Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Skylar Stecker turns 17 next week, which still makes her way younger than anyone should be to have accomplished this much. She boasts four albums, 271,000 Instagram followers, and now, independence — recently unattached from a label and exploring being an independent artist for the first time. That is, if you don't include all the work she did singing the national anthem for teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and Dodgers. It was Christina Aguilera that inspired her to cold email a bunch of teams until she landed the gig, unaware that would be the first of many steps that would, in 2019, land her here: releasing yet another music video (for "Obvious," a song off her most recent album Redemption) to a crowd of eager fans.
"It was my first video with a real guy love interest," Stecker told Refinery29 over the phone. "My dad still to this day will not watch the video. He's just like, 'Oh my God, you're too close.'"
But the video — playful, modern, new — embodies everything Stecker hopes to represent with her music. Ahead, we spoke to the young artist about what it was like to make the video, premiering exclusively on Refinery29, and how she became one of the freshest voices in pop music.
Refinery29: Before we dive in, can you walk me through your musical journey?
Skylar Stecker: "None of my family does anything musical related whatsoever. So when I discovered my passion for music, it was a complete shock to not only me but my whole entire family. I grew up in Wisconsin. So then I started looking at what I could do in Wisconsin to pursue musical career. And I saw, you know, Christina Aguilera, who I love, did national anthems at a young age. So then I decided I should, learn the national anthem. And then I just started submitting myself, like finding any email, anything I could find online to any team and just submitting videos of me singing the national anthem to them. And then by like a six month span, I ended up singing for like Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers.
"I started a YouTube channel. I just started uploading videos to try to get my music more out there. I said, I'm writing my own music. I've been playing piano for a really long time. So then I started writing original songs on the piano. And then that just led to me then releasing my first EP, and then led to the album and getting signed. Now, I'm independent."
I love that Christina Aguilera inspired you to start singing. Who are some of your other influences?
"I love Christina. I love Beyoncé. I think she's amazing and super inspiring and amazing. I also love Bruno Mars. And he's super musical. Like he plays drums and so many instruments, which I also play drums and stuff like that. I also grew up listening to like Alicia keys. She really inspired me to incorporate my piano playing into my music."
How is Redemption different from your past work?
"I really wanted to release an album and music that was a little bit more vulnerable so [fans] could really get a feel for what I was going through and who I am. It's the most honest piece of work I've ever released and I just want to do that from now on with all my music. It was like a light switch went off and I had a whole new view on life and songwriting and everything in general. I'm not going to listen to others' opinions and what they have to say. I'm always asking, but at the end of the day, I have to listen to my gut. I have to do what I feel like is the truest representation of who I am."
What is important for making a good music video and how does that elevate your music?
"I never want any of my music videos to look too similar. I always want to really take the vibe of the song and super commit to that and put that super strong visual to it. We shot 'Redemption' and 'Obvious' and the same two days. And 'Redemption' was more visually metaphorical. But I wanted to do something completely different for 'Obvious.' So I watched Dirty Dancing and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this would be perfect for the video.' Like the whole message of it too where she's in love with him, but she kind of doesn't let him know. And then he kind of likes her and I just thought the whole thing was like perfect for what I literally say in the song and I wanted to add like a cool hip hop, more modern twist to it. So we did hip hop dancing instead of ballroom dancing, which was really fun."
You have a really dedicated fanbase, especially on Instagram. Do you have a favorite fan moment or interaction?
"There's a couple that I really love. There's this one fan that I have in New York and whenever I go to iHeart any place in New York, she always is the first one to show up. We always see her in New York. So I'm always, on my New York trips, looking out for her.
There was one time when I opened up for Camila Cabello on her Never Be The Same tour. It was in Wisconsin, which is my home state, and the fans were so sweet. I came out at one point and they all had these signs made that had my name on it and they all were chanting my name. And it was the craziest thing."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.