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It is hard to map out to define the exact sound of Sky Ferreira. Thanks to her go-getter attitude and strong personality, Sky convinced Swedish producers Bloodshy & Avant to work with her at the tender age of 14. Since then, her recording journey has taken her through a multitude of sounds and genres. With one studio album, this year’s I’m Not Alright, and one extended play, 2011′s As If, under her belt, the 20-year old musician is intending to further outline her own sound, which is shaped by her eclectic personal taste, with her latest release, the Ghost EP, out today (October 16). Her talent and charisma have convinced illustrious folks like Terry Richardson and Hedi Slimane to work with her. We spoke to the Los Angeles native/New York City resident about her latest release, how it shapes her musical identity, her numerous influences, having Michael Jackson around while growing up, her stylish videos and much more.
You cited diverse artists such as Miike Snow, Emma Bunton, Blondie, Prince, Elton John, Serge Gainsbourg, as your musical inspirations. How is your diverse taste translated into your own sound? Is it steadily developing?
It’s slowly developing…My songwriting (lyrics/melody) are starting to have the same tone, I guess. I’m starting to take it a lot more seriously, focusing on themes & joking around. I’ve grown a lot more as a songwriter within the last few years, but I’ve also lived a lot more. I’m testing the waters in production and various genres. Some of those aren’t my main influences but my wikipedia seems to say so? :/ Ariel, Jon Brion, Dev Hynes, Cass Mccombs & Blake Mills have really inspired me and taught me a few helpful tricks.
Your single “Everything Is Embarrassing” has been co-written by Ariel Rechtshaid who has penned hits for artists like Major Lazer, Solange. How did this collaboration come about? Have you guys collaborated on other tracks? What is the message of the song?
Ariel Facebook messaged me. I’m pretty sure Dev was our connection, but I think we were hearing about each other through multiple sources. Yes, Ariel produced the half of my album that has become “the dreamy pop section”. The message is: Breaking up REALLY sucks. You love the person, but neither of you are satisfied and you both are kind of trying…so what else can you do?
You released your LP I Am Not Alright earlier this year, and are currently readying your Ghost EP. Can you share some details on Ghost? What is its core theme? Were these songs initially recorded for I Am Not Alright or is it completely new recorded material? How does Ghost differ from I Am Not Alright?
Ghost shows what’s about to come. Red Lips was more of something I wanted to try because I’m SUCH a Shirley Manson fan. She’s one of the smartest and coolest ladies I’ve ever met, but it’s not the direction I’m going. Half of it is produced by Ariel, which has songs like “Lost In My Bedroom,” “Everything is Embarrassing.” It’s more uptempo and electronic based. The other half is produced by Jon Brion and Blake Mills which is more stripped down and organic. The subject matter of the songs tie it in all together. I was really angry and upset for a very very very long time and had no idea how to express it. I was at the point where I became a little jaded and it made me physically ill. Even when something great happened, I was still doubtful. Which I point out in the “happy songs”, you know? Except “Werewolf” which I wrote when I was 16 or 17. This was the first time I actually wrote something personal, so I’m feeling a bit vulnerable about it.
How much creative control do you possess when it comes to making music?
I went from having NO creative control to basically having all of it. It’s amazing.
Similar to your taste, your videos also are diverse. How do you get inspired for your videos? How big is your creative input when it comes to video production? How does the accompanying video for “Everything Is Embarrassing” projects the vibe of the song?
I pretty much have all control when it comes to videos except if there’s extreme violence or sex. Due to my label/getting my video banned (even though that won’t really stop me) I consider “Red Lips” my first actual video…besides One. There’s also budget limitations, like I can’t make the most extravagant thing in the planet, but it makes me work harder. I made “Red Lips” with Terry Richardson. Who I love so much as a person and I adore his work. I gave Terry control of the creative process of the video. I still had input, obviously, but I wanted to let him take the lead. If I’m going to work with Terry Richardson, I’m going to do what he does best. If I wanted something else I would go else where. Same with Grant Singer. In order for me to collaborate with someone, I need to trust what they’re doing. For each song I have a vision, as I’m writing it. A lot of my songs are inspired by films & photographs. When I write I see the song visually, I make collages for each song after I write it. I talk to whoever is directing the video and describe what I see & then we figure out how to make it come to life. The “Sad Dream” video is heavily Terrence Malick & Paris,Texas influenced. I wanted show how much the songs means to me & the experiences that it’s based on in a beautiful & cinematic way, without it being melodramatic. “Everything Is Embarrassing” is supposed to be fragile & simple. It’s based on early Madonna/Nothing Compares 2 U and Herb Ritz…on a budget. If it’s possible, I would like to make a video for every song that I make.
Despite your young age you have quite a history in the music and entertainment industry. You convinced Swedish producers Bloodshy & Avant to work with you at the age of 14, you’ve penned songs for Britney Spears, you’ve appeared in a movie (Putty Hill). What personal quality was the most useful coming up as an artist and what is your biggest lesson learned?
I hustled and I always wanted to make music. I hated school, I needed to escape it somehow & the only way I could was to work. I’ve been ready to work since I was 8 years old, I wasn’t interested in being a kid. Music and film are all I know how to do well & I’ve never had a single thought about doing anything else, even when I was living in hell because of the “industry”. I started writing for other people because that was my in and how I could get out of school. I originally signed up to do Metal Gods, but there wasn’t enough money to finish filming it, so Matt Porterfield was like “We have two weeks and we’re going to make this film called Putty Hill. You in?” I was like…”sure why not?” I tried many things before, but now I’m starting to get a grasp on what I want to do, what I’m willing to do and what I won’t do. I wasn’t sure of that before.
Where is the advantage and the disadvantage of breaking into the music industry at a young age liek 14, 15?
Well,I learned a lot at a young age… t’s hard being taken seriously and not getting taken advantage of. It happened to me many times, I was really naive. Some people don’t have your best interests in mind…Some people are just in it for the money…and some people are just scum bags. I noticed that when people needed me to be an “adult” I was considered one and when I disagreed with them I was just a little girl/brat/child.
Your grandmother worked with Michael Jackson. How did the fact of having such a prominent musician around shape your musicality and perception of pop culture?
There isn’t anyone in my family that does anything musically, like at all. I was around him my whole life. He told my mom to have me join a gospel choir when I was in 3rd grade and when I was older he told her to sign me up for classical training (opera). Now I can do a little bit of everything because of him. He has made such an impact in my life, not because he was Michael Jackson, but because he was someone who really watched out for me & still does. I never realized how big he was until he passed. I mean, I knew he was famous, but not to the point where the internet would break. It’s made me dislike the media a lot, a majority of the stuff that was said about him were lies. Anyone that knew him knows that he was one of the most generous and intelligent people you would ever meet.
You were discovered on MySpace. Have you seen the teaser video which showed the world what to expect from the new version of MySpace? If so, what are your thoughts on this? Do you believe it can make a strong comeback?
I think it’ll be good for bands? I’m not quite sure what it’ll be like in a social media sort of way…you never know. Instagram brought back the selfie so…hey?