Now 21, Sky Ferreira signed a record contract when she was 15, and spent her teenage years bouncing around the teen pop industry, dutifully trying on outfits and sounds, before finding her own voice on an excellent debut LP last year. She is as stubborn as she is sensitive, and after saying she’s had a shitty morning last week in New York, carries on with her press day at ease.
Days earlier, Ferreira played one of her last shows as the opening act on the U.S. leg of Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz tour, and there are still errant bits of glitter on her face. To supplement her music earnings, she has worked as a fashion model and brand spokesperson; on this day, her cheekbones are dramatically contoured and there’s a dangerous-looking bandage wrapped around her leg, protecting a big gash. Ferreira is based in New York, where she lives with boyfriend of a year Zachary Cole Smith, who fronts rock band DIIV. “It’s crazy, I guess it’s a serious relationship. Safe to say a lot has happened,” she said. She’s possibly referring to the duo’s September 2013 arrest, and how they’ve been compared to infamous lovers Kurt and Courtney.
If it had been up to an agent, Ferreira may not have been booked as the opening act on one of the biggest pop tours of the year. But it wasn’t — Ferreira opened at the request of Miley Cyrus herself. She spoke to BuzzFeed about why she and Cyrus became friends, how she powered through an early-tour injury, and what it feels like to play, with other women, for an arena full of girls.
Sky Ferreira: [Miley and I] met at the end of last year. We just clicked right away. Our personalities get along really well. We have the same sense of humor; mine’s a little more twisted, I guess. We just turn into 13-year-old boys when we talk. Suddenly, we go from being like, young women, to being very immature, walking around with fake teeth all night. People are like, “What’s wrong with you guys?” Miley is a girly girl, but she also isn’t. She likes putting on makeup, she likes sexy clothes and stuff, but she’s pretty down. This term is so stupid, but she’s down to earth. That’s why I like hanging out with her, cause it’s not about spending eight hours getting ourselves together.
I love girls, and I wish I had more friends that were girls, and I think that’s kind of a thing with her too. Our energy just clicks, I don’t know. It’s not competitive or weird. Competition is good, to feel competitive is good, but not to the point where you fuck people over or you’re mean. We’re both very supportive of each other.
I think this is the most fun I’ve had on tour. It’s a different type of crowd — with Miley Cyrus, it’s way poppier and the energy is kind of insane in the room. There’s 30,000 people screaming at all times. Like, from when they walk into the arena. It’s a lot of teenage girls. It’s really fun cause they’re so excited to be there. They’re peaking in life. It’s so crazy, you just see these girls crying and screaming. Miley has such good stage presence and just knows how to connect with all of them. People feel like they know her. [Miley and I] are very different in that sense. When I meet people, they don’t really know me right away. But when she talks for like, one second, people can automatically feel like her best friend.
When I play, it’s exposing [the audience] to something different. But I feel like they relate to my music lyrically. Teenage girls don’t just listen to like, fist-pumping party music, or whatever people think teenage girls listen to. That’s why Lorde had this biggest song this year.
[Miley] asked me to go on tour with her in November. It wasn’t just because we’re friends, it was because she liked my album and listens to it, which is cool. It wasn’t like an agent set it up. I’m sure if it was up to someone like that, they would want something like Zedd to open. That would sell tickets. She could have had anyone open! I’m not gonna sell tickets for Miley Cyrus, you know?
Then she asked me, “What do you think of Icona Pop [the tour’s other opening act]?” I was like, “Yeah, cool.” Those girls like to party. Everyone thinks me and Miley are the ones that are raging, but it’s Icona Pop, man! My band will ditch me to go hang out with Icona Pop. They’re so funny, like, “I’m gonna get turnt!”
I’ve never been on a tour with a bunch of girls before. I’ve only been on tour with boys. My band’s all boys. This tour is a lot of fun, but also it’s a girl power tour for sure. We’re all very strong. Even though we’re all very different, our presence is pretty strong. I wanna say confident, but I don’t know if confident is the exact word. All the girls on this tour just know who they are. They’re not trying to be someone else, they’re not trying to catch up to another artist. Everyone just does their own thing and knows what they want, and figures out how to get it across to someone else.
