Phoebe Ryan Wants to Make Happier Music: Interview
If you love pop music (in particular, good pop music), then chances are you’ve heard of Phoebe Ryan.
Phoebe’s helped write tracks for the likes of Melanie Martinez, The Knocks, Danny L. Harle, and the holy grail of pop herself, Britney Jean Spears. It should therefore come as little surprise that her latest EP, James, is one of the year’s best releases.
James tells the story of a relationship from start to finish, with each song narrating a different chapter of the saga. “It’s only half based in reality, but at the same time, it’s all completely true,” Phoebe explains. “These are not love songs, but they are about love.”
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The EP is an all killer, no filler experience, which hard-confirms Phoebe as a proper pop force—one who’s firing on all cylinders. We had a quick chat with her about all the things that went into the making of James, below.
It’s been two years since your last EP, Mine. How would you say you’ve changed as an artist since then?
I think it’s more about how I’ve changed as a human. The past two years have been crazy for me. I’ve been the lowest I’ve ever been, and I’ve been pretty high too, but mostly low. It’s made me want to put out happier music, not to be a bummer or anything.
What do you think contributed to those changes?
I’ve been taking really poor care of my mental health, up until earlier this year. Now I’m back on top and more eager than ever to make music that reflects the sides of myself that I love.
There are two previously unreleased tracks on the EP: “Should I” and “Aspirin.” What’s the tale behind each?
“Should I” was written after I was dating someone for six months and they literally introduced me as a friend. I wrote it with my really close friends Nate Campany and Kyle Shearer. Some of my best songs have been written with them because they just understand me so deeply. I think we wrote it on a boat.
And “Aspirin” was written in Finland with Antti Hynninen, Jurek Reunamäki and Lucas Nord. At first we started writing some Ed Sheeran s— and then scrapped the idea and I remember saying, “Guys, I want to write a song called ‘MASSIVE’!” We were all giggling because it’s kind of a crazy concept, but after a few trips to the sauna, a few cigarettes, and a sax solo, we really nailed it. Jurek had just won an award that day for being the best songwriter in Finland, no big deal, and he came up with the word “Aspirin” and I was like, “Bro… YES.”
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I love how you describe James as being about having “so much passion that you don’t even know what to do with it.” Is that how you’d describe yourself as well?
I think my heart is a little misguided at times, yes. And I’m very dramatic. Even reading the word passion makes my face feel all hot.
You’ve explained that this EP narrates a relationship from start to finish. Was there a specific point at which you realized this was what you wanted the concept of James to be?
When we were gathering songs together for an EP it quickly became pretty clear that these songs were in chronological order. We all kind of laughed about how obvious it was.
You have such a knack for bringing out these seemingly small observations that so many people experience daily and really capturing how large their emotional impact can be. Would you say that’s the style of writing you’re drawn to as a songwriter—for yourself, at least?
Oh jeez, I don’t even know. I love to write about what f—s me up, and sometimes it can be as simple as a look.
Is there anything you’d like people to take away from this body of work once they hear it?
I hope people will take away little pieces of it that mean a lot to them. Maybe not everyone has a James, but surely everyone knows what it’s like to be disappointed or taken for granted or unsure of what they mean to someone…
What are you setting your sights on next, following your EP’s release?
Album. Album album album. Where is the album? We want the damn album.
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