Skylar Grey on Her AllSaints Performance and Style Philosophy: 'I Have a Hard Time Being Too Girly'
“So when you do this interview and you print it,” Skylar Grey wonders between a few bites of chips and salsa, “do you print the crunching noises somehow? Like, ‘crunch, crunch, crunch?’”
The singer-songwriter just wrapped up her AllSaints LA SESSIONS performances of “Moving Mountains” and her now classic cut “Love the Way You Lie” at the British fashion retailer’s flagship store in Beverly Hills, which has, again, been transformed into a rugged stage ready for Skylar to switch from guitar to piano with ease.
Back in the dressing room, Grey sits down with Billboard to talk about not wanting to be too girly with her style, why she tries clothes on sitting down and—crunch, crunch, crunch—how she writes her ultra personal records. Read on for the chat and also to catch her SESSIONS performances.
What makes you an AllSaints fan?
I’ve been a fan of AllSaints for quite a few years. I like that there’s a lot of neutral colors but a bunch of different shapes. I’m wearing all back right now, but it’s an interesting all black look.
What’s the most difficult part of getting dressed for you?
I have a hard time being too girly with fashion. It freaks me out when I look in the mirror and I look too girly. But I still have to be somewhat feminine, because I am a girl. So I want to dress in a way that’s strong but chic.
So no dresses or skirts?
Some skirts are good. But they have to be the right skirt. I’m just not going to wear red ruffled dresses. Today I have ruffles and heels, but it’s all black. This is as about as girly as it gets [Laughs]. Packing for a trip to LA is the hardest thing to do for me. I have to look a certain way when I go to the studio and meet people, but a different way when I perform. I have to be on brand.
What’s the difference between stage Skylar and you at home fashion-wise?
If I’m at home, I’m in sweats. I just want to be comfortable. That’s the only thing that matters. When I’m performing I sit at a piano. So it’s important that I find something that looks good when I’m sitting. When I try on an outfit, I actually pull a chair next to the mirror to figure out what looks good from the side. Do I tuck my shirt in? Or see if I have a waist. Sitting changes the way that the clothes hang. Especially on camera, you want to show shape.
Is fashion something you’re constantly involving yourself with? Do you follow a bunch of style people and brands on social media?
I’ve been better about it recently. I used to not follow anybody on Instagram. But I started recently and a lot of the people I follow are in fashion. A lot of designers and models or people that I look up to in an artistic, visual way. There’s a lot to get inspired by out there. I’ve always liked more of an edgier, darker style. All the while staying fashion-forward. Not goth dark! An edge, but simple.
Who are some are some of your noteworthy style icons?
My style icons are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They look so dope on red carpets. So chic. Classy and edgy with oversized looks.
I’m assuming that both of the songs you performed come from a heavy, not-so-fun place, based on their lyrics. What inspired them?
Those songs come from a very authentic place for me. They’re emotional for me because I was writing about my life. Hindsight is 20/20. I look back and go, “Wow, that happened to me.” Music and songwriting are therapy for me. Instead of going to a therapist, I’m talking to myself trying to work it out, trying to figure out the solution to how I feel.
“Moving Mountains” was basically me writing in my diary about my feelings. I’ve really grown up a lot in the last few years. I just turned 31. Even turning 30 was a life-changing thing for me. I started to realize how short life is and how important it is to stay present and enjoy the moment. I’ve become way more chill. Whatever I’m going through, I know that life is short and I have to get over it. I live in Utah, in the mountains. I wake up in the morning and see this gorgeous mountain view. No matter what’s going on in my life, that view makes me feel better. I’m appreciating the beauty that the world has to offer outside of all of the bullshit that’s going on in my life. That’s what that song is about.
I say, “Instead of moving mountains, let the mountains move you.” Instead of being so ambitious with your career and worried about the future, sit back and take it all in. Be moved by the beauty around you. That’s what I’m telling myself. That’s why it’s therapy!
Sure, you’re picking your thoughts apart.
I’m analyzing my emotions. So whether it’s a broad song like “Moving Mountains” or something like “Love the Way You Lie,” which is about one specific relationship, I wrote that after the relationship was over. I was looking back like, “How did I get here?” I was really depressed. But I had a lot more clarity. So I worked it out.
Do you ever write any songs while you’re in the midst of turmoil? Or is it all after it’s over?
I have written songs that are a bit more in the moment. And that can be therapeutic, too, but they tend to be a little more angsty because there’s no solution. I try to make my music have a solution. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I try to offer some hope.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
I’ve been in the studio a lot lately, writing for other people, which I never really did before. People think I've done a lot of writing sessions because I have some big hits. But when I had those hits, they were by chance in a way. I was living in Oregon in a cabin in the woods by myself, outside of the whole industry and music scene. Then people called me in to get their version of “Love the Way You Lie” and I didn’t know how to do a session.
I wasn’t into the whole game of meeting someone you’ve never met before and suddenly sitting down to write a song together. It was very awkward to me. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Every time I did one, I thought everyone expected me to make a smash. That song was one that, maybe, comes along once in a lifetime. It went diamond! So afterward, if I didn’t make a great song, I’d literally leave the room crying. It was so hard on me emotionally. So I stayed out of rooms.
I grew up, realized that life is short and got back into it with a totally different headspace. My only goal is to make a song that I love. Who cares where it goes? I don’t care if it gets a Grammy nomination or if it gets on the radio or if anybody cuts it. I could die tomorrow. So I’m going to enjoy my day writing a song.
When did you make that turn?
November . It took me that long. But since November I’ve been doing four sessions a week, which is a lot for me. I have a lot coming; cuts with other people and for movie soundtracks. I’ve been realizing just how much I love being in the studio.
Are you working on a new album for yourself?
I’m about to start another album. Who knows, I might write a great song in a session [with another artist] but if it doesn’t work for them, it might end up on my album.