Sky Ferreira: ‘I’m always scared I’m gonna die, all the time’

Estimated read time 6 min read

What was the first album you bought?

It sounds like I’m lying but it was Fiona Apple’s Tidal. Obviously I loved the Spice Girls and stuff like that, and I remember having Lauryn Hill when I was a little kid – but it wasn’t really mine, it was my mum’s and I took it.

I was five when I bought the Fiona Apple album, which is crazy. I used to watch MTV all the time and record the music videos on a VCR. The Criminal video – I was obsessed. I still have the VHS at my grandmother’s house. I was definitely an MTV child because my parents were pretty young when they had me, so I don’t think they were really censoring me.

In a lot of ways I write visually – when I’m doing a song, I see it more in music videos. It’s funny; I feel like I haven’t been able or allowed to make many music videos. But when I have, I’ve tried to make the most out of it. It’s pretty important to me.

It’s been just over a decade since you released Night Time, My Time. What do you do at night when you can’t get to sleep?

I actually don’t sleep very much. Sleeping has always been very difficult for me. I have to have sound on but it can’t be music because then I’ll just start thinking and hearing everything in music terms. So I usually play podcasts or audiobooks; a lot of autobiographies or old radio shows, or Orson Welles or something. I was falling asleep for a long time to a Lauren Bacall book because I like the sound of her voice. There’s something hypnotic about it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Jon Brion gave this advice to me when I was 17: write the way you speak. That changed my songwriting and my life in a way. It really opened my mind up. It’s so simple and so stupid – I was already doing that, but there was always a part of me that was like “All of these lyrics are dumb” because I thought they were too simple.

What song do you want played at your funeral?

I don’t know! I don’t want to die. I don’t want to live forever but I’m terrified of dying. I’m not one of those people who’s like “Die young!” or something. Or “if it happens, it happens”. Like, no! I’m not trying to die. I’m always scared I’m gonna die, all the time. It’s always at the back of my head. I’m not one to accept death.

What is your secret party trick?

It’s not meant to be hot or sexy or a pickup thing – but I do know how to tie a cherry stem. I’m not bragging about it! It’s because I have a lot of weird little gaps in my teeth – random ones that people really don’t see. Really, that helps.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

This is so dumb but it’s whenever I’ve had to be in something really bad or shoot something insane – like bad films. Because you just know it. You go: I didn’t want to do this, I knew I shouldn’t have done this, I don’t remember who talked me into this. That sounds ridiculous but I’ve just been doing music for ever. I started doing this when I was 13. My concept of a bad job is just not that bad in reality.

You have a beloved track called Everything is Embarrassing. But what is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

I feel like I’m constantly humiliating myself at all times. So it’s really hard to pinpoint it. I feel like I’m humiliating myself half the time I’m playing – it’s turning into a thing where I don’t realise I’m apologising all the time. But I’m also like: don’t tell me what to do!

Is there a film that scarred you as a child?

I saw The Exorcist when I was seven, when I was with my cousin at a friend’s house. I used to sleepwalk as a kid and the film horrified me. In my mind, I was like, “Is that what sleepwalking is? You’re possessed?!” I still have a hard time watching movies where someone’s possessed. To this day I haven’t watched The Exorcist in full, even though I’ve watched clips and it’s obviously not very scary. It’s a bit funny, honestly. But I still can’t do it.

Who would you want to play you in the biopic of your life?

I actually don’t know! Willem Dafoe! No, I’m just kidding. Get to it, A24.

What is the weirdest thing you have done for love?

I look back and feel like I’ve always tolerated more than I should have. That’s pretty weird when you think about. I don’t want to put them on blast but sometimes you’re in relationships with people that you’re not in love with by any means and it’s like, why did I do that? I find that strange.

I do feel like there are times where people tell you things afterwards; where you find out things that everyone knew except you, but no one told you until after you broke up. It’s like, why are you even telling me this now? Gee, thanks for looking out for me, I guess!

  • Sky Ferreira plays at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live on Sunday 2 June, then Melbourne’s Rising festival 4 June and Brisbane’s Open Season 5 June.

  • Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity


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