Justine Skye talks new 'Bare With Me' era: 'I'm trusting myself for the first time' (Exclusive)
Justine Skye her regained control of her voice again.
After years of feeling pushed around while signed to major labels, the 24-year-old singer just released a six-song EP, "Bare With Me," as an independent artist which serves as a return to form for Skye.
"Before I was signed, everything was very authentic and based off of just the passion of it all, and now that’s what I’m doing again," she told AOL's Gibson Johns ahead of her performance at Farfetch's Sunset Sessions series. "I’m still giving it some structure because, obviously, you need some structure in life, but I’m going with the flow and I’m trusting myself for the first time and being more raw."
For a while, Skye found herself doing things for others: Going in one direction for her label, another for her fans, another because it was what her peers were doing; but now she's headed one way -- and that's the direction that she wants for herself.
"Even if no one likes it, I’m still in love with it," she said of the EP. "I always used to look for validation for everything that I did, but now I’m in a place where I’m like: I don’t care, I don’t care what you think about this because I know it’s dope."
Check out AOL's full interview with Justine Skye on the heels of her "Bare With Me" release below:
You have a new EP, "Bare With Me," out on August 27. What can you tell me about this latest project?
It’s very much me going back to the sound that I kind of started with, but just evolving that. If I had to describe it, it’s very where I’m from: My family is Jamaican, so that’s in my roots and I’m from East Flatbush, which is very Caribbean-heavy, but I’m also of the new-age of Brooklyn. It’s then and now, and it’s just the evolution of me.
How did you decide who to work and collaborate with on the EP?
Now that I’m an independent artist, I had to curate it on my own in collaboration with some friends who truly believe in me, and that’s the way I’ve always wanted it to be. I reached out to people I’ve worked with in the past who I know I love, and there are some new people that I just worked with on this project who I got to actually build a relationship with instead of just being in the music industry structure of going into the studio and working with somebody that you don’t know. The song may come out great that way, but is it really me? I’m really proud of the way it came out, and I’m so happy for people to see the direction I’m going in. This is a six-song EP, so it’s just a taste of where I’m going which is why it’s called “Bare With Me.”
In a streaming-dominated world where so many artists are just dropping one-off tracks, it's comforting to see you releasing a collection of songs.
I love to listen to bodies of work, but that’s just me. Some people don’t, but now that I’m presenting myself in a different light I need people to understand what my sound is, because that’s also been a conversation that I hear about myself: People know I can sing, but what is my sound?
You're performing at as Vol. III of the Farfetch x World of McIntosh Sunset Sessions in New York, where your new sound will likely reach the ears of people in the fashion crowd. What does it mean to have the support of a company like Farfetch?
Farfetch was actually one of the first fashion retailers to support me. It’s very high-fashion, and me being a young girl they reached out to me and I remember I was so excited for the shoot -- it was my first big shoot! -- and to see it on the front page was really, really huge. When they reached out again to perform at this, it was a no-brainer.
What role does fashion and your overall image play in your identity and expression as an artist?
Every artist has their thing, and I’m 23 so I’m still finding my thing, and I express that through my hair and my makeup and the clothes that I wear. I used to say that my style was very '90s and Naomi and Foxy Brown-ish, but it’s really based on my emotions and how I’m feeling at the moment. I kind of wing it most of the time -- not gonna sit here and lie [Laughs] -- and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not, but I do have a stylist who I trust very much and she helps me keep it cohesive. Her name is Ade Samuel. I also always want to represent my culture and where I'm from in the way I dress.
When you're in the studio and crafting a project like "Bare With Me," do visuals and music video concepts and photo shoot ideas pop into your head? Talk me through how that creative process works for you.
Life is a music video for me. From the day I decided I wanted to be an artist, everything has been that way: I’m always coming up with choreography in my head and even though I’m not best dancer in the world, in my head I am. [Laughs] I’ve been signed to a label since I was 17, and everything has been so overly produced, but before I was signed everything was very authentic and based off of just the passion of it all, and now that’s what I’m doing again. I’m still giving it some structure because, obviously, you need some structure in life, but I’m going with the flow and I’m trusting myself for the first time and being more raw. It’s been shown time and again that just because you have a million-dollar budget, doesn’t mean that it’s going to have an impact.
You got your start on Tumblr and gained a loyal fanbase there. Years later, how are you reaching fans now and how has that social media relationship evolved for you?
It’s definitely growing, and a lot of my fans are growing with me. They’ve been on this journey with me and the new people don’t understand it yet, but through this project and everything moving forward, they will. Like, they’re here, and they’re waiting for it because they came on when the label was involved and I was being pushed, but not in the right way. Now that I’m doing it in my way, it’ll all make sense.
When you scroll through the comments on your Instagram, what do you see that fans want from you? Is there a common refrain?
They want me to be real, and that’s something that I kept trying to express over the course of my career, and I knew I needed because that’s how it all started: Me just being authentic and following my gut about what I put out there. [My fans] were like, “Go back to your old music!” Obviously, you can’t go back to your old music, but it’s the feeling because [when I was signed to a label] I was just singing songs without any feeling behind them.
What's your new mentality right now heading into a new era?
It’s my first release as an independent artist, and I try to just remain super chill -- as chill as I can -- because at the end of the day, I’m very, very pleased with this project. People enjoy it and that’s great to know. Even if no one likes it, I’m still in love with it. I always used to look for validation for everything that I did, but now I’m in a place where I’m like: I don’t care, I don’t care what you think about this because I know it’s dope. I realize that when people think it’s dope, too, they’re going to come back and be like, "Why didn’t you tell me that you did this?!" It’s like, "Get on the train!"
This interview has been edited and condensed.