In November of 2010, Demi Lovato made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After a violent altercation with one of her backup dancers while she was on tour with the Jonas Brothers, the Disney starlet checked herself into rehab to deal with “emotional and physical issues.” After spending a few months in treatment, she emerged in January of this year and proceeded to keep a fairly low profile. That is, until last week, when she released her brand new song, “Skyscraper,” which has jump-started her comeback.
The soaring ballad about standing strong in the face of emotional turmoil quickly shot to the top of the iTunes charts, making it the biggest hit of Demi Lovato‘s young career. Fans instantly connected to the powerful track and homemade covers of the song began flooding YouTube. We spoke to Demi late on Tuesday night about the creative evolution of “Skyscraper,” shooting the tear-strewn video with director Mark Pellington, and her dismay with the ubiquity of alcohol references currently in the Billboard Top Ten.
VH1: What can you tell us about the time when the song sort of first made its way to you, and what was it that originally drew you to the song “Skyscraper”?
Demi Lovato: I recorded it a year ago, and when I first heard it I was blown away. I was emotionally attached to the song and I really related to it, like a lot of other people. Like a lot of my fans. I think that’s kind of the beauty of the song, that it’s really relatable, but for me when I first recorded it, it was kind of a cry for help. It was before I went to treatment, before everything had kind of hit the fan. I went to treatment and I came out, then I tried to rerecord “Skyscraper” because my voice had changed and it just wasn’t the same. There was something in that first try, that first run through of the song that was kind of magical. It was so much emotion in it, and to this day, it’s still really special to me. I’ve never been so vulnerable or emotional while recording a song, to the point where I was almost doubled over in tears in the studio. I was crying when I recorded it, I was bawling my eyes out. I don’t know, it just felt really great to open up like that.
I know that you co-wrote the song with Toby Gad, whom you had collaborated with before on your previous records. Can you tell me a little about some of the lyrical contributions that you made to this particular song?
Actually, all I did was perform it. I sang it and poured my heart out into it. Working with Toby was amazing; he wrote the song with a artist named Kerli and she too is just an incredible vocalist, they did an amazing job and I just had the amazing opportunity to record it.
Was it a song that you had to fight for? Did you ever feel like it was going to slip out of your hands?
I never really felt like I would lose the song in any way.
What I mean by that is this. You know, sometimes you hear how demos of songs kind of fly around industry circles, and artists sometimes grapple to see who can record it first. I didn’t know if there was any of that sort of issue when you first recorded the song?
No, Toby was a loyal producer. When he gave me the song, he gave it to me. I was pretty blessed.
The song has been out for just about a week or so now, and as soon as it was released, it went straight to the top of the iTunes charts, which makes it the most successful song of your young career so far. Why do you think that so many people so far are connecting with this particular song at this particular moment, particularly when a lot of the Top 10 songs you hear right now are about celebrating or partying?
It’s kind of unfortunate that pop songs have become so much about partying and about clubs, you know. There’s a time and there’s a place for artist to have some of those songs, and you know I have some of those feel good songs on my records, too. I think people will get sick of hearing about drinking all the time on the radio, because not everybody drinks. I’m not old enough to go to clubs and I have a hard time relating to those songs, so here I come out with a song that’s very emotional and I think that my fans really just cherish that. They’re not old enough to go to clubs, they’re not old enough to drink, and they have a song that they can relate to.
Talk to me a little about the decision that you and your management team made to work with Mark Pellington on this video. Obviously, he directed Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” so he’s definitely a expert in associating powerful visuals to emotionally resonant lyrics. What was it about the treatment he presented to you that really spoke to you in the video?
When my manager and my label came to me with video treatments, they sent me one from Mark Pellington. He was is really respected as a director, and he had a great way of really interpreting the song into a video and I was just really thankful that he did such a great job. But he is such an incredible artist and he really knew how to interpret that into a incredible video.
Oh, thank you!
…So, what I mean to ask is, how did you bring yourself to really that raw emotional place again? Was that scary for you being that vulnerable on camera? I mean, it’s one thing to do it in the recording studio but then to do it on camera…
We shot the video in the middle of the desert, basically, and it was pretty easy to get to that emotional place ’cause I was kind of disconnected to the real world anyways. There actually wasn’t very many people there, we actually took private plane there with just the most essential people: the director and hair and make up and management and that was really it. So we didn’t have a large video shoot at all. We really made sure we kept the video shoot really intimate, because it needed to be for the song.
I know its really early to be asking something like this, but I’m wondering if this is the kind of song that you will be singing maybe 10, 15, or 20 years down the road, or do you think that its something that encapsulates a moment in time for you that you would rather not dwell on?
No, I definitely think that it’s the kind of song that I want to still sing for the rest of my life, and if I am blessed enough to have a career that will last 15 or 20 years, I would definitely want to perform this because it represented such a incredible point in my life and career.
Not sure if you’ve been hanging around the internet today or not, but Jordin Sparks released her cover of “Skyscraper” on YouTube today. Have you heard it?
No, but I wanna listen to it, it sounds awesome!
Did she reach out to you to let you know that she’d be doing that, by any chance?
Yeah, Jordin is a buddy of mine and she actually did the background vocals on “Skyscraper.” We wanted to keep those because it adds a lot to the song, I think she may have recorded it once maybe and I don’t really know what the situation was, but I know she did the background vocals and they were lovely so they kept them.
What can we expect for you coming up, do you have a full length that you will be working on anytime soon? What’s next for you over these next couple of weeks and months?
What’s next for me is finishing up the record and getting it out there as fast as we can, I’m gonna be working with a lot of incredible people and I have worked with a lot of incredible people so we are really excited for it to get out there and do our thing, and hopefully release another single soon…I don’t know, we’ll see!
Are there any particular producers or songwriters that you’re working with?
I’m not sure if I can talk about it, but there are some really talented people, I’m really excited.
Do you have any idea in mind in terms of when you would like to get something out, maybe late this year or early next year?
Soon. Soon is all I can say!