After dazzling audiences on Broadway, on TV, and in movies, Skylar Astin is ready to introduce the world to who he really is, rather than the characters he plays.
On Wednesday, the Pitch Perfect and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist star released his debut single, "Without You," from the upcoming solo project that he says is finally allowing him to express a "more authentic and sexier side" of him.
"There's a lot more to me than the roles I play," Astin tells EW. "It's just a different side, like this is truly me. I always try to put a lot of me into the roles I play, but this is just more me." That's why he's excited for everyone to see what he's been up to during the past year in quarantine, working on this music and "tweaking and messing with it for a while now."
"I'm just ready to release it," he says. "I just have to share, literally, what was providing me some escapism during a tough time. And now that we're starting to come out of this time, I want to reach out and help people feel a little lighter. It's time. Why not?"
Below, Astin opens up about launching his solo music career, what fans can expect from his upcoming album, and more.
Adam Hendershott Skylar Astin has just released his debut single, 'Without You'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you been planning to launch a music career beyond the roles you play on TV, in movies, and on Broadway?
SKYLAR ASTIN: It really started in quarantine. People have always asked me if I was ever going to release an album, and I always said it's not a question of if, it's just more a question of when. And when the world stopped and everyone was forced to be inside and reflect, it slowed me down. When I was home I was just bursting with this creativity and started playing a lot of covers of songs on my piano, and then when Zoey's was airing I would play songs from there, and that also is something where people saw me do cover songs. I had one night where I got together with an old friend of mine, Eric Lam, who's become my producing partner in this, and we just went over all of these tracks that we would make together, and then I would write to those tracks. I think we wrote about 13 heartbeats of songs that night, and about seven of those we've actually recorded into full versions and orchestrations and outsourced musicians and even vocal-arranged myself. I was working on it throughout quarantine in L.A., and then I even was able to do some stuff remotely from Vancouver [while filming Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist].
What was the moment like when you realized you were finally ready to release your debut single, "Without You?"
It was wonderful. This song flew. We were really quick and decisive on the track, we were decisive on the vocal arrangement, and it just made sense. It's always been Eric's favorite, and he was adamant that this was the first one we released. I don't even know if this one is my full favorite, but I knew it's been a favorite of a lot of people that have listened to it. It's just easy, it's vibey, it's fun, it's light, and that's kind of the way I was feeling when I was recording it.
Where did you get the inspiration for "Without You?"
That comes from a new love. It comes from a celebratory feeling of finding someone and diving in headfirst and being fully present and not wanting to live without that person.
Okay, so very light stuff.
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Well, in a fun, flirty, dancey way. I wanted to feel like I was luring in the listener, so I broke up sentences and made them span over an entire stanza so it kind of keeps you guessing. And also having certain double meanings, it just kind of flew out like a little poem. I like the wordplay in it. I love the hook. I think the chorus is very clean. It rides like a futuristic car, or something I imagine like the Weeknd kind of sound.
How has your experience singing as other characters on TV in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist and in movies like Pitch Perfect and even on Broadway helped you hone your sound as you, Skylar, and not another character?
This is more of a dancey pop song, a summer vibey song, so that's how I feel when I sing it. I'm expressing it totally from my point of view, rather than from a character's point of view. But it's the same singing voice. I got to tap into so many of my nerdy musical dork places while arranging the vocals, because I always love certain harmonies, how they blend. I love that I was able to do it with my own voice and layer certain melodies. It was a really creative space for me. I had such a blast having all the autonomy, and that was really fun for me to do and have my producing partner Eric engineer that.
Why did you want your debut single to be in the pop genre?
It's the kind of music that I had been listening to in my hotel rooms when I was filming a movie, or in the shower or on a drive to set. That was what I was finding myself doing to stay bright and light, and then eventually when the world got very dark it was even more helpful to be able to actually dance in your quarantine. And nothing against Netflix-and-chilling, I've done plenty of that, but what was getting me going and making my days fly by was that kind of music.
What other genres are you working with for future releases?
The next few releases are all from the same project, so I would probably put them all in the same genre because it's the same EP or album. But in the future I would love to do a completely different album or just even release a couple songs that were a fully different vibe. I don't think it would be bluegrass country, but I could see it taking more of a singer-songwriter-y, John Legend-y, Billy Joel style, something that people have come to expect from me. This just felt like a fun departure, and I wanted to lead with this because it kept me on my toes and it was unexpected even to me, and a pleasant surprise.
What can you tease about your upcoming album?
[It's] inspired by old music but definitely feels new. "Without You" has a bit of an '80s inspiration. I would even say my next single has a '70s and someone recently told me even like '90s R&B inspiration, but also sounds like a current song. I love artists that do that, like Bruno Mars and even Justin Timberlake, the Weeknd, Dua Lipa has songs that sound like they're from the '80s. They're a benchmark, and I always appreciate that. So that's definitely what I'm doing with this kind of pop music.
Listen to "Without You" below now: