Skylar Astin, best known for his roles in Pitch Perfect and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, has released his debut pop single, “Without You.” Just in time for the summer, this song is perfect for beach days or cooling off indoors. Astin, who has definitely proved his singing chops over the years, is excited to finally be releasing music of his own.
“It’s definitely one of the songs that I wrote over the pandemic that is very fun, very vibey, very celebratory,” he tells EUPHORIA. “It celebrates the feeling of finding someone and diving headfirst. It’s about new connections and being fully present, but also having fun and having that be exciting and not super tortured.”
Crafted entirely in his home, the song was created by Astin and his friend Eric Lam, who is the producer and engineer on it. Lam has a library of beats that he’s produced over the years and Astin picked ones he most liked, building the tracks out with his friend. He can’t help but be proud of the work they did, from not just the production but also writing the lyrics. Prior to this, Astin has done songwriting on his own before, but they were all mostly piano-based and singer-songwriter style.
“This was just fun to work in production,” he says of his single. “I’ve been a part of cover songs where, you know, it followed that pop electronic genre and so to be able to create for that genre was really fun because I resonate a lot with it. I’ve always loved pop music, and now it’s not even taboo to like pop, but I liked it when people were, you know, rolling their eyes and it was cooler to like something else. And don’t get me wrong I love every single genre of music but pop just has such a reach, And these days, pop is, like, pretty subjective. What is wrong with an undeniable melody and something that makes you feel something? Look, I will put on Leonard Cohen and all that stuff and cry to certain other artists but there’s also a special place for this kind of music too.”
When asked if he would then stay within the realm of the pop genre, Astin responds, “I’m willing to mix up several genres and sounds. I mean my next project can just be Billy Joel style. I’m not sure, but this one, in particular, there’s definitely a catalog now and I’ve written enough songs on this current project that it could eventually kind of fall into some sort of an EP or even an album. I definitely have the next two releases already decided. And there’s more where that came from so it’s kind of exciting when you start to write enough stuff with the same person and then all of a sudden things either belong or don’t belong on that project. I think it’s gonna stay in that pop genre but there are some ballads, some vibey tunes, and even acoustic songs, but they definitely belong in the same place.”
The main goal for Astin as he prepares to dive into his musical career is to bring a lot of fun into his work. He says, “Honestly, I know that’s a weird word to use because you want to be more dramatic with your music but I think it’s fun. I think it’s different. I think it’s sexy and flirty. It’s who you’ve come to know in the roles that I’ve played, but it’s more Skylar, so I want to show that side of myself.”
The track was inspired by the ‘80s with influence from Prince and The Weeknd, but mostly, Astin would describe it as “just Skylar.” He’s not afraid to test the waters and play around with sounds because his personal music interests vary so much from Michael Jackson to early ‘90s boy bands. His next release has a ‘70s vibe to it, which he’s super excited to get out there.
“I wanted it to feel old and new at the same time because I want this music to be timeless and you can put it on in whatever decade and feel the vibrations,” he says.
Out of all the tracks Astin has finalized, “Without You” was the perfect one to go with as his debut single. He explains, “I think it’s very infectious. I think it grabs you right from the first second as the lyrics start and I really like that. It’s something that literally makes your eyes open just from the second it drops. I think it has a very steady feeling to it. I could see people driving to it. I could see people dancing to it. I could see people cleaning to it. I could see it at a music festival. Like, I think you can do a lot with this song so I think it has that universal feeling, and in a time where we’re starting to come out of very dark time, it made me feel lighter to write, and I want listeners to feel lighter when they hear it and that’s the intention behind it, for sure.”
Initially, Astin’s plan for his music was to release it all at once, however, he’s decided to trickle songs out one by one and see how people react. Being fully vaccinated, Astin’s next goals are to meet with different writers and do a writing camp of sorts to keep the creative juices flowing.
“I love collaboration,” he says. “If you’re building with another writer, you can write a song in 20 minutes, so I’m excited about that, but I definitely have at least four or five finished tracks that could totally be released over the next few months, so I will have a bit of a catalog.”
As most know, singing and performing aren’t new to Astin at all. He got his start singing on stage in the original Off Broadway and Broadway play Spring Awakening. It was his first love and what gave him the push into acting in film and television. With Broadway coming back, Astin’s really excited to get to go to shows again and potentially be on stage if the right role comes along.
