Chances are you've belted out the 2017 top hit "Glorious" and the 2010 favorite "Love The Way You Lie." But do you know what the songs have in common? Skylar Grey.
The Wisconsin-born 31-year-old artist behind both hits has been plowing her way through the music industry ever since she was six years old. She's produced three studio albums, five Grammy nominations and has collaborated on co-writing and vocals with everyone from Eminem and Rihanna to Macklemore and Nicki Minaj.
Grey's been in the industry for a while, but it doesn't appear that she's slowing down anytime soon on the fast-track to success. Just this past fall, she performed with Eminem on SNL and then headed straight to the 2017 American Music Awards where she performed with Macklemore the following day. She's been having a "Glorious" year, that's for sure!
NBC News BETTER caught up with Grey to talk her career path, ways to de-stress and how an isolating trip to the woods led her to truly find herself.
How did your career start?
I started performing with my mom when I was six years old — we had a folk duo and then we made three albums together independently by the time I was 14 years old. So, I kinda got sucked into it. My family was just a very musical family, my dad was in a barber shop quartet, as well. I went solo when I was 14, and moved to LA when I was 17, (high school drop out) because I already knew what I wanted to do and had opportunities lining up. After that, I got my first record deal and that’s kinda where it all began.
What were some ups and downs you faced in your career? Was there a moment you felt like you finally made it?
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I always knew I wanted to do music, but it took me a long time to figure out how to exactly do that. With my first record deal, everything kinda fell apart. I wasn't ready for it, I didn't know how to handle the business side at all. I thought as soon as I got a record deal, everything would fall into place and I wouldn't have to really do any work anymore. I could just make music, and be successful. Well that was not the case and everything fell apart for a period of time. I actually quit music and I thought maybe I chose the wrong career. But, I isolated myself in a cabin in the woods for a while and that’s where I fell back in love with music. Just being isolated out there, eliminating all these opinions that I endured during my time in LA and the music industry, all the rejection, it was really hard on me and my creativity. So by isolating myself in the wilderness, I was able to fall back in love with music. It was always ingrained in me, always in my blood, but I just lost it for a minute.
The first song I wrote after that experience was “Love the Way You Lie”, which was a song that was picked up by Eminem and Rihanna. That song, being a number one song while I was still living in a cabin in the woods, was just proof to me that I did the right thing by going and finding myself in isolation. And ever since I wrote that song, my whole career really started coming together. The stars started aligning, I got to expand my horizons and work own things I really wanted to work on. All my dreams were coming true.
Did this change the way you manage stress and 'find yourself' now?
It’s very easy to fall back unto my old ways when I’m working a lot. It’s important for me to continue to find solitude and peace in nature and escape the city and the industry as much as possible. That’s where I reconnect and remind myself what I learned in that time in the woods when I was isolated and I recharge myself. If I don't have that, it would be really easy for me to fall apart again.
What's your morning routine?
Definitely includes a nice cup of coffee. I’ve been really into Bullet Proof lately. And fresh air. The best way to wake up for me is to have a cup of coffee, look at a beautiful view and inhale fresh air of some kind. That’s why environment is super important to me. I can’t just live in LA, I have to be able to escape and be somewhere peaceful and beautiful. After that, I get started on my work. I try to get started on the earlier side of the day, so by the evening I can have a glass of wine and enjoy myself.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Wine! I don't think it’s a guilty pleasure, so I don't feel too guilty about it.
Making a point to have fun doing what you are doing every day of your life is the best advice I could give someone.
What’s your definition of success right now?
What success means to me right now is waking up and doing what I love every day. And I get to do that and I feel like the most successful person in the world because I get to make music, have fun in the studio and write songs. It’s therapeutic for me to write a song. I don't really care what happens to it after it’s written, as long as I enjoyed doing it, that’s all that matters. I get to eat good food, drink good wine and live a really great life.
A lot has changed since I turned 30. Before, I was super ambitious and all that mattered to me was my career and I thought that my happiness revolved around my success. As I got older, I realized that life is really short so my happiness actually depends on me just enjoying my day. When I write a song, it really doesn't matter if it will win a Grammy or will be thrown away. As long as I enjoyed making that song and had a good day, that’s what matters. When I have days like that consecutively, my overall happiness is so much better.
What advice would you give to people chasing their dreams?
I think that if I could give advice to young ambitious people, I would say don't forgot to have fun every day doing what you are doing because you'll be more productive. The more fun you're having the more you are going to want to wake up and do that same thing every day. If you aren’t really enjoying it and killing yourself hustling, eventually that’ll wear on you and you will get tired. Ironically, what happens with that is that you become more successful. You are able to work harder and longer without even working.