The past decade has been pretty busy for actor and vocalist, Skylar Astin.
First coming into prominence as an original cast member for the Broadway show, Spring Awakening, things really started to ramp up when he became a widely-recognized face (and voice) for his role in the 2012 musical-comedy, Pitch Perfect. Charming, precise and with those killer cords to boot, his talent has since landed him roles in all sorts of film, television and stage productions (including a starring role in the NBC comedy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist). Through it all, he delivered impassioned performances, bringing the songs and stories to life. But then, everything came to a stand-still last March.
“During the early days of the pandemic, I found myself at home—touched-down in my actual home for the first time in a while,” he tells American Songwriter. “The year prior, I don’t think I really spent more than, like, nine days in a row there.”
With an unprecedented amount of time on his hands, it didn’t take long for Astin’s talents to get bored of sitting idle. Before the world had even settled into its quarantine groove, he was sitting at his piano, finding ways he could use his abilities to shine a little light into the proverbial darkness.
“I was really enjoying having my childhood piano at my fingertips, literally,” he says. “So I was just spending my days playing covers on piano. Eventually, I started posting them on Instagram for fun, which became a really great daily exercise. I would do, like, one or two takes of some Bill Withers song or Adele or Billy Joel—my followers seemed to really appreciate that kind of reaching out, and I felt a real connection towards people during a really dark time. It made me feel a lot lighter.”
That “lighter” feeling proved to be magical. Not too long after getting his covers operation up and running, Astin started tackling an even bigger endeavor: “As I was kind of departing from these covers, I started to get into this real creative space—I began writing my own songs.”
At that point, Astin’s interest had been piqued—he obviously had stellar musical chops, but stepping into the world of being a singer-songwriter is a whole other ballpark. So, he reached out to an old friend: producer, Eric Lam.
“I reconnected with Eric, who was actually my brother’s college roommate,” Astin says. “He had all these beats on his computer and we were just sending stuff back and forth. I would write tracks and then we would build them out. There was even one night in particular where I think we wrote, like, 13 hooks for 13 separate tracks—I haven’t built them all out into songs, but I think about six or seven from that night have become full songs that I recorded professionally. It was just a really creative exploration for me.”
That exploration ultimately brought Astin into a whole new era of his artistic identity—once he started writing, it was like he had unlocked a new side of himself. “I was bouncing off the walls!” he said. “I felt high on my own supply or something. It’s something that I always knew I could do, or wanted to do. But, not only did I not have the time, I never really had the specific choice. I feel like it kinda chose me in that moment. It was pretty spiritual. It all just came together.”
In a lot of ways, finding this new outlet for his creative expression was akin to the start of a new love affair for Astin… which led him to write “Without You.” Dropping the song on June 23, it’s his first official single as a recording artist.
“It’s just about the excitement of diving headfirst into a new love,” he explains. “And just the lighter side of it, too. It’s not the most tear-jerking love song. It’s kinda flirty, sexy and romantic. I like to think of it like luring someone in with a rope. That’s kinda how I feel about when I met my girlfriend, and I just wanted to dance about it. So, it’s a fun summer feeling. It’s vibey and I really had a lot of fun making it.”
Musically, “Without You” is an incredibly exciting way to kick off a recording career. With sophisticated harmony, an infectious electro-bassline and a hue of ethereal pop, it shows off a more comprehensive view of who Astin is as a performer. Blending styles together over a bed of genuine lyrics, this first single is a refreshing and exciting peek at what’s to come.
“It doesn’t look like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is coming back now unless there’s some Hail Mary miracle,” Astin said. “So, I’m kinda excited about the next opportunity to develop something. I’ve been on TV shows and movies and things like that—now that I get to kinda infect people with this euphoric song, it makes me really excited. I mean, it embodies a celebratory feeling of finding someone and diving in headfirst. It’s made me feel lighter. So, I’m just excited to put it out there and see who responds.”
Skylar Astin’s debut single “Without You” is out now—listen to it below: