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.”
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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.