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Skylar Grey’s co-signs and collaborators include Eminem and Rihanna (2010’s “Love The Way You Lie”), Diddy (“Coming Home”) and Dr. Dre (she contributed to 2011’s “I Need A Doctor” performance at the Grammys), and the singer and songwriter is herself a multiple Grammy nominee. Yet, for the last six years — since her last album, “Natural History” — she has all but retreated from public view.

During that time, Grey hit “rock bottom,” she tells Variety, suffering a divorce so bitter that she was forced to sell her catalog to pay her legal bills. She wasn’t happy about the sale, but Grey has moved on — now engaged, she has started the process of rebuilding her library with a new album, the intimate, self-titled “Skylar Grey” (released April 29).

Variety spoke with Grey about the tumult of the last few years, why she doesn’t want to tour anymore and her plans going forward.

You’ve had a lot of life upheaval since we last spoke.

I wasn’t really allowed to talk about everything that was going on because I was in a legal dispute, so I didn’t want any of that to bite me in the ass by saying something. So yeah, I just was keeping it private. But since 2017 I was going through a divorce and lawsuit, that was just wrecking me emotionally and financially. This past year, 2021, we finally resolved it, settled, I had to sell my catalog in order to afford the settlement, which was very sad in a way, because those songs like “Love The Way You Lie” and “Coming Home,” those are my babies. But at the same time, nobody can tell me I didn’t write those songs just ’cause I don’t own the rights to them anymore. I didn’t want to sell them, but it was my only way to put the past behind me…

So this wasn’t like what Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen did when they sold their recorded and publishing rights for hundreds of millions of dollars? 

No. I wanted to keep building it and growing it. But, I have such a weight off of me now with the case being over, I’m not on the phone with lawyers every day, and I’m not having to pay all these legal bills anymore. Now I’m just focused on creating a new catalog and new money and new opportunities.

Have your feelings towards the songs changed at all after having had to sell them?

They’re still near and dear to my heart and yeah, I will always treasure them, but it’s different now. Every time one of those songs get used in a movie or whatever, I don’t see any of that money anymore. But unfortunately, the majority of what I got paid for my catalog went to taxes and my ex-husband. [Laughs] It’s like your life’s work, and then suddenly it’s like, “Okay, I’ve got to give the majority of this away.” But that was my only option. Luckily, I had the option of doing something like that, otherwise I may not have gotten out of the case.

After going through all of that, how much of this album was a catharsis for you?

The whole album is a cathartic release for me, it’s expressing a lot of emotions I felt over however many years it’s been. And it was hard, it was a lot of turmoil, depression, I was going through a lot of shit. So this album, I feel like reflects those emotions and the things that I was going through.

Was there one song early on that started this album?

The first song I wrote on the album was “Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Tears.” And I wrote it about that feeling of I’m putting on this facade, like this fake smile, because I can’t tell the world what I’m going through, so I’m pretending everything’s all good, but I’m on the verge of tears all the time. That was written in either the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, and that began the process. I feel like [with] that song, I found a vibe that I was really wanting to nail, and then I built from there.

When you’re forced to sell your catalog, it almost feels like the music is taken away from you; did that change your relationship with music at any point?

Yeah, a good portion of that time over the past six years, I was, like, “What’s the point?” I wasn’t feeling inspired; I was feeling really discouraged about my career, and simultaneously as that stuff was going on, I got dropped from Interscope, and I had a manager that dropped me as well, so I kind of hit rock bottom last year.

But once you hit rock bottom, there’s only one place to go —  up.

Exactly. And that’s why I made this album. It’s kind of like the transformation I made after hitting rock bottom, going through all these emotions and then coming out the other side feeling stronger than ever, which is where I’m at now. I guess it’s always darkest before the dawn.

It’s interesting that with your success, you were dropped by both Interscope and a manager. Did they give you a reason why?

The issue with Interscope, we actually had a very amicable split, which was not something you hear about all the time. At the time, I was making that EP Angel With Tattoos, which was inspired by my new love. And I was making that album with Aaron Bay-Schuck as my A&R, and then partly through the process, he left and went to Warner [Records]. So [after] that happened, I took my album into Interscope, met with the team, and basically — long story short — they were like, “Well, hip-hop is really the only thing that we’re focused on right now, so if you’re not gonna do hip-hop, it’s probably best we part ways.” So they let me take that music with me and I’m still friends with a lot of people over there.

