“No Fear” Skylar Astin Is Embracing His Pop Ambitions

The actor opens up about debut single 'Without You' and his future plans...

Many will know American actor and singer Skylar Astin for his feel-good roles in films such as Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, as well as in the TV series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The artist has built a television career that’s spanned 13 years, where he’s consistently stood out in musical roles due to his flawless vocal abilities, something that he displayed on Broadway as a teenager.

Now, Skylar has made the leap into solo artistry with the release of his latest single ‘Without You’. It’s a heck of a debut that delivers exactly what Skylar’s fans would expect – endless euphoric energy. ‘Without You’ is an infectious pop banger that is inspired by finding a deeper meaning to life. A combination of thoughtful lyricism and sunshine laden production shows the world exactly who he is as a musician.

Made during the pandemic, the song helped bring light to a dark time for the artist, who’s now hoping to spread such feelings to his listeners. A debut single is a monumental moment for any artist, so we caught up with Skylar to learn about his journey to this point and what he hopes to achieve next.

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Hey Skylar! Congratulations on the release of your debut single ‘Without You’, it’s quite a monumental moment in your career. How have you found the reaction?

Honestly, it is monumental. It’s been really exciting for me; it’s been a fun exercise to share a part of myself with people and hear the response. I think people have grown to know one thing from me and this is the kind of music that I enjoy. It’s just one of a few songs that I’ve written over the pandemic and I’ll continue to write and create more. I have that freedom as I’m not with a big label or anything, so I get to do that as a project.

I wanted to invoke a mood, it’s been a really tough time and writing and recording this music made me feel lighter, if I can infect people with that feeling then I’ve done my job. I’ve heard things like ‘a bop’, ‘a banger’, ‘song of the summer’, ‘I want to blast it on an island’, that was the vibe I was going for. It’s finding a home with the audience, that was the intention, rather than sitting on my phone.

What was the inspiration behind the song?

A new love and that feeling of wanting to dive headfirst into something and really have fun with it. No fear of commitment and wanting to give everything to someone, that was the heartbeat of the song. The muse was my girlfriend, Lisa. We fell in love, fast and hard. I’ve written many songs about her and they all have different styles and tempos, they’re love songs.

How natural did you find the process of song writing? Was it something you that you’ve had a lot of experience in prior to this?

It was kind of reverse engineered in a way – it wasn’t how I’d normally written songs in the past. This came from linking up with a friend of mine from the past, actually my brother’s college roommate Eric Lam, who’s a part time producer but also works in business affairs at Universal Music Group.

We met remotely and we went through some of his tracks, very quick little five second things he’d put together, just heartbeats of songs. The one’s I responded to we’d build out, it was a really fun process, because then the songs were born out of that inspiration of listening to music. That way I knew the song was something I liked listening too, so when I started writing to them, they became more personal and I found what the song was to me. It was a really fun experiment during the pandemic. 

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, but they’ve always been in my notebook and only played to friends and girlfriends and ex-girlfriends.

I hear you converted your home office into a music studio during lockdown, which sounds like a crazy fun thing to do, was this an impulsive decision?

The most impulsive, yet decisive decision I’ve made when it comes to this. I’ve always said it’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when I have the time. When I started writing I realised I didn’t have anything except the microphone on my iPhone. So, I went to Eric, and said I think I need to invest in this, and I did. A couple of nights ago I recorded an acoustic piano version of ‘Without You’ in the same room as the radio version, I’ll be releasing that soon on Spotify.

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Did the experience really help you deal with life under such conditions?

I was bouncing off the walls with creativity, I was really having a good time. The kind of music I was writing was mood boosting, so I was up all night and up in the morning with new ideas. Thousands of voice memos back and forth between Eric and me. It definitely made time fly by. It was definitely a bit of escapism; it was undeniably a dark and sad time and what I was doing was reaching out to my fans through cover songs. The fans were really appreciating it. I was getting a lot of great feedback and it was a really cool opportunity to develop a connection with my followers and fanbase.

It clicked in me, when Eric and I were going back and forth that I should start writing my own songs. I know how to write songs, how to write melodies, that’s why I don’t feel pressure, because I didn’t have to do it. There might be the demand for it because people like to hear me sing, but there’s no label pressure and people are going to be negative no matter what if they want to be. For the people listening, who want to give me a chance, this is for them.

Was it always an ambition of yours to release your own solo music?

Yeah, it has. Maybe I did feel a little bit of pressure as I’m very indecisive as a Libra. I didn’t know what lane to pick. That’s why this project was fun because it kind of chose me, it’s more production heavy, a big learning experience for me and also emulating some of the artists that I’ve been listening to over the last that has gotten me through not only the pandemic but before that as well. Through lonely nights in a town shooting a film that I could just blast in my hotel room and listen to in the shower, the likes of Justin Bieber, Miguel and Cautious Clay, these types of people are the vibes I go for when I’m listening, these days especially.

