Skylar-Grey-Issue-No28SKYLAR GRAY

An all-star songwriter finally releases her anticipated debut  

Skylar Grey built her reputation on writing songs for superstars, so it’s understandable that she wanted her debut album to reflect her own personality. Originally set for release two years ago, the album was delayed. Songs were tweaked, added and removed—and now Don’t Look Down is finally seeing the light of day.

Grey used the downtime to her advantage. “I got to tour with the music, and I was able to feel what worked and what didn’t,” she says. “I didn’t do a lot of experimenting in the beginning, so it wasn’t as cohesive as I wanted it to be. I honed in on exactly the sound I wanted to have.”

Probably best known for writing the hook to Eminem and Rihanna’s 2010 hit “Love the Way You Lie,” Grey’s song credits include co-writes on Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor,” and T.I. and Christina Aguilera’s “Castle Walls.” For Don’t Look Down, the five-time Grammy nominee continued her history of high-profile collaborations, recruiting Angel Haze, Big Sean and Eminem for guest spots. “I tend to keep really good relationships with people I admire,” says Grey, 27. “I like it when it’s kind of serendipitous rather than something that the label threw together.”

In addition to producing a few songs herself, Grey worked with longtime collaborator Alex da Kid, who produced four songs on the new record. And jazz pianist J.R. Rotem also produced four songs, though his original motive for seeking out Grey was to feature her on his own album. “J.R. contacted me because he had a song he wanted me to sing for his record,” she says. “When I left the studio after having sung the hook, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. As I was driving, this entire verse came out. So I went back and said, ‘I think I’ve got to keep this song for myself.’” That tune became the album opener, “Back From the Dead.”

Grey took her time putting together Don’t Look Down, but she isn’t always patient with her craft. “The songs that come the fastest—when I’m really not trying—are usually the best. Pretty much any song I’ve labored over I usually get really tired of, and it’s never quite right. I just let it flow and whatever sticks, sticks.”

–Amanda Farah


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