Violet Skies writes pop music with teeth. She’s able to seamlessly blend together classic pop hooks that you’ll struggle to get out of your head with emotionally intuitive vocals that pierce through your heart like a dagger to make an instant connection. Whether it be writing songs for herself or writing for other artists, this multi-talented musician is able to create memorable music that’ll stay with you long after the track finishes playing. With the release of her debut album and a headlining tour to go alongside it, I had the pleasure of sitting down with her and chatting all things music.
For anyone who doesn’t know you already, give us an elevator pitch on who Violet Skies is?
I am a singer songwriter from South Wales. I make pretty stripped back, comfortably honest pop music and I also write songs for lots of other people. I live a bit of a dual life and I love it.
Yeah, you’ve written for Mabel and Tiesto, how has it been getting your music out there in that fashion?
I put out a couple of artist projects pre 2017 and kind of took a break from it. I had messy management, no team and was just lost with it all. I ended up writing for other people, started an all female writing collective called sheWrites so it just ended up that I was writing for other people. Most of the time now I write with other artists in the room and help them realise their vision the same way people do with me. The Tiesto song I wrote with my friend Josh, I’d only met him that first day but now we’re fast friends, and I wrote it thinking it could be on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m as surprised as anyone else with where that song landed where it did and I’m very luck because its taken me to many exciting places.
Speaking about sheWrites, You and Charlie McClean founded it as a series of woman-only camps for songwriters, producers, and artists, to rebalance the opportunities for female identifying talent in the studio. How has this experience been for you?
It’s a lot of work, we’re a non profit so in the early days before we were running camps with major labels we were doing a lot of fundraising from lots of different sponsors. From YouTube to Spotify to Steinburg to Ableton, we’ve pulled funding from everywhere and rightly so, they owe it to the industry to be supporting women. It’s a lot, you’re running a camp with 60 women in 5 days, it was so silly to do and was trial by fire, now our camps are a lot smaller but you’re still co-ordinating the diaries of 10 people which can be a lot. We’re incredibly involved and it saved me so I’m always thankful for it.
You’ve got ones in Japan and Berlin too. I can only imagine the stress that must bring to do this in the UK but also other countries as well.
I Think we’ve done 10 countries now. We recently did a K-Pop camp in Korea over Zoom, we’ve done three or four in LA, a mini one in Spain, two or three in Sweden and a virtual one in Japan too. Wow that’s a lot now that I list it out to you!
It’s one of those things where you zoom in one detail and when you look outwards you realise how much it is.
Yeah cos we’re just plowing forward, what is left to achieve for women in music? Producer of the year at The Grammy’s would be our long term goal, we’d love for one of those women to come through sheWrites. There’s still so much ahead of us, the number are up and I credit TikTok for a large part of that for the amount of female role models there are now. You just focus on it until that’s all you see in front of you is this tiny dot, it’s the same with everything I do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and obsess over insane detail, it makes me good at my job but can be a bit overwhelming.
I agree regarding TikTok massively. I think the main one as of late was Olivia Rodrigo who’s inspired a whole new generation of Gen Z artists to pursue music as a full time career.
Billie Eilish as well but I’m actually specifically talking about singer songwriters and producer. We’ve never had an issue with female artists doing well, there’s many problems within what it is to be a woman in music full stop, but when it comes to women behind the scenes the numbers are so much worse. There’s an endless list of female role models from Taylor Swift to Aretha Franklin and before and after that. Can you name me one female producer?
If I’m perfectly honest I don’t think I could name you one female producer or one male producer. I’ll be open the producing side of things I haven’t got a Scooby about a lot of it.
Haha I appreciate the honesty man! I guess everyone knows Max Martin to an extent and I want to find the female version of that. Someone who changes the face of pop music.
Going into that, do you have any tips for young female songwriters, producers and artists who’re trying to get their foot in the industry door currently but don’t know where to start?