And what happened with the manager?

The manager situation was interesting. I don’t necessarily want to talk about it, just ’cause I don’t like to throw people under the bus. Have you seen the Kanye West series [“Jeen-Yuhs”]? There’s something he goes through I really related to. This was early in his artist career when he was known for just being a producer, and he would go into these record companies and they would just kind of ignore his artist project because they only saw him as a producer. I feel like that’s kind of how I’m seen in the music industry, but as a songwriter. So I think with a lot of managers, they see me that way too. So they focus on wanting me to write songs for other people, that’s where I’ve made most of my money, so it makes sense. But, at the same time, I want a manager who believes in me as an artist, because being an artist is my real dream.

So it didn’t work out because of that. I just felt like we weren’t seeing eye to eye on that. [So] when I saw that Kanye thing, I was like, “Dude, that’s how I feel right now. I feel like everybody’s categorizing me as the songwriter, and I wanna be an artist.” And he was able to do it, he was able to prove himself and be successful as an artist, so I saw that in a moment where I needed reassurance that what I was doing was right, taking all matters into my own hands, managing myself and producing my own album. I’m doing my own merch, I’m selling my own merch and shipping, packing and shipping out of my house right now. I’m back at square one, but I really believe in what I’m doing.

Does it feel like starting over?

Yeah. I feel like I’m doing this grassroots style now. And I don’t know if I ever really did that before. When I first entered into the music industry in a real way, when I was 18 or 19, I went from making demos to getting signed in a year to having a hit song on the radio with Mike Shinoda, and there wasn’t a whole lot of grassroots build-up for anything that I did. Then I jumped around, writing hits and featuring on stuff for other people. But again, there wasn’t a ton of grassroots foundation built there. I feel like I’m doing that now. I’m going back in time and building this totally fan-driven foundation where I’m super in touch with my fans now — in a way I’ve never been before.

It’s been really eye-opening, and a big confidence booster for me, which is something that I needed as an artist. I have the confidence as a songwriter, but it’s not my passion. I don’t love doing writing sessions with other people, and I don’t love writing songs for other people.

What are your tour plans as a self-contained artist?

Everybody in the industry will combat me on this, but I don’t want to be on tour. I don’t enjoy being on the road. I enjoy the shows themselves, but every other aspect of it — the travel, being away from home — that kind of stuff I hate. And life is too short to wake up and do something you hate every day. So I really enjoy being in the studio. I really enjoy making music videos. And I’m kind of just designing my own career style. It doesn’t have to fit the mold of previous artists. So when it comes to shows, I have two ideas, other than if like the demand is there and I get somebody reaching out saying, “We need you to come here,” and they like make me an offer, then I would be open to doing like spot dates or a minimal tour, but my more interesting ideas are to do some type of a residency somewhere. Locally hopefully, like in a bar where I live. And if people want to come see me, they can come see me. So that’s one idea.

And the other idea is doing virtual tours where you wear the suit and like somebody designs this version of you and you can like actually be in the room with people, but virtually. I don’t know if anybody’s doing that yet. I feel like there’s been versions of it — like Travis Scott showing up in “Fortnite” — but holding my own concerts with people who can like join virtually, and I would love to do that, where I’m still singing live, everything’s happening live, I’m able to interact with people, but I’m doing it from the comfort of my own living room.

Without touring will you be writing more?

Grey: I’ve been focusing on finding cool movie opportunities for music, collaboration. I have some collaborations in the works, working on some video game stuff. I like to like do songs that it’s me singing, it is my song, but it’s like attached to a platform like a movie or something. So that’s kind of stuff I’ve been focusing on, as well as just being creative, making songs, putting ’em in a folder for a potential next album. I definitely don’t want to do is wait another six years to cut another album. My plan is to stay on a path of maybe an album a year. I have a little bit of a revengeful drive in me. They say, the best revenge is success, and so that’s definitely kicking in right now.