‘I just want a clean slate’: After all this time, Sky Ferreira won’t stray from her vision

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‘I just want a clean slate’: After all this time, Sky Ferreira won’t stray from her vision

Sky Ferreira
word by kaya martin

Sky Ferreira has never been an easy person.

“That’s just not who I am,” she laughs. For some artists, being fastidious, even stubborn about their work is seen as a good thing – a sign of purity. But for Sky, it hasn’t always felt that way.

“I’m really not that difficult either. But that’s the thing, [it’s] just because I’m not a complete pushover or because my vision isn’t exactly what someone has in mind for me or it’s not the easiest way to go about things,” she says. “I’m willing to pay the price for it.”

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It could be that her hard-headed determination contradicts the way she looks. Small in stature, fit with the signature blonde hair and smudged eyeliner that graced many a 2014 Tumblr page, she’s pretty in a fragile, doe-eyed way. She entered the industry young. At 15, she sent her self-made Myspace demos out to industry hotshots which quickly led to a record deal.

The music industry is a tough place for anyone, but especially for someone in the throes of her messy teenage years. After a handful of buzzy singles and an EP titled Ghost, Sky released her debut album Night Time, My Time in 2013, stunning in its vulnerability and comprised of hook-driven, grandiose synth pop.

Critics loved it. Fans loved it too, with something of a cult-like fervour. She toured with Miley Cyrus and Vampire Weekend. In 2014, she announced she was working on a sophomore album, which she later revealed would be called Masochism. Then… not much, until recently.

But instead of causing her star to fade, Sky’s absence mythologised her. Fans stuck by her, even raising money to buy a ‘Free Sky Ferreira’ billboard in Times Square and fly an aerial banner with the same message over her former label Capitol’s headquarters.

It’s a rollercoaster for me,” she says. “Even though I haven’t been able to put out the songs, at least I’ve been able to play some of them… By playing it, it adds those things about it I didn’t notice because a lot of it has just been inside myself, just going in circles.”

Sky’s been open about the struggles she’s faced with Capitol which she says denied her financial support and blocked her from dropping new music when and how she’s wanted. “My life was taken from me. It’s not just like a job to me. It’s literally me. It was like literally being in solitary confinement. I felt like I was gagged and bound,” she told The Guardian in 2022.

She says even beyond the industry logistics, having to fight so hard for every creative decision has taken a toll on her self-confidence since the release of Night Time, which she’s now working on getting back.

“Not that I had the highest self-esteem back then by any means, clearly – there are songs on that album [where] I clearly did not have that – but just the freedom within myself, trying to get back to feeling like I have that again or knowing what to do with the frustration and the anger behind it.”

As a female in a male-dominated industry, she says she’s been pressured to be more accommodating and to compromise on what she wants, which she refuses to do.

“It’s almost like for women you have to have A, B and C reasons why you think that. For a lot of men it’s like, ‘Oh no, he’s a creative person, he’s an artist, he knows what he wants, he’s a perfectionist.’ But if it’s a woman, it’s like, ‘she’s neurotic, she can’t make up her mind, she’s difficult’,” she laughs.

“Like, who cares? Honestly. That’s not being difficult, you know. And a lot of people will make you feel that way. Or you have to be grateful for some opportunity that you worked for yourself.

Sorry, I know some people will… whatever. I mean, they can take it whatever way they want to take it because it’s true. It’s like, even if men don’t think they’re doing that sometimes, they kind of are, you know? And I don’t expect someone to fully understand that isn’t experiencing it, but… it’s hard, because you want people to like you. You don’t want to feel like people don’t like you or that you’re a quote-unquote ‘bitch’ or something.”

It’s this mix of bashful self-consciousness, unwavering belief in her own decision making and undeniable, dazzling talent that forms the allure of Sky Ferreira. She’s not willing to bend, especially after this long. For now, she says Masochism is finished and coming “very soon” but she’s looking for the same spark she had with Night Time.

I have the pressure from myself to have that same certainty that I had in that moment, and clarity creatively that I had where it was kind of like being possessed. I don’t know any other way to describe it,” she tells me. It was just like ‘Oh, here it is. This is what it is’. Which will happen, it’s just you never know when it’s gonna happen, which is weird.”

A decade since her seminal album, after a quiet split with Capitol, Sky’s finally emerged from the shadows. In the past few years, she’s appeared alongside Kevin Abstract at Coachella, dropped a vengeful, 80s-inspired single titled Don’t Forget and toured extensively across the States. As we chat, she’s packing for her Australian tour.

She’s ready for her comeback, but she’s determined to get it right. I ask her what it is she’s hoping for in next chapter of her career. “I just want a clean slate and it’s hard for me – like, I’m never going to have that. It’s sinking in that that’s not the reality of the situation,” she says. 

“Unfortunately, what would help me is if someone could give me back the last 10 years of my career and my life, but that’s not going to happen, and it’s still very much there for me, looming over me, but I’m starting to somewhat accept that I sort of have to start over.”

While we may still be waiting patiently for Sky to get Masochism just right, she says there’s new music on the way – “at least a song. Even though people are going to be like ‘Oh great, a song, a random song’… whatever. At least it will be the first thing I’ve done on my own. At least it’ll be the first time I’m able to do that.”

Sky Ferreira will be playing in Melbourne for RISING on June 4. For tickets to her Australian tour, grab tickets here.