It sounds a bit metaphory, when I experienced no access with many doors, hell I didn’t even know where the doors were, getting in the door is one thing but knowing where they are is another. Where do you fucking start? Okay I make music that’s one, but there’s loads of doors but most people think there’s only one or two. With sheWrites and even my artist career, because I’m still independent, you can build your own door and can still get in the building that way. It can take you a bit longer but building your own team, being resourceful, waking up and thinking about it every single day is kind of the only way to do it. You’ll get a million no’s, I get a lot of no’s all the time and even those at the absolute peak get a ton of no’s all the time or perceived failures. Be nice because the industry is small and we will chat shit about the people who’re awful. Also don’t throw music onto the internet unless knowing a little bit about what you want to do first. Growth is amazing and it’s fine to do that in public eye, just be careful about what you post and be conscious of where you’re going before you suddenly take off.
Speaking of growth, during your early years of performing you sung at every pub in Chepstow, every pop up show you could and even at the local high street. Do you remember the first local gig you performed, can you paint the picture for us?
I was 15 or 16 and was in a band with some friends from school, my music teacher put us together. One of boys called Josh I actually ended up writing a lot of music together. Mr Ellum used to have a couple of other boys in the Jazz band in the year above, they all left to uni and he made a new band with us. He handpicked five of us, very Simon Cowell like of him, to be this new Jazz Pop band and he got us a gig that was next week at the local bonfire night. It was 2000 people and I can remember it so clearly, I’d done other little talent shows but that was my first real gig. My mum will probably tell me there was another but that’s the one I remember the most. I’ve got very fond memories of that time.
And now you’ve made it, releasing your own album and headlining your own tour on the same day.
It’s definitely a long journey and along process to get there. I spoke to another artist called Frances on their podcast last year, she said that I’ve had a really insane, very non-linear route and that’s exactly how it feels for me. There’s been a lot of whiplash with changing direction sometimes and just trying to find a route in to where I could feel comfortable and happy. The pandemic was tough for some people but it finally crystallised that I’m where I’m meant to be right now.
With this path being so non-linear and you going in so many directions, can you remember a moment where you just thought, wow this is crazy what is happening right now?
There’s been quite a few… next Thursday, the day before the album comes out, I write a lot with a songwriter called Rick Nowels and next week I’m flying to New York to meet him as he gets inducted into the songwriters hall of fame. He wrote Summertime Sadness, Heaven is a Place on Earth and a bunch of other massive songs. At the Songwriters Hall of Fame he’s doing a medley of like 10 of his best songs and I’m singing them. I’ve sung those songs before but as covers or tiny little gigs so it’s quite a surreal moment that when my album drops I’ll be in New York doing that with Rick. It’s an insane honour and I still find it hard to wrap my head around it. He called me in the car a couple of weeks ago and asked me to do it, I cried.
That’s… That’s actually insane I don’t what to say to that!
I know! It’s a bit mad isn’t it? My first red carpet will be the night my album drops, it’s such divine timing because not many things like this have ever happened to me. He called me and even checked my tour schedule, said I’d have time to perform and then come back to continue my tour. I basically come for 48hours, perform in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and then come back to go to Manchester and perform.
That must feel like A) a whirlwind and B) a full circle moment because you’d of gone from listening to his hits on the radio to then performing them with him. It’s madness.
It is absolutely wild. I still have to pinch myself because the other people performing on stage that night are idols of mine. I’ve covered and listened to all of their music before, to be asked to sing these songs with Rick is such an honour to be able to sing these other icon’s songs. I couldn’t of timed it better or worse because of how stressed I am because of it haha!
And the polar opposite to that, I also heard you sang a lot of musicals when you were younger too, even played Puss in Boots on stage at your school. Do you think these musicals helped shape your view on storytelling within your own sound and are there any shows specifically you keep finding yourself going back to?
What a fucking great question man! You’re probably right. The crazy thing is my sister’s got two little kids and yesterday I was looking after one of them. I put on Lady & The Tramp, began singing it to my little nephew and I was thinking oh my god I love this musical. There’s something about musicals that even though sonically and musically I don’t lean that way too much, I realise how much I love the storytelling in them. Musicals are often not too personal but the songs are so universal, they’re not filled with as much personal detail as I love to include in my stuff but that’s probably why I love it. It’s especially where I learned how to tell a story with your voice and not just the lyrics.
