tour, and is already working on a follow-up, which she describes as “more aggressive” than the mix of buzzing indie rock and sparkling pop on her debut.

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“Right now, I have the opportunity to try things,” says Ferreira. “I’m enjoying myself a lot more. I think I’m in a different headspace than I was last time out, because so much has happened in the last year and a half. I think [the album] will be a little heavier. It’s not going to be an electronic album completely — it’s going to be a blend of everything.”

Ferreira says that she is re-teaming with producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, who helmed the entirety of Night Time, My Time, and has gone back and forth with French DJ Gesaffelstein about finding some studio time for the new project. Last March, Ferreira also began collaborating with Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes of the iconic Scottish alt-rock group Primal Scream, and now describes Gillespie as a new mentor whom she communicated with throughout her tour.

“The reason I like working with them is because there’s absolutely no pressure,” she says of Innes and Gillespie, the latter of whom served as the drummer of Jesus and Mary Chain in the 1980’s. “It’s nice to walk in somewhere and they’re not like, ‘Okay, your label is harassing me about this and that.’ I set it up without anyone else involved, so we just sit and write in a room and there’s no pressure. It’s also just really cool talking to [Gillespie]! Jesus and Mary Chain is one of my favorite bands ever, so at first I was a little nervous. It’s really nice to meet with someone and not be disappointed by it, to have them meet every expectation.”

A handful of new songs were written while Ferreira was on the road over the past year, when she was “bored on airplanes” and traveling in between concurrent tours. Beginning last February, Ferreira was a support act on Cyrus’ Bangerz tour, and juggled the arena dates with her own one-off headlining shows and festival appearances. “The touring rout made no sense logistically,” she says looking back. “One day I would play Seattle, and then I’d play Dublin, and then I’d play in Canada, all within the same week. It really was a lot.”

As the tour dates kept piling up, Ferreira turned to pre-show meditation to help combat her long-running stage fright. She would go online and read comments that described her as a “train wreck” while opening on Cyrus’ tour — usually because the sound was not mixed correctly, or because Cyrus fans were disappointed that the “Wrecking Ball” singer’s tour opener was singing in place under a lone spotlight and not showcasing any choreography. Eventually, Ferreira began feeling extremely sick on the tour, and was diagnosed with a stress ulcer.

Throughout her tour difficulties, Ferreira received a helping hand from Cyrus. “She’s one of my friends, and it’s fun to tour with your friends,” says Ferreira. “This past year was the Year of Miley Cyrus, and I got to experience it firsthand. She was really helpful, and her crew was really cool. I didn’t have any real tour support, so she let me use a lot of her [equipment], which was really nice.”

One month before Ferreira began opening on the arena trek last February, it was announced that she had become a management client of Troy Carter and his Atom Factory firm, joining other signees like John Mayer and Miguel. However, Ferreira says that she is currently managing herself and is “waiting for a manager” to join her team, after amicably splitting with Carter earlier this year.

“Troy’s a great manager, but I think we both had different stuff in mind for me,” Ferreira explains. “He’s a powerhouse, and I really need someone who can travel with me and be there for the whole thing. He’s so great at what he does, so there was no falling out or anything like that. It just wasn’t really making sense for either of us, I think. … It was just needing someone to be there full-time. But there’s no bad blood whatsoever.”

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Ferreira says that she is also in a better place with Capitol Records, which released Night Time, My Time last October (current sales stand at 39,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan). The singer has a new A&R representative who she says “understands me as an artist and is really supportive,” and Ferreira is anxious to release a project that she feels is marketed in a way that makes sense for her diehard fans and for casual listeners. “I don’t just want it to be put out there again,” she says, referring to a perceived lack of promotion around Night Time, My Time. “I feel like I’ve been sitting at the DMV for 10 years. I did all my paperwork, I passed my test, but they still haven’t called my number. It’s all right, but it’s a lot of waiting.”

In the meantime, Ferreira’s current run of West Coast shows (which continue on Saturday night at the Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif.) will serve as a proper farewell to Night Time, My Time. Ferreira recently returned to modeling in order to finance the tour and hire a sound engineer, and is playing a new song titled “Guardian” live. She wanted to center the tour in California because that’s where Night Time, My Time was created, and believes that these shows will capture her vision of what she wanted her sprawling 2014 tour to reflect.

“Even though it’s the last show for Night Time, My Time, it’s also like the first real one,” says Ferreira. “This next round, I’m really excited, and I know what I want. I’m just glad that I regained control.”