You’ve heard Skylar Grey’s vocals on countless chart-toppers, including Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go,” Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” and Nicki Minaj’s “Bed of Lies.” You’ve seen Margot Robbie kick ass to Grey’s contributions to the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack; and you’ve appreciated her songwriting through hits including Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” and Celine Dion’s “Falling In Love Again.”While known for writing some of new age hip-hop’s biggest bangers, Grey is returning to her Wisconsin roots with her latest project, “Angel With Tattoos.” Echoing Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, the EP comes with the tattooed-edge only an angel with ink can bring.
Growing up with a folk-musician mother and a father in a barbershop quartet, “Angel With Tattoos” features a ‘70s vibe as an ode to the diverse music of her childhood, while seamlessly bridging the generational gap, with hints of Sheryl Crow and KT Tunstall shining through. Grey, engaged to singer/songwriter Elliott Taylor—who nicknamed Grey “angel with tattoos”—tells Inked that inspired this project. “It’s to help the world believe in love again,” Grey says. “In this day and age, it’s almost expected to have a fucked up relationship, but I don’t want people to forget that true love and happiness really do exist.” Grey wants people to still believe in the fairytale romance, as she first hand experiences that it’s out there, and it’s possible.Accompanying the mission for listeners to put their faith in fairy tale romance, the album’s other calling is to deter tattoo judgment, as the nickname captures Grey’s duality as a sweet girl with a rebellious edge. “Along with loving the art and commitment that goes into tattoos, I actually got them partially because I am a sensitive person, and I felt having tattoos would make me tougher, and people would not want to push me around anymore,” Grey says. “I wanted to feel a little bit intimidating on purpose.”This, she mentions, has come around in an unexpected way, as the single “Angel With Tattoos” tells her real-life experience of trying to be welcomed into her partner’s family, but feeling judged because of her body art.“Sometimes people think you’re a bad person when they see your tattoos,” she says. “That’s why Elliott came up with the phrase, because he knows the real me. He knows I’m a good person, I’m honest and loyal, and would do anything for him.”
As her tattoos illustrate a nature and woodland theme—including her back piece and “woodrat” chest lettering done by Mister Cartoon, and nature-inspired Tye Harris sleeve—Grey spent some time isolated in nature to write. There, she found a new perspective on life, and unknowingly, slingshotted to success. “When I was 23 I had a flop in my career,” Grey explains. “I lost my record deal and was going through a bad breakup so I moved to a cabin in the woods and I didn’t know what was going to happen in my life. I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts and living in the unknown, grey-area of the life, I felt like I was in a fog.”Grey, whose stage name represents the undiscovered possibilities in life, confronted this fog, saying, “I knew as long as I kept moving through it, I was going to reach something. I’m either going to fall off the edge of a cliff or fall into a pile of gold.” She adds, “I realized that not being afraid to walk in the unknown, and diving into it with confidence is what brought me the best opportunity of my life.”This opportunity was writing Eminem and Rihanna’s hit single “Love The Way You Lie.”
To honor guiding herself through the unknown, Mister Cartoon tattooed “Grey” across her knuckles. While her work with Eminem has been a long-time dream of hers, Grey has more unexplored territory to uncover.“Ever since I wrote for Eminem I keep getting invited back to write more and to tour multiple times,” Grey says. “I’ve developed a really amazing relationship with him creatively. The whole relationship has been so important to my life and career, and I’m so grateful for it.” Alongside Breakthrough of the Year and MTV Video Music Awards, Grey’s VMA nomination for the “Video for Good” category, through her work with Jamie N Commons and Gallant on “Runaway Train,” was an extremely special project for her. The song is a call to recognize and take action to support the hundreds of thousands of missing children and teens in the United States today. “We actually found a missing child with that music video,” Grey says. “It was really cool because they used this technology to make the video interactive in the sense that whatever city you were watching the video from, it features different missing kids based on your area.” Helping to locate children, whether they’re in New York or Nebraska, is something Grey is more proud of than the nomination itself. “To have the video nominated means more exposure, giving us a better chance of finding more kids,” Grey adds. “It was extremely cool to be a part of.”Including her recent release with Train called “Mai Tais,” which premiered on an episode of “Magnum P.I.” Skylar Grey shares that her singles will continue to pour. “Making ‘Angel With Tattoos’ an open-ended album, I am breaking the rules. As I write songs that I feel fit the vibe of this album, I’ll keep adding them to it,” Grey says. “I’ve released these first five songs, but it’s definitely just the start.”