What a long, strange trip it’s been for the Mazomanie, Wis.-born Holly Brook Hafermann, who reinvented herself in Hollywood as Holly Brook on Linkin Park’s Machine Shop label with her “Like Blood, Like Honey” debut, but then nearly disappeared before she finally rediscovered her puckish R&B muse. Now 25, she re-christened herself Skylar Grey, spun out hits for other artists such as Eminem (“Love The Way You Lie”), Dr. Dre (“I Need A Doctor”) and T.I. (“Castle Walls”), and is at last releasing her Alex Da Kid-assisted album “Invinsible,” which chronicles her surreal journey from invisible to invincible. She plays Popscene tonight.
So you actually put out three indie albums with your mother? Yeah. It was folk-indie music and we were a mother-daughter duo. But in middle school I started getting made fun of because my songs were so dumb — I was singing about subjects like “Don’t smoke tobacco,” or “These are the colors of the rainbow!” So at 14, I told my mom that I wanted to go solo, and I started writing my own material. Then I moved to L.A. at 17.
But one minute you’re on Linkin Park’s label, the next you’re stealing fruit from trees just to survive. What went wrong? Things fell apart. I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted, initially, so I had gathered the wrong team of people around me. So I asked to leave the label, but it took two years for them to let me go. I couldn’t afford L.A., so I lived in a little house an hour north that was infested with black widows, and I slept on a yoga mat in the closet because I didn’t have a bed. I had no money, so I was washing my clothes in a plastic tub. And yes, I was picking fruit off the trees — avocados, grapefruit, anything I could find.
And then you ended up in an Oregon cabin, where your fortune changed? Yeah. Somehow, I found this artist retreat in Oregon, where I lived in a cabin in the woods in exchange for working in this woman’s art gallery. She let me stay there for quite a few months, and I just got back in touch with who I was. It was very “Walden.” And at the end of it, I realized that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. I phoned my publisher in New York and said, “I know what I want to do — I need to get the right people around me and the right producer.” She suggested I meet Alex Da Kid, and the rest is history.
IF YOU GO
Where: Popscene, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco
When: 10 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com