“I always love to do theater,” he says. “I’ve always gone back for certain limited engagements when I’m on hiatus from something else but if something takes hold and is the right role, I’ll do it for as long as I need to.”
Comparing acting with creating music, Astin has to admit they are quite different. “I enjoyed that I could do it at any hour and that it was right in my house,” he replies. “I’ve developed a lot of experience throughout the years that I understand it. And so, being the guy that gets to ask for the things I mean, even when I’m doing pre-records for a TV show or a movie, I tend to kind of direct in there just because I know what is needed. I know when to ask for another take. I know when to ask for a certain pickup, so it was great that that was my actual title, and so I didn’t feel like I was ever stepping on anyone’s toes but my own.”
Back in Fall of 2020, Astin was busy filming Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, where he plays Max Richman, one of the lead characters and love interests of the show’s protagonist, Zoey.
“It was a blast, honestly. Well, first of all, it’s very challenging because of the pandemic,” he reflects. “Now in hindsight, it’s bittersweet to even talk about it because we did something that was so difficult. I mean, I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back but, you know, no disasters in a disastrous time, and we managed not to compromise anything. We were able to do big musical numbers, intimate numbers when intimacy is a weird thing to do and have to do several nose swabs, so I’m super proud of the work we’ve done. I love those actors.”
A big part of filming during COVID-19 is the constant tests and having to wear a mask whenever the cameras weren’t rolling, even during the dance rehearsals. Astin, who had to kiss two co-stars, said it was often strange to be doing so when we spent so long trying to keep our distance from people in general.
“The first week with me and Jane [Levy] doing some sort of even just a close-talking scene, it was weird,” Astin says. “We almost didn’t want to face our faces head-on, but then we almost got used to it. It was like the Matrix. Whenever we were performing, it was like this weird life simulation where you can kiss and you could cheers a drink, and then second they call action, it’s like back to the real world in this dystopian society. It felt like a sci-fi movie where you look to your left and people are in literal hazmat suits coming towards you to touch up their hair and makeup. It’s crazy.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the show was Zoey and Max’s relationship, which took time to develop. It’s classic best friends to lovers, will they, won’t they situation.
“I’ve infused a lot of my heart into Max Richman,” Astin shares. “I love playing him so much. I think he’s a good man. I think I was raised right as well. And so I see those similarities, but I think I’m less patient than Max. I don’t think I would have stayed around for so long waiting. But hey, that’s what made it really compelling TV, and once Zoey made the choice to be in love with Max, I guess it was worth it because, you know, it was so earned. It was such a final moment. He’s been there through everything, so I believe Max and Zoey are endgame, and at this moment this is the end so they really are endgame.”
Astin can’t help but be a little disheartened that the show did get canceled by NBC/Peacock after only two seasons. The final episode aired in May, and fans are upset, trying to vouch for the show and ask for it to be picked up by another network. If given that opportunity, Astin would definitely be on board to reprise his role as Max.
He says, “The show was just about to catapult into another level of storytelling, My character got the power and I have a vague idea of what we were going to do with that, and how we were going to play with that. Zoey and him together, how they were going to battle that now they’re actually in a relationship, which I was so excited about getting to actually do those things with Jane. Anytime we work together, it’s electric. It’s theater, honestly, so absolutely if it would go anywhere I’d be willing to do it. It’s what we were signed up to do. We’re still on all these publications as one of the top five shows of the year, Emmy buzz, but now those campaigns I guess come to a halt? Unless people still want to give it the recognition they think it deserves.”
As Astin looks forward, he’s excited to be getting to focus on his music career. That’s the bulk of his plans for this summer, which is to write more songs and keep himself busy and patient until the next thing comes along. He’s not eager to jump into anything right away just so he can keep working. “I love working, but I just want to do things that I’m really proud of,” he says. “Right now, I just want to enjoy myself and that is exactly what I’m doing.”
In the coming weeks, he’ll be set to put out a music video to accompany his single “Without You,” as well as an acoustic piano version of the track. “It’s really pretty,” he says with a smile. “I did a three-minute version of just on my hands and sent it to my family and friends. It almost sounds like when people play in a mall, like, it’s just a really sweeping version. When I sing with it, it’ll be a little bit more simple on the piano and a little bit more lyrical, and that’s something people can come to expect from me.”