I think its one of those things where you can tell when an artist has grown up with musicals or is a fan of them because of how they tell their stories, so it’s always interesting to hear how people view it in that sense.
I hadn’t even made the connection until you asked so I really appreciate that.
And today you just released your single Valley, a single about the valleys in Pontypridd and your nanny who loved it when storms rolled in. How does it feel having such an intimate part of your life being put on full display through this tender single?
I had to really think about it, I loved the song when I wrote it but there are a lot of details in there and unless you know me or read the captions I post you might just assume it’s me writing about someone else but it’s ultimately my nan saying this to me. I’m writing this from her perspective which is new to me, I usually only write in first person so this feels unusual for me. It’s not really my details to share so I sent my mam the lyrics, she loved it and as long as she approves then it’s fine.
You do put your all into your music, but you also go full in for the visuals. With Settle you walked into the freezing cold sea late in the day in a three piece suit, are there any other moments you’ve had where you’ve wondered why the hell you’re doing it but made it all worth while when you saw the final results later on?
The Internet music video was fairly similar because in my head the song was only 3 minutes so the longest I’d be on the treadmill was 3 minutes. Of course we have to film everything multiple times and although a lot of the takes were one shot we had to do it from multiple angles and have rehearsals the day before. I think we worked out I spent around 12 plus hours on a treadmill for two days. Even in-between shots I was either walking or running on the treadmill and we ran the routine that many times in an hour as well as learning the choreography. We have so many outtakes of me doing it again and again and again. There was a point where we were going home on the way back, I stood up when we got back and realised I couldn’t walk because my legs seized up. I was just hoping we go the right shot with it!
The dedication for that alone I rate so highly!
Thank you, it’s fun! You’ve gotta keep things interesting for yourself or you’re just saying the words to the camera you know?
Agree fully, and speaking of keeping things interesting, outside of music, what is it that inspires you?
I’m not joking man! I fucking love plants! I do read books as well, I really love great TV too. I don’t watch a lot of reality show TV but love amazingly scripted, well scored TV and film but especially TV. There’s just something about a well written comment like Killing Eve, I May Destroy You, Chewing Gum, just amazing writing. Building a world around it is just something I relate too so much with what I do.
Scoring TV shows, there’s one scene in a TV show that’s making the rounds right now with its score and I’m fairly certain you can tell what I’m going to ask. Season 4 of Stranger Things, episode 4, what do you think of that moment?
It’s amazing, it’s a perfect use of music in TV. The moment is so special because she’s listening to the song at the same time where a song is perfect for the scene. That feeling of running away is that feeling she’s capturing. I remember when I heard it, and I mean really heard it, for the first time in 2010 when I was listening to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush properly and thinking about the synths in Running Up That Hill song. Then you realise it’s about a woman saying I wish I could be man and be in your place, then maybe you’d understand me. It’s such insightful feminism in a song but she sings it in a way that makes it seem like she’s saving him. It’s absolute genius and I’m happy she’s getting her moment again because she’s truly one of the all time greats.
As we’re getting to the end of this interview lets talk about some of your teachers. Your music teacher Mr Ellum and other teacher Miss Allard were the people who originally inspired you to write music many years ago. Is there any piece of advice that they gave you that you’d like to pass onto others?
It was potentially less about the writing with them, they retired together recently and I think it was nothing they ever said. Mr Ellum was always very chill but the two of them just loved music at its core. They were so encouraging of me taking solos or trying stuff our, I remember Miss Allard once told me that I didn’t have to dance just stand in the middle during a show. They just loved music for musics sake and that was such an inspiring thing to have around a 12 year old. Miss Allard said when I was learning theory, I wasn’t that great at it, don’t worry it’s not the end of the world if don’t get it right, we’re just doing it so you can pass this exam but it doesn’t matter because you can sing. There’s no rules in music, just do whatever you like.
Finally who’re you counting in?
My favourites are Lonely Twin, Orla Gartland, Greta Isaac, Martin Luke Brown, Jensen McRae and lastly Nell Mescal and if you come to my tour you might hear more of her.