- - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Who is Skylar Grey? Is she the songwriter and singing “Hook Girl” on the massive hits “I Need A Doctor” (Dr. Dre) and “Coming Home” by Diddy? Yes. Is she the writer of the Eminem and Rihanna smash “Love The Way You Lie”? Yes again. Is she the “soundtrack girl” with her songs in dozens of films ranging from “Suicide Squad” to “Fifty Shades Of Grey”? Affirmative. She is all of this, plus a deeply talented singer/songwriter on her own.

Over breakfast in Los Angeles Miss Grey discussed her career, name change, her tour that brings her to the U Street Music Hall in the District Monday and her new heart-breakingly good new album “Natural Causes.”

Question: How did you go from being Holly Brook to Skylar Grey?

Answer: I went by Holly Brook, which is my first and middle name, for a while as a solo artist. I got a record deal and put out an album under that name. Then things kind of fell apart for me. I went broke.

I decided to leave my record deal because I wasn’t happy. I fell out of love with music during that time period. I had writer’s block for a good period.

Then I moved to a cabin in the woods in Oregon. Lived on basically nothing. When I was there I rediscovered my love of music. Nothing forced anymore. I was not trying to please the industry. I wrote a song called “Love the Way You Lie,” which blew up for Eminem and Rihanna.

When I reentered the music industry, I felt like I had to change my name and have a fresh start.

Q: With the name change, did you feel a rebirth of personality?

A: I don’t think I have changed my personality as much as I have evolved as a human. Before the name change, I was very timid, very self-conscious. Just not very confident. When I changed my name, it came from a place of power.

Q: What is the significance of the spelling of Grey with an “E”?

A: The “E” just seems a little bit darker to me than the “A.” The “A” seems happier.

One of the reasons I named myself Skylar Grey is I lived in Oregon, and it’s always gray there. Gloomy weather inspired my name.

Q: Does gloom also inspire your songwriting?

A: For sure. I come from a place of darkness when I write because I’m always trying to figure things out. It’s kind of like my own therapy when I write music. It’s me working through my own problems hopefully. And putting it into a song.

Q: Where do the best songs come?

A: The best songs for me come from the search for joy. You’re in a negative place maybe, but you’re still striving to improve yourself and find happiness.

Q: Songwriting is personal. Was there any anxiety turning “Love the Way You Lie” over to someone else?

A: There was an anxiety in the beginning just because I had never done that before. Since I started making music, it had always been for myself. That song was the first song somebody else had performed. It was a little bit scary. At the same time, it was Eminem and Rihanna, so I knew it was going to be a great move for my career. It opened a lot of doors.

Q: How did you come to collaborate with Eminem?

A: After I left the music industry and moved to that cabin, the only deal that I still had in place was my publishing deal. Once I started writing music again, I reached out to my publisher and said, “I realize that I really have to make music work for me as a career because I can’t do anything else.” She was very receptive. She introduced me to producer Alex Da Kid. The beat for “Love the Way You Lie” was one of the first things he emailed me to write to. I don’t know how it got to Eminem. Maybe through Alex’s management.

Q: Why didn’t you sing the hook on “Love The Way You Lie”?

A: I wrote it with myself in mind to sing the hook. I’m grateful that Rihanna did it. I love her. She’s a badass!

Q: How do you make the transition from “hook/soundtrack girl” to just being “artist?”

A: See, I don’t think anything has really changed. I’ve just been always making my own music as well. It maybe isn’t connecting with people as well as the hook stuff I’ve done with other people or being put on soundtracks. But I’m still making music, being an artist.

Q: How have you evolved as an artist on the new album?

A: On the last album I felt a lot of pressure. Not only other people, but pressure I put on myself. Because there were such high expectations.

I feel like the expectation level has kind of dissipated a little bit, which is nice. I approached this album from a very pure place, which allowed me to create a better record.

Growing up a lot in the last couple years, turning 30, has really affected my music too. I’m in a totally different head space than I was three years ago. I was super depressed back then. I’ve learned how to enjoy the moment a lot more, and that is a huge lyrical inspiration for the album.

Q: What can people expect from live show?

A: It’ll be mostly new material from the album. Some of the soundtrack stuff and maybe one of the hits from back in the day. Also a cool light show.

Q: What will you do with your downtime in D.C.?

A: I love the monuments. I feel like D.C. is one of the places in this country that really holds on to history. The monuments inspire me, especially at night. I love the Lincoln Memorial at night.

Skylar Grey plays the U Street Music Hall Monday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 by going to Ticketfly.com.


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