Interview: Sky Ferreira Talks "Red Lips," Terry Richardson and Being Seen As A Socialite

Interview: Sky Ferreira Talks "Red Lips," Terry Richardson and Being Seen As A SocialitePhoto by Terry Richardson

People know so much about your modeling career. But the way you talk about it, music has always been a part of your life. I read that you grew up with Michael Jackson.
It never really fazed me when I was younger ‘cause he was just always Michael to me. I knew he was a big singer and all this stuff, but I never knew the extent of it. He kind of was the person who really supported my singing and writing at a young age. Not that I was a child prodigy who used to write great songs—I used to just write songs about fish or something. [Laughs.] I guess he always saw something in me, and he told my mom what to do with me. He told her, “You should put her in a gospel choir,” so she did. I loved singing. I’m not super into religion, but I loved the feeling of singing gospel music, and I still do. Then he told her that I should get classically trained when I was around 12, so I learned how to sing opera also.

Gospel music helped me learn how to sing with meaning, you know? I can’t sing a song if I don’t know what I’m singing about. If I don’t feel anything for it, then I can’t sing it. That was kind of the main issue with me doing dance music live. I felt a bit trapped.

How did you know him? Was it through your parents?
My mom worked for him for like thirty years and they became really close friends. She was his hairdresser. They hit it off and he was just kind of like my mentor in a way.

That’s very cool to say.
Yeah, “Michael Jackson was my mentor.” Yeah, that’s insane. I was around him my whole life. It was really weird because he actually died two days after I signed my record deal, and it was just a very strange thing. It still hasn’t hit me sometimes, it doesn’t faze me that he’s not alive.

So what can we expect from your upcoming album?
Well I’m working with Jon Brion. He did all of the Fiona Apple records and the Aimee Mann records. I’m also working with Ariel Rechtshaid. He just did “Climax” with Usher. That stuff is a little more dreamier. Old fans will be a lot more excited about the next single because it will be a lot more electronic than “Red Lips” in kind of a new wave type of way. Oh, and Blake Mills. But that’s pretty much who I’m sticking with. I didn’t want to work with too many producers because everyone has their own opinion of what you should do and then you start doubting yourself.

Yeah it seems like you’re going to have a very eclectic album because you have “Red Lips,” which sounds very 90s grunge, and then you have more electronic music that you mentioned.
Yeah. It was originally gonna be called Wild At Heart but I changed it to I’m Not Alright because it’s my favorite song off the record. It kind of sums up everything I like in music with my own personal taste. More so than an album, I’d like to call it a collection.

This album, compared to a bunch of people just doing songs with me, is more like a collaboration with each person. It really makes it special. A lot of it is very personal, which a lot of my music hasn’t been before. It was always like a statement or something and now it’s actually about myself. It makes me a bit vulnerable, but it’s fine. It’s a good thing.

You mentioned the fact that your music before was always just a “statement.” Was that your choice or was it the record label’s choice?

It was my choice. It always makes a lot more sense in my head, my lyrics, than it does to everyone else. [Laughs.] It’s kind of like the music video. It totally made sense to me and I thought everyone would get it. I had to explain what it was about. Even with “One,” I had to explain it.

But some of it is so straightforward, too. It’s also a bit tongue-in-cheek. There’s always a bit of sarcasm to what I write. When I write by myself, when I write my own lyrics, it gets a bit dreary, so it’s kind of nice having someone else come in to make it a little less depressing. Less self-loathing. [Laughs.]

Why do you find yourself writing about those really deep and personal things?
Well, before I was scared to.  With this album, I knew I had to. I just want people to kind of understand me on the level of who I truly am and get to know me because I feel like no one really knows me, at least on the Internet.

 

It’s so funny reading these things like, 'Sky Ferreira’s gone edgy rocker from clean-cut pop star!' The first thing that ever came out about me was a picture of me with a vodka bottle between my legs!

 

There’s a lot of misconception about me and that makes me really upset and that’s why I kind of started my Tumblr—so I could speak directly. I feel like Twitter is a bit weird to do that because everyone is literally looking at it. On Tumblr, it’s more of my fans. I mean, there’s a few lurkers but it’s not as bad as Twitter. I kind of feel like there’s a lot of people my age with the same feelings, trying to figure out who they are.

I’m just in a weird position because even though I haven’t hit it big, people still know who I am. So, it’s not like I’m “new” either. I’m not trying to hide anything that I did in the past either. First my intention with this album was like, “OK, this is just going to explain who I am.” But it’s kind of impossible. So the album is a never-ending thing of thoughts and experiences that I’ve had in the past few years.

What’s one of the huge misconception about you that you really want to clear up?
The socialite thing is always funny or weird because I’m not really a social person. [Laughs.] I don’t really hang out with a lot of people. I have about four real friends and I’ve always kind of been like that

I just want people to know that I’m a real person. Not everyone has to be a gimmick. Everyone thinks in pop music that you have to be a gimmick. I’m not an object. That’s why, if I ever became huge, I wouldn’t want to name my fans because I want people to think for themselves and I want people to know that I think for myself. That’s what I want to put out there.

How did you get into the club scene as a teenager? What’s changed since that?
I was working on my hustle, I guess. I figured that's how Madonna started; I should do it, too. I met some cool people and it was fun. I'm not really interested in going out at the moment. I guess since I started early, I kind of lost interest early.

A couple of years ago, there was that picture of you at 17-years-old holding a vodka bottle at a club that Katy Perry tweeted.
Yeah, with the plastic vodka bottle. That’s why it’s so funny reading these things like, “Sky Ferreira’s gone edgy rocker from clean-cut pop star!" The first thing that ever came out about me was a picture of me with a vodka bottle between my legs! [Laughs.].

If anything, I’ve calmed down a lot more. Well, actually, you know what else I’d like to clarify? I’m not a fucking drug addict. It drives me crazy because I don’t do drugs. I’ve smoked pot before, but I can’t do that because my throat hurts. I don’t even smoke cigarettes or anything. I don’t even really drink. Of course when I do drink, there’s always a party photographer there or someone with a camera phone will take a picture, which is totally fine because I should be doing that. Not saying that I should be, but people that are my age are in college now doing that everyday. I’m not saying I’m not trying to be a role model because I do wanna be a role model, in some sense, but I’m not trying to be a saint either because I’m not one. But I’m also not crazy or a party girl or something. And for some reason, since I was a little kid, my eyes have always been really dark. I’ve always had really dark circles and they always look kind of sleepy. So people just assume that I’m high all the time and I’m not at all. [Laughs.]

How did you make those connections with celebrities like Katy Perry?
I met Katy through mutual friends and we're label mates. I don't really know any celebrities besides the ones I've worked with. Usually, if you're at an event or something, people will ask you to take a photo together and it doesn't go much farther than that.

So hopefully this will clear everything up.
Yeah, well hopefully everyone will stop saying I do drugs or crack or whatever. [Laughs.] I mean, I think its kind of funny that people think that.

Tags: sky-ferreira, red-lips, terry-richardson
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