By Rick Tvedt
It’s been said that the biggest stars are often strangers in their own hometowns. Indeed, you probably read the headline to this story and wondered Who the heck is Skylar Grey? Even if you knew her by her real name, Holly Brook Hafermann, or by her former stage name Holly Brook, you probably still don’t know. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a newspaper published in Madison called Rick’s Café. Remarkably, this newspaper focused one hundred percent on local music and arts. Its owner and publisher was a crazy guy who shall go unnamed, but he gave it his best shot, ultimately transitioning the newspaper to an Internet publication while blogging for another prominent magazine that wanted to expand its music coverage. Anyway, this crazy guy thought there should be a focus on female artists in every issue of Rick's Café. Aware of a youngster who was hanging out with Leo Sidran and starting to make a few waves, said crazy guy went to little ol’ Mazomanie, Wisconsin, where he sat in a living room with a very, very shy sixteen-year-old who talked about her life so far. Turns out she had been singing at the age of three and performing with her mother in a folk duo called Generations. Holly Brook was the feature story in that first issue of Rick’s Café back in January of 2003.
Fast forward a few years. Holly Brook decides to break out and suddenly picks up and moves to Los Angeles. Gutsy? You’re damn right. She lucked out, however, and wound up with Fort Minor, a group formed by Mike Shinoda, who is better known as the rapper, rhythm guitarist, keyboardist and producer of Linkin Park. Brook gets into a management deal—a decision that she, like many, many artists over the course of history, would later regret. But, as is the case with almost every major musical artist of our time, perseverance would be the key and bad luck is either a killer or a motivator.
It seems that bad luck was almost a killer in Brook’s case, as she bottomed out for an extended period of time. To know Holly, however, is to know that there would be no denying her the success she so earnestly sought. She re-emerged, remade as Skylar Grey, a name she chose largely because of the color grey, which could mean bleakness to some or possibility to others, such as herself. She wrote “Love the Way You Lie,” which was picked up by Eminem, recorded for his 2010 album Recovery and became a smash hit. The collaboration between Grey and producer Alex Da Kid on “Love the Way You Lie” continued, and he played a major role on the production of Skylar Grey's album Don’t Look Down, released earlier this year.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Or so we all hope, right? Well, you can help Skylar Grey keep doing us proud by attending her show November 10 at the Majestic Theatre. You can also buy her album (read the review here) or her follow-up EP release, the unplugged iTunes Sessions (read that review here).