Who is Skye Strickler?
Skye Strickler is an American singer-songwriter and producer based in Austin, Texas. He grew up in rural Kansas and discovered his passion for composition through the local theatre. After dropping out of college a semester in, he moved to Texas to focus solely on his melodic obsessions.
He soon found himself in a notable downtown residency, of which Austin.com said, “he pulls you into the songs he sings and doesn’t let you go.” Quickly stepping back to focus exclusively on songwriting, he spent most of 2016 zeroing in on his craft for his debut EP “DNA”. Since releasing, Where Did You Go, the lead track has gone on to win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize and a separate, affiliated showcase performance on the NAMM Show’s Grand Plaza Central Stage. The Iola Register calls the track “a torrent of notes, glittery, synthetic, a light show for the ears” and The Orange County Register called him a “rising star”. He represented Austin at the 2ND Street Soundcheck Festival, multiple showcases during SXSW, and now Austin Music Foundation’s Artist of the Month this May.
With each song on DNA of a different sub-pop genre, they perfectly depict the larger picture Strickler had been challenging; to disembody his songwriting from any performance expectations and permanently push the bounds of his comfort zone. From piano ballad to electronic dance, big band swing-pop to a rap feature, and noted along the way with uplifting messages and self-empowerment, there’s little uncovered in Strickler’s first five tracks. Focusing now on collaborations, including another group of which he started called bordrs., you can expect to hear more boundless feel-good tunes from Strickler soon.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
WITH SKYE STRICKLER
Where does your passion for performing and writing music stem from? Where do you draw your influence?
I’ve always been infatuated with music, and so was the family. But it’s the math that kept me on it. Every song is an invisible mathematical equation, and with each song I get to discover and apply more algorithms. That challenge is what it’s all about for me.
Austin is very different from rural Kansas, where you’re originally from. What kind of impact did growing up in small-town Kansas have on your musicianship and who you are today?
It was small, yes, but we were fortunate. The Bowlus Fine Arts Center was a hub of activity in Southeast Kansas, and we thrived because of the organization’s, community’s, and school district’s joint visions. I was afforded the opportunity at a young age to explore and develop my talent, and without those experiences wouldn’t likely be where I am today.
You dropped out of college after your first semester to pursue a career in music. Was this a difficult decision?
Nope. I studied with the best and am forever grateful for the world-class guidance from my advisers and professors, but I knew from day one it wasn’t the education I needed. Not for pop music. I needed to surround myself with a music industry.
You released your 6 song debut EP “DNA” in January of 2017. It incorporates a mix of high energy EDM, heartfelt piano ballads, impressive vocals, truly genuine lyrics, all combined with some unconventional instrumentation and chord structures you’d normally hear in Jazz/Swing music – especially in your song “College”. What was the production/collaborative process for “DNA” like?
Thank you! It was an emotional roller coaster, to be frank. Dance the Night Away was written two years before the album came out, and it evolved many times. With Where Did You Go, it wasn’t until I went to a dinner party and sang the chorus when anybody had heard it. They told me it was their favorite work of mine, so I sat down at the dinner table and wrote the rest of the song in about five minutes. Not the best way to start a dinner party, but they were, thankfully, cool with it. College was the biggest battle, though. I wrote an entirely different version of the song on the guitar, but it wasn’t getting across the right message. Adding the sax, axing the guitar, and fleshing out that beat was the magic recipe. The goal with this album was to challenge myself as a songwriter alone with each song so as to grow artistically. I was tired of the piano ballads.
Your lyrics embody a message of inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ/Pride community, and you have your debut festival appearance on the mainstage at Pride Northwest this June. How important is it for you to include this message of support in your songwriting/ performances?
Severely. Had people not been so accepting of me when I moved to Austin, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I believe in throwing away labels and uniting as many as possible, and I hope my music reflects this.
Who’s your current favorite local Austin act you like to see perform?
I get lost in Taméca Jones’s live vocals.
Where’s your favorite place in Austin to “dance the night away”?
Haha. Alone. At home. Sliding across the floors in my socks. But if I do go out, there’s only one place I ever really get down and jiggy with it. Highland.
You’ve won two awards from the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, including the “song of the year” grand prize in Pop with your song “Dance the Night Away”. What does this mean to you, and what sort of opportunities/recognition have come forward as a result of winning this award?
Totally honored. Some of the best friends anybody could ask for, too. Their attitudes will inspire me for the rest of my life. And since I focus more on the songwriting than I do on the performances, their recognition has thankfully opened doors to some great performances and coverage. I’ve been interviewed by the Orange County Register, Austin.com, and The Austin Chronicle, to name a few.
What has been your most memorable experience as a performing musician thus far?
The first time I performed my original music in Kansas I received a standing ovation and some pretty loud cheers. That moment in itself was the biggest push for me to keep going, keep writing, and take the leap I needed to pursue my dreams post-college.
How did you get involved with AMF?
When I first moved to Austin I lived nearby your office and fell in love with your welcoming attitude before I knew about what you did for the community.
What does it mean to be named AMF Artist of the Month?
You provided me with outstanding guidance early-on in my career which I needed. Y’all are the definition of musical acceleration in Austin, not just for artists, but businesses and industry professionals alike. To have my creative impulses recognized is nothing short of an absolute honor.
Is there any piece of advice or lesson you’ve learned that still guides you today?
I’ve got two. Never make assumptions. I have my lovely mother to thank for that one. And more recently I’ve finally grasped the gravitas of this one: How do you want to remember your last day on Earth? I think this one every hour of every day.
So what’s next for you? Any big goals for 2017?
I’ve got some pretty great opportunities stacking up, but I’m most excited about working with some pretty talented producers all across the globe. More than just writing internationally, I’d love for my music to be the catalyst for international travel. That’s my biggest goal – to let the music let me travel.