I hear there’s a music video on the way as well. What can we expect from that?

There is! In a few weeks. We’re planning it and plodding it right now. There’s a director that I love called Gordy De St. Jeor, who is awesome, he’s going to direct it and we have a few ideas in mind. He also filmed a little BTS of me recording the acoustic version so there’ll be a few visual components of the live version as well.

Many people will know you for your roles in films and musicals but how have those experiences prepared you for this moment?

I think everything I’ve done has led me to this moment. I think theatre in many ways has prepared me for film and tv, for not only the success but the work ethic that belongs there. That has all prepared me for releasing music. I’ve learnt that not everything is for everyone and this is all just part of the ride, this is part of my journey.

Were there some nerves heading into this release? You have quite the following, was there a level of expectation?

I don’t think so because there’s no one above me saying ‘man, if this doesn’t reach blank amount of numbers then we’ll shelve your next one’, like I’ve got my next one planned, as I’m my own boss here. Sure, if it came out and everyone was like this is trash, like unanimously, which certainly hasn’t been the case. The people that have heard it and reviewed it have been really honest and said it’s a great song and a fun song. So, I think the message has been received.

Would you say there’s a higher level of apprehension when a musical or film is released in comparison? As there’s that pressure to hit those numbers.

Yeah, and there’s a head of a network or a head of a studio that needs to decide whether they’re going to green light the sequel, or the second season or third season. I get to do this for as long as I feel like it. I can take breaks and then go back to it if I get less busy. I don’t care if my number are in the hundreds let alone the thousands.

Sure, it would be awesome to have one song blow up, even if it’s on Tik-Tok, because I just like reaching people through performance. Whether that’s through an acting performance or a song, its thrilling to me because I really do thrive off that connection. It’s less about the popularity, especially through music and more about the connection.

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What challenges do you expect to face juggling both a career in music and acting?

Just time. But I will say that I managed to keep this project going despite filming an entire season of a very demanding show in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and I was working remotely from Vancouver, with none of my resources available and I still made it happen. I don’t think it’ll be so much of an issue, its literally just a case of there being enough time in the day. But when I’m inspired, I don’t really need time, or sleep.

Speaking of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, you made huge inroads as Max on the show. It was a show that was full of so many feel good moments, are you really proud of the impact that had?

I’m beyond proud of it. It was a show that people were able to use as an escape during a really tough time. Speaking about connection, people loved that show, I loved being apart of it, we had the most loyal, dedicated, and exciting fans. That show will always have a very special place in my heart and will always feel like a piece of unfinished business.

You also star in Trolls: The Beat Goes On, an animated, quite broad set musical. What was the experience like featuring in the animated world?

I’ve done hundreds of episodes of it, so I have tonnes of experience playing Branch and all his intricacies and idiosyncrasies. I absolutely love it. I love going into the booth and being a ridiculous, crazy person. I get to sing on the show, which is very fun. I play this curmudgeon, type-a troll who is secretly very sensitive and has his own little journey.

Also, something that I really love about being a part of Trolls is its incredibly inclusive message. Not only is it funny, but it also has a positive message and preaches kindness and inclusivity.

Do you have a specific role or moment in your career that stands out to you for being particularly special?

Definitely Max on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Jesse in Pitch Perfect for sure. But I’d say my two firsts were something very special. Like playing in the original cast of a Broadway show at the age of 18, playing Georg in Spring Awakening was significant, it taught me everything. Then my first film, Hamlet 2, playing Rand Posin and learning how to improv, learning how to be loose and comfortable on camera, those are incredibly significant to me. Those are the roles that if I get recognised on the street and someone says either Spring Awakening or Hamlet 2, then I light up in a different kind of way.

Lastly, what can we expect from you throughout the rest of the year?

I think when all things are said and done there will be a heaping handful of tracks so I think you could call that an EP. I definitely have – including the acoustic – the next three releases planned, mixed and mastered. Then there’s some other ones that I might rework or retool. I’m doing a writing camp in July and working with some really great artists, so some of those might jump the line.

All the songs are working with Eric, the ones in the future I’ll be working and collaborating with other people. That’s really exciting because now that this music is out there, it’s not just an opportunity to expose myself to my fans, its also about developing relationships with other producers or people who say ‘I love that guy, I want to work with him’. My door is wide open and there’s people to call to get in touch with me.

I’m also really interested to have people remix my song, there’s a remix of my second single that’s already being made by a pretty great band.

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Words: Jake Wright

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