Sky Ferreira has a drawl and a pout to rival Sophia Loren, the ruffled hair and style of a young Courtney Love, and a voice that once reduced Michael Jackson to tears. Since breaking on to the scene at the tender age of 15, she has been under the media’s watchful eye. Now 19, and about to break out with her debut album, Sky very much represents a new wave of creative artists defining their own direction – choosing when to release material, what to wear, what to say, and generally sticking two fingers up to the traditional artist/label mechanism.
She is unusually independent. Rather than relying on publicists, she speaks to people herself whenever she can, making sure she has the final say over the decisions that will affect her future. Her continual reinvention is grounded in her personal development and enthusiasm to experiment, rather than being based on the fads of pop’s ever-changing landscape.
Sky has always been into music. She was trained in opera from a young age, and sang with a gospel choir from 11. At the age of 15, she brazenly asked Swedish production gods, Bloodshy & Avant, to work with her. On hearing her powerful voice, the duo, who have produced songs for Britney, Kylie and Ms Dynamite, were keen to collaborate. Sky became a sensation of the Myspace generation: blogged, re-blogged and tweeted, and quickly picked up by EMI. After writing songs for Britney, and remixing The Virgins and Justice, she released a controversial EP, ‘As If!’ in 2011. EMI then shelved her debut, and Sky took time to assess her future and sound. The album is now to be released in Spring 2012, and she is leaving her dirty electropop sound behind to let her astonishing vocals do the talking.
Recently, Sky has become better known for her work in fashion and association with the Brooklyn set. Her generation Y, up-all-night aesthetic has made her ripe for the fashion industry’s picking. She can currently be seen kissing supermodel Lara Stone in CK Shock adverts. But Sky does not want to be recognised purely as the face of a brand. Her debut album promises to define her through her music.
Despite often exposing a side that is introverted and fragile, when it comes to her music and identity, Sky is not willing to compromise. She’s come a long way from the bullied teenager who ditched school to find solace listening to records down at Venice Beach. The Hunger took some time out with Sky in her new hometown of New York City.
The Hunger: Are you a normal teenager?
Sky Ferreira: To a certain extent, but I do a lot of abnormal things. I don’t have paparazzi running after me yet but I do feel that I’ve had to grow up a lot faster. I feel more mature because, from a young age, I’ve been put in situations where I need to act like an adult. I haven’t really missed out; I’m not upset about missing prom, I got to travel the world and meet different people instead. Through work, I’ve been to parties that were way better than my school prom would have been.
Why was school so difficult for you?
I hated the whole setup. I was really shy – I still am – so I liked learning, but not in that situation. I always felt like someone was watching me. I really enjoyed being home-schooled and being able to move at my own pace, and read more than when I was at school. I learned a lot more by myself than I did then. But even then, my mind was focused on making music.
In middle school, this girl would constantly pick on me. One day, when she wasn’t looking, I just snipped her hair. There was a pair of scissors, she said something really nasty to me and then – I don’t know what happened, it was like a demon inside of me – I just cut half her ponytail off. She had bugged me for a year straight, constantly saying nasty things. She found a new way to fuck with me, and I’d had enough. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t hit her, I just cut her hair off.
What did she do?
Cried, like I suspected.
“I don’t have a filter between thinking and saying”
You’re known for saying what you think. Do you ever feel that you’ve gone too far?
I don’t have a filter between thinking and saying, which seems to be a problem. I’m getting better. The label tried to media-train me, but it didn’t quite work. I don’t regret saying anything, because I usually mean it, but some things I’ve said as a joke have been twisted to make me sound like I was serious. Some journalists want you to seem like an asshole or more dumb than you are. I am really sarcastic and I don’t think people catch on to that, especially when it’s on paper. Now I’ve become a little more self-conscious about how to word things properly, but I won’t hold back if I want to say something. If I mean something, I need to say it. For me, it’s really important to be honest and open because it catches up with you when you aren’t.
DOES CRITICISM WORRY YOU?
No. I used to pay attention, but if it’s not from a source that means something to me, I just ignore it. If David Lynch criticised me, I’d certainly be upset.
What would you like people to say about you?
I just want people to think that I’m talented; that’s what I’m trying to prove with this album. I know I do all the fashion stuff, but I wasn’t getting exposure from my record label, so I had to find some way to get it. Modelling helped me do that. It’s a lot of fun. Visuals are a big part of music, in a way. It’s flattering that I’m asked, because I’m not a model, but they still choose to put me in the photographs. But to feel satisfied, I’d like people to notice that I am talented, and not just a hip girl, I guess.
Does the hip girl tag piss you off?
Yes, but I need to make money, so I have to do the modelling stuff. I’m not complaining, I’ve got to know a lot of cool people, but I want to be taken seriously as a musician now, and it’s hard sometimes.
Has life been different since moving to New York?
New York and LA have a different energy. It’s a lot faster-paced here, so I find that I get a lot more done. In LA, it’s laid back. Everything is also really close here, so I walk everywhere. In LA, I drive. My mom is in LA, too, so I can stay with her and not have to pay for anything.
“If David Lynch criticised me, I’d certainly be upset.”
Was the transition from anonymous to famous strange?
I don’t really ever feel it; there are only certain times that it feels surreal. I met Kate Moss, which was totally weird, because that stuff doesn’t happen to me, or didn’t happen to me before. I’ve just started to hear rumours about myself; dating people that I don’t even know, for example. Suddenly people think I’m dating Jared Leto, which is insane, because I’ve only ever said two words to him. One of the Jonas Brothers, too. I can go everywhere with my boyfriend, and no one says a thing.
How do you feel about your new album?
I’m really excited about it. I think it’ll show people what I’ve been working on for the past few years. I’ve got a lot to prove. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m not 15 any more but I still write everything myself; it just sounds different to before. It should be out in spring; I’m planning on finishing it by January. There’s a weird 12-week rule, though, where it has to come out 12 weeks after you’ve finished it. After that, touring.
The album’s been quite a long time in the making. My record label felt it wasn’t up to par. By the time we’d come to release it, it had been sitting around for ages, so why would I bother? I’d rather make new music than release outdated music.
“Every girl is labelled another version of someone that came out two month’s before.”
Is it annoying always being compared to other artists?
It’s really annoying. I hate to say that ‘they don’t do that to men’, but it’s quite true. Every girl is labelled another version of someone that came out two month’s before. It can be flattering to be compared to some people, but it’s still annoying. I’m trying to be myself – that’s all I can be. I still get compared to Madonna, but I think it’s just because we have similar hair, come from the East Village and make dance music.
How have you grown in the last four years?
I’ve grown a lot. People forget that I was 14 when I started and I’m now 19, almost 20. It’s a big difference. Anyone of that age would be different, musically and otherwise.
If the music doesn’t work out, what’s your plan B?
I’m always going to try and make music. It might not work out this time, but I’ll keep on doing it until it does.
Sky’s debut album will be released in 2012.