By Annie Reuter
Skylar Grey is anything but shy on her new album Don’t Look Down, released this week by Interscope and featuring the likes of Big Sean, Angel Haze and Travis Barker. Executive produced by Eminem and Alex da Kid, the album includes songs about domestic violence, unexpected pregnancy and even first love.
“The album tells a lot of different stories from my life and growing up,” she told Radio.com on album release day. “It’s about growing up and coming into your own. For me that was going through a lot of different struggles as a kid. I look back into the past, into my childhood on this album.”
This isn’t her first time working with Eminem, for whom she wrote the 2010 monster hit “Love the Way You Lie,” featuring Rihanna. The same week she wrote “Love The Way You Lie,” Grey penned another deeply personal song that appears on Don’t Look Down, titled “Final Warning.” “It was inspired by the same relationship [as ‘Love The Way You Lie’],” she said. “I think you can pick up on that.”
Eminem, who also appears on the album’s first single “C’mon Let Me Ride,” encouraged her to trust her gut and make something that takes an honest, hard look at where she’s been.
“Working with Em has been one of the most amazing things in my entire life to have ever happened and probably that will ever happen,” she said. “He’s been so great about giving me feedback and I really trust his opinion. With this album, [him] being executive producer, I was able to bounce everything off of him and see what he has to say. The biggest thing that I learned from him was just to be myself and listen to my instincts.”
Talking to her now, she sounds confident in her sound, but this wasn’t always the case. She admits that she was unsure of her long-in-the-works-album’s direction. Discouraged with the music scene and ready to throw in the towel, Grey moved to a remote Utah location in the midst of recording.
“There was a period of time while I was making this album when I actually took a break from songwriting because I was starting to feel like it was work,” she explained. “I wasn’t having fun with music and it was just because I was overworked.”
The move ended up being a blessing in disguise. The isolation from music actually helped her write one of her favorite songs on the album, “White Suburban.” The track is about not being able to let go of your first love, something Grey wrote from firsthand experience.
“I really just wanted to get something super creative out of my system that was not trying to prove anything to anybody,” she said. “It was an important song for me personally to get off my chest.”
The album title, Don’t Look Down, is taken from the track “Tower (Don’t Look Down),” which was written from the perspective of someone she left back in her hometown of Mazomanie, Wisconsin. Grey said the song is “about being left in a small town and watching the person that you thought you were meant to be with your whole life go off and follow big dreams and leave that small town.”
“My method with songwriting is to look back in the past because I see everything more clearly,” she added. “In hindsight, everything is 20/20.”