People think there are people telling Miley to do something, about her sexuality, or whatever people trip over. They don’t realize that she knows what she wants to do, and she does it. Pop music is provocative — I don’t really see what the big deal over it is. Her show is insane, each song has a different insane setup. I really like when she does the acoustic set. I think that’s kind of the biggest fuck-you to everyone who’s talked shit about her, because she has a really great voice. The whole show kind of shows everyone up. No one can deny it. People I know who are the biggest music snobs on the planet were like: I wasn’t expecting it to be so good; this is beautiful!
I want my show to be pretty minimal, cause I want the focus to be the actual songs. But I definitely stepped it up a little more for this. I wanted to make it more for an arena. If I had an insane amount of resources, I’d do whatever I could.
[At the beginning of this tour] I fell down an elevator shaft, a prop shaft. It was right as my set was about to start, all the lights were off. I heard this ticking noise that starts the song “24 Hours” that’s an intro for the show, so everyone can get in place and start. I ran across the stage and fell into a shaft, and climbed out because I was like, I have to get there on time, before the lights go on. No one really saw me fall. I just thought I ate it. I was winded and I was bleeding, but I didn’t know it was this huge gash. I played the entire show just thinking it was a cut. I was lightheaded and stuff, but I thought it was just because I fell. I thought I was just in shock from the whole thing.
So I played the entire set. I had these St. Laurent tights on that had beads in them. I touched my leg at one point and I’m like, ummm, there’s blood. I got off stage and I’m like, oh, wow, this is crazy, I just fell. Everyone looked down at my leg and they’re like, “You need to go to the emergency room.” I looked down and I freaked the fuck out. My bone is out and the cut is like, four inches deep and five inches wide. I’ve never seen my body look like that before. It looked like, out of an Eli Roth movie.
Then I got stuck at the hospital for seven hours. They had to like, take rhinestones out of the gash. It was so bad. It was so deep that it was like, open and wide. I ended up getting 60 stitches. I went through this whole thing in my mind like, Oh my god, what if my leg’s broken and I get kicked off this tour? I was like, I don’t care if it’s broken, just amputate my leg, I just have to do the show the next day. I did the whole entire tour like that. I played the next day, even though it was a little hard at first.
I had to talk about the accident first; I had to beat everyone to it. Cause they made me go in the ambulance, and there were people standing around. I was worried someone would think it was because I was drunk, or fucked up or something. So I had to say, “Yeah, I hurt my leg.” But that night I played the entire set. I was pretty impressed by myself. I was like, how did I do that? Adrenaline’s, like, real real. I guess the Miley Cyrus crowd gets it in you.
When I was younger, like during “One,” I never had the right management. No one would listen to me about how I wanted things to be. They’re like, OK, you’re playing on TV, but you don’t have a band. And I’d have to sing over a track with my voice on it. I started getting really bitchy because no one would listen to me. I’d, like, shut off the backing track in the middle of performing a song, and walk off. That was the only way I could stick up for myself. So that experience put a lot on my brain when I got older and started playing live more. It scarred me in some weird way. I kind of had no choice but to tour and play all this stuff, but it was all very terrifying.
My first show in New York was sold out, at Bowery Ballroom. I went face-first into it. But I didn’t know what I was doing. In the past, I never really had a proper band; I didn’t have any help arranging the songs. I only had a 20-minute set to play, and there was pressure behind it, cause there was so much press there. A lot of the reviews were so sexist and fucked up, like, all she relies on is her blonde hair and her jeans. So on my first tour I stood on the side of the stage or behind clouds and clouds of smoke, so no one could see me. Like, Now what am I relying on?
I also have a temper. It’s a good thing to wear your heart on your sleeve, but sometimes it’s really intense, especially when you’re playing. The whole experience of being onstage is really vulnerable — that wasn’t something I ever really thought about, when I was recording. I used to just drink for stage fright, but I had to stop because it just made me stage fright worse the next day.
With this tour, it wasn’t like that. My band now gets it, and they play everything the way it’s supposed to be. That makes everything a lot easier for me. And with the arena stuff, you feel the energy, even if it’s not as personal. Obviously everyone is there for Miley, but you still feel the energy of it all and you hear it. But I don’t see anyone [when I’m] onstage, because of all the lights. You’re blinded, but you just feel it. You know it sounds good and you’re like, OK, I got this. It’s perfect.
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