Ears Wide Open: The Sunshine State

The Sunshine State (Photo by Lexi Johnson)

Skyler Stonestreet has been a songwriting powerhouse since she was a solo artist playing venues like the Hotel Café almost a decade ago. She’s gone on to have her name and/or voice on tracks from artists such as Mika, Dua Lipa, the Chainsmokers, Justin Bieber & Ariana Grande, Hailee Steinfeld, Marshmello and Bea Miller, among others, as well as populated her work to films and TV shows.

Even though she was born in Las Vegas, reared in Santa Barbara and moved to L.A. after high school, she’s christened her new solo project the Sunshine State (not to be confused with the Gainesville rock quartet) — which, of course, is the official nickname of the state of Florida. Why? We asked, but haven’t heard back yet. Maybe it’s her state of mind?

One could certainly intuit that from the Sunshine State’s first four singles — treading the line between indie-rock and pop, they’re a bit of a departure from the more production-oriented alt-pop singles she released under her own name in 2018 and ’19. Bright, breezy and typically sharp lyrically, the new songs seem powered by a newfound freedom, and the audacity to take a hard look at her experiences.

“It’s taken me a long time to figure out exactly what I want to do with my music, but I feel like this crazy 2020 has actually helped unlock that,” Stonestreet said last year, when she released the first of the singles, “Cliff Drive” (an ode to the scenic street in Santa Barbara). She also credited the help of two close friends, and added: “I feel like I have honestly lived a lot of different lives, some that I have never really looked at, or acknowledged. I think I got too good at pretending they didn’t exist, so I felt like writing about them all.”

Beyond the nostalgia for Santa Barbara in the first single, she addressed a crossroads in life on “Things Changed,” and then followed up with two singles about bad boys, “Dating a Drug Dealer” (released in March, it’s exactly what the title says), and “Bob,” released this week.

“Bob is a classic bad boy,” she says. “This song is bonfires and beer bottles crashing on the floor. A chipped tooth, a quick fling and the feeling that sometimes it doesn’t matter if the person is right or wrong for you, because freedom and new adventure are the only thing on your mind.”

||| Stream: “Bob”

||| Also: Stream “Dating a Drug Dealer,” “Things Changed” and “Cliff Drive”