Miguel details how festival energy, a warbled bassline and rapper Travis Scott’s lyrical punchlines fueled the development of his playful song “Sky Walker” in the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s behind-the-scenes video series, Levels.
The R&B singer opens by explaining how youthful “frustration” led him to a hands-on approach to beat-making and production. “Writing songs for myself, I was frustrated with waiting on other people to show up or … to actually engineer and record me,” he says. “I got so tired, I was like, ‘Look, I’m going to find the most basic program and convince my parents to get a computer that can actually do this and figure out a way to get to a mic. It’s just frustration.”
But the creative process behind “Sky Walker” – the lead single from his fourth LP, War & Leisure – was anything but frustrating. “I’d just come back from a few festival shows overseas, and I think the energy just carried over,” he says of the “fun” track. “I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to create … I just wanted to create something that was a mindful celebration.”
The arrangement revolved around a three-note bassline, and he layered a series of live and programmed drums (including the snare and other elements from his signature 2012 hit “Adorn”) with co-producer Happy Perez. “I think that’s what makes the song interesting,” he says. “There are some nostalgic qualities and also some newer elements.”
After crafting the lyrics with the world’s youth in mind, he decided to recruit Scott for a guest verse. “I was like, ‘This is for the kids,'” Miguel says. “Who’s really, really grabbing the youth right now? Obviously, it’s Trav … Travis sent the verse, and I was like, ‘Whoo! Did he just say, ‘In my 23s, having a Jordan moment?’ That was it.”
For the singer, “Sky Walker” is more than just a lighthearted lark. It’s also a crucial thematic turning point, with the singer noting that it helped him to “[step] outside bounds of romance and sexuality” that define much of his work.