Last week I brought you the strange tale of Skylar Gray, a singer and multi-instrumentalist who just dropped his wonderful, years-in-the-making DIY debut, An Inch Equals 200 Miles. As if promoting a self-released record weren't tough enough, Gray has a major marketing problem: there's a Grammy-nominated pop star with a nearly identical name.
Maybe you've heard of Skylar Grey (with an "e") — she sang the hook on Dre's "I Need a Doctor" and wrote the Eminem/Rihanna blockbuster "Love The Way You Lie." After releasing a few things as Holly Brook (her authentic first and middle name), she chose Skylar Grey as her stage name. "It represents the unknowns in life," she told Entertainment Weekly.
So what's Skylar Gray to do? For now, despite the complications, he's hanging onto his name; I caught up with him by email for more details.
SO, JUST TO CLEAR THIS UP: SKYLAR GRAY IS YOUR HONEST-TO-GOODNESS ACTUAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE NAME, RIGHT? Yes. My parents are interesting people. Check my birth certificate for the hard evidence.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME AWARE THAT THERE WAS ANOTHER ARTIST WITH A STAGE NAME VERY MUCH LIKE YOURS? The day after the 2011 Grammys. Several of my friends joked, "Hey, saw you on the Grammys last night. Herp." [To clarify: Skylar (the other one) joined Dr. Dre and Eminem for a performance of "I Need a Doctor" at the 2011 ceremony; "Herp" is a doofusey noise. -DT]
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO STAND YOUR GROUND AND RELEASE THE RECORD UNDER YOUR OWN NAME? (I GUESS YOU HAVE A MORE NATURAL CLAIM TO IT. . . . ) Even though I just released my first full-length album, I've been performing and recording under my name since the early 2000s. It's who I am. Plus, since junior high I've been told time and time again that my name sounds like a rock star's. Now I suppose that idea has been validated by Holly Brook's management. The primary reason, though, is this album represents so much about my personality, my interests, and definitely my musical identity that I would feel a strong sense of defeat were it masked behind some made-up name.
THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW LAWSUITS OVER THE YEARS CONCERNING ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR NAMES; THAT'S WHY SUEDE BECAME THE LONDON SUEDE, THE BEAT BECAME THE ENGLISH BEAT, AND VERVE BECAME THE VERVE. YOU EVER LOSE SLEEP OVER THE PROSPECT OF BEING SUED OUT OF YOUR OWN NAME? I'd like to think that we live in a world where one can publicly and/or commercially use their given name without fear of prosecution. That said, unjust things many orders of magnitude worse than getting sued out of your name happen every day. But I do have a rare, unique name which makes the situation a little different than if my name were, say, Michael Jackson. You know, I've been performing and using my name in commerce long before “Skylar Grey” was a twinkle in Interscope's eyes, so I'm not losing sleep.
ARE YOU CURRENTLY TOYING WITH ANY STAGE NAMES (HOLLY BROOK, PERHAPS)? I have a list of really bad band names somewhere that I should consider. For now, I think I'm going to ride out this whole Skylar Gray thing and see where